Tips for Living Green During the Holidays
The holidays are upon us and, with the festivities, often come an increase in the amount of garbage we all produce in our homes. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day than during any other time of the year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons.
Not only do we produce more trash, but making holidays bright can lead to increased energy usage and the potential for higher electricity bills.
The Illinois EPA would like to help offer some simple ways for you to cut waste, conserve energy and otherwise "be green" during this busy holiday season. Many of the ideas can be used year-round!
- Minimize your car use whenever possible to save gas and reduce air pollution. Take public transportation, carpool with a friend, or walk when you go shopping or to holiday parties.
- Thousands of paper and plastic shopping bags end up in landfills every year. Bring your own reusable bags, or consolidate your gift purchases into one bag rather than getting a new bag at each store.
- Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Often, a cheaper item will wear out long before its more durable equivalent, which can be passed down to others.
- Buy gifts that are kinder to the environment, such as LED bulbs, low-flow shower heads, cloth shopping bags, a solar-powered calculator, educational eco-toys, refurbished computer, backyard composter, rain barrel, refillable thermos bottle, and recycled-content stationary and note pads.
- About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Consider giving rechargeable batteries and battery charger to accompany electronic gifts.
- Consider non-material gifts. How about a gift certificate or coupon for music lessons, pet-sitting, house cleaning, guided tours, pre-paid class registration, a massage at a local spa, or tickets to a sporting event, museum, concert or play? Give a monetary donation in a friend's name to a favorite charity.
- Make edible gifts, such as breads, cookies, preserves, dried fruits, nut mixes, or herbed vinegars. Give the baked goods in holiday tins or baskets that can be reused.
- Invest in your family and friends. Instead of giving a gift, contribute to a child's savings account, education IRA or give them a U.S. Savings Bond.
- Think up creative gift wrapping ideas. Wrap gifts in the comics, old calendars or maps, decorated brown grocery bags, or a colorful piece of fabric. Also remember to save gift boxes, ribbons, bows and gift wrap to use next year.
- When buying holiday cards, choose cards made from recycled paper. Or, make your own cards out of last year's cards and the wrapping paper you saved. You can also try sending electronic greeting cards to reduce paper waste.
- Collect the foam peanut and bubble wrap from your purchases and take them to a mailing or shipping store where they can be reused.
- Got a new microwave, toaster, clock radio, toy, or coat? Consider giving away your old appliances, toys, games, or clothing to a local charity or thrift store. Recycle or donate using the recycling locator at Earth911.com.
- Consider upgrading to energy saving LED holiday lights and strands that are up to 90 percent more efficient than conventional incandescent holiday bulbs.
- If you plan on entertaining, have clearly marked recycling containers at your party for guests to recycle their cans and bottles. Send leftover items home with guests in reusable containers.
- If you're shopping by mail order catalog, remember to cancel the ones you don't need.
- After the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of sending it to a landfill. Check with your local solid waste department and find out if they collect and mulch trees.
- If you're going away from home for the holidays, turn down your thermostat and put lights on timers to save energy.
Additional "green tips" for home and work can be found on Illinois EPA's web site.