Tips for a Greener Holiday

Ornament
Everyday sustainable living habits also apply to the Holidays: buy organic, buy local, conserve energy by setting the thermostat no higher than 68 degrees, use power strips for electronics and lights & power down when not in use…. But let’s get specific about changes that can make the Holidays a bit greener.

Green your Gifting

We are as scattered as ever in this country, making Amazon a treasured resource, particularly at the Holidays. But with technology, we are as connected as we’ve ever been as well. Local shops in your loved-one’s particular area are a google search away. Most of them even have web sites! How about contacting the local sports equipment store, bookstore or specialty food establishment directly? It’s a win–win. You’ll save the carbon it takes to ship long distances while supporting a small business.

Re-think the Menu

You would have to live in a cave not to be at least somewhat aware of the relationship between meat consumption and the environment. Full disclosure: I am not a vegetarian – but I’m making an effort to increase my plant-based diet and replace my meat consumption as much as I can. If Americans could incorporate more meatless dishes in their daily diets, a significant dent would be made in greenhouse gas emissions.

Cow grazingLivestock farming makes up approximately 20% of the methane released into the environment worldwide. Remember, methane is 23 times more heat producing in the atmosphere than carbon. In particular, the ruminant livestock (cattle, goats, sheep, buffalo) are the culprits. Ruminants have an extra stomach, which allows them to absorb more nutrients from plant-based food through fermentation. The bottom line: They’re gassy. And this gassy livestock population has ballooned 50% over the last 50 years.

So think a little outside of the box this Holiday season. Grab a great vegan or vegetarian cookbook and incorporate some recipes into your entertaining menu. As for the meat that you might buy – poultry and pork are not ruminants. This is not to suggest that industrial farming of any particular species of livestock is kind to the environment or the animal. Do your best to buy from the nearest sources. Odds are, they will be from a smaller, organic farm. You may pay a little more, but consider it a carbon off-set and most importantly, a more ethical choice for animal consumption.

Paper or Plastic?

Susty Party bioplastic cup

Susty Party bioplastic cup

Reusables are golden this time of year! Thrift stores are a great place to stock up on extra service items like plates and utensils. Disposable servingware may make your party easier – but they are not easy on the earth.

When buying paper goods, make sure that they are from 100% recycled material and that they are recyclable. Soft paper, such as napkins and paper towels, are compostable, so if there is no choice but to use paper napkins, get them to a compost bin.

As for plastics, look for the bioplastic (plastics made from plant material) options out there. This means that they are bio-degradable and can be composted. They won’t break down in your garden tumbler, but commercial compost collections should take them. Be sure to ask. Nonetheless, since bioplastics are non-toxic, they are the better option to plastic if they end up in a landfill.

Recycle those Lights!
string lights

Be sure to recycle the inevitable, non-functioning holiday lights that you discover once you bust out the decorations. When you are replacing dead light strings, opt for LEDs. They have a 90% longer life!

Lowe’s home stores recycle holiday lights. Or, ship lights to HolidayLEDs.com and they’ll send you a 25% discount on their LED holiday lights.

Make a List and Check it Twice

Get organized! If you think your to-do list through in advance, all of those little extra runs in the car won’t be necessary. We spend more money and burn more fuel by waiting until the last minute – note to self.

 

Cut your own tree
Oh Christmas Tree!

Finally – the tree! The jury is split on this one. In the 20 century 98% of Christmas Trees came from unregulated forests. Today, that number has flipped and the vast majority come from tree farms. A 2012 Villanova University study concludes that beyond the oxygen tree farms provide, because the stumps are left in the ground, a significant amount of the carbon they sequester also remains buried. This is a good thing. Also, the land that tree farms inhabit is usually not suitable for other crops. So tree farms provide the additional service of preventing soil erosion. An estimated 300 million trees – 350,000 acres – are planted by Christmas-tree farms.

If you are going the artificial route, that plastic tree was most likely manufactured in China and will ultimately end up in a landfill. Artificial trees can’t be considered earth friendly unless they are utilized for at least 10 years. And even then, a PVC tree remains unrecyclable.

Tree farms are perennial. For every harvested tree, an average of 2 to 3 seedlings are planted. The best option for a cut tree is to find the nearest “cut your own” farm and transfer it yourself. If this is not possible, inquire about the origin of a pre-cut tree and choose the closest point of origin to where you live. Obviously, the farther a tree has to travel to market, the bigger the carbon footprint.

Christmas trees cease to be Eco-friendly if they are thrown out with regular trash and end up in a landfill or are incinerated.

Plan to have a mulching/recycling solution for your tree before you commit to buying or cutting one. Click here for suggestions.

live treeIf you have a yard that can handle a live, potted or balled tree, you might consider one as an option to a pre-cut tree. There are some important stipulations that should be followed however. Keep the root ball continually moist and keep the tree away from direct heat sources – preferably in a window. Replant the tree outside as soon as possible. Nurseries advise replanting within 30 days of purchase and not to exceed 2 weeks indoors. If the ground is frozen, keep the root ball protected with straw, leaves and/or mulch until you can plant it successfully. Remember to consider the tree species that will best suit your area and climate.

Best wishes for the happiest of Holidays!

 

 

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About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have.

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