Eco-Tips to Help You Tread Lightly this Holiday Season

Eco-Shopping 

paper-package-with-string-fair-isle-sweaterMake your Holiday mantra: Quality, not quantity. Most of us don’t need more stuff. Take a breath, be mindful, choose thoughtful gifts. But it’s not just about what you buy – HOW you buy can really have an impact. If you’re stumped on a gift, there is nothing wrong with a gift card to a store that fits the bill for your friend or loved one. It’s a lighter carbon load for sure. Many stores offer an e-delivery option ready to be uploaded to an electronic wallet on receipt.

For more personal gifts, strive to be organized and mindful about purchases. Now that the Holidays are upon us, last minute panic practically guarantees next day delivery. Sites like Amazon or Etsy host third-party sellers, so piling a bunch of items in your cart and purchasing at one time doesn’t mean that your order will arrive in one box. Shopping a single-shingle store (ie. Target, Nordstrom or Patagonia) with the most to offer to your cart will help to insure that your delivery comes all at once in the most streamlined fashion. 

A shopping hack I use is the option to pick-up your purchase at the nearest store location. I order everything at one time from a particular vendor online and have it delivered to the nearest store location – with no charge to me. They text me when my items have arrived and I swing by and pick them up at my convenience. It’s customary for them to hold them for a week to ten days. I can easily return or exchange any items that don’t meet my expectations on the spot – no return shipping required. The unwanted items go directly back to the store shelf. 

Don’t opt for the fastest shipping because it’s free!

Keep in mind that free shipping still comes at a price to the environment. Not in a hurry? Opt for longer delivery times, which will be more efficient. “Expedited shipments are less environmentally friendly. If you don’t need it right away, don’t pick [two-day shipping] just because it’s free”  says Anne Goodchild, director of the University of Washington’s Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center

thank-you-for-shopping-localThe best plan is a shopping day to a locale offering the bulk of your favorite shops in one place or town. Yes, this might mean the Mall! It’s a one stop shop after all. But the VERY best option is to support your community and shop as locally as possible. Think of it as protecting the environment and an investment in your neighborhood. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your own bags!

 

Holiday Waste

brown-paper-wrapped-packagesDon’t let all of those hours of list-making, shopping, and wrapping be summed up in the garbage – well, the packaging anyway. 

Here’s a quick Holiday recycling hack list:

Don’t buy glittery or foil paper. All plain wrapping paper can go into paper recycling (along with paper boxes of course). Plain paper that has a colored print or design is fine – but glittery, shiny, plast-ICKY paper can’t be recycled!

Unless ribbons are cloth, string or paper, they are made of plastic. Your average curling ribbon and pre-made, adhesive backed bows are not recyclable. Consider picking up remnant grosgrain ribbon. It’s a one-time investment. I’ve been using the same red ribbon for years! I collect it after all the gifts have been unwrapped and store it with my holiday wrapping. You’ll never be throwing away ribbon again.

Bubble envelopes, like the blue & white amazon envelopes are actually recyclable. You must cut away any paper adhesive labels first. Then just pop it in the plastic bag recycling bin at your local grocery or drug store. This applies to plastic bubble wrap and air-filled plastic packing materials (pop the balloon type before disposing). Most grocery/drug stores that supply single-use plastic bags must offer a recycling option on the premises.

Christmas Trees

Cut your own treeThe perennial question of the season: Harvested tree or artificial? If you have a quality faux tree and you love it – use it. But if a harvested tree is your tradition, it’s not as detrimental to the planet as you may fear. 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 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.

tree-farmTree farms are a perennial crop. 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.

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 – 20 years. And even then, a PVC tree remains un-recyclable.

Harvested Christmas trees cease to be Eco-positive 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. Most towns and cities offer a curbside tree collection period. Those trees are intended for mulch. Don’t leave your string lights on the tree or discard the tree wrapped in plastic. It will not be recycled and all will go to landfill. Click here for suggestions. 

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 10.43.54 PMAs for said string lights, LED twinkle light options are readily available, so consider reducing energy use by investing in these lights. And don’t toss those non-working lights. Many big box stores have a string light recycling or trade-in options this time of the year. If you missed the trade-in window, hold on to them until next year.

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. But be aware that live trees are tricky. There are some important stipulations that include keeping the root ball continually moist and keeping 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.

Charity Gifting

Consider a thoughtful donation to a worthy Charity as a gift for those on your list who have everything. Charity Navigator is a great source for rating organizations doing the best job in any area you can imagine. Not all worthy charitable organizations are registered with Charity Navigator so be sure to do your research in conservation & support areas that are closest to your heart. Also, check out Wallet Hub which has posted its list of top performing Charities for 2019 in individual categories based on their financial performance, transparency and popularity.

Some not for profit organizations you may consider gifting:

FlowerIconTinyNo Kid Hungry is committed to helping the one in seven kids hungry in America today. Join the movement of teachers, chefs, community leaders, parents and lawmakers with the shared belief that no kid in America should go hungry.

FlowerIconTinySheldrick Wildlife Trust is best known for their work to protect elephants & rhinos. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) operates the most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. They offer elephant sponsorship opportunities which make a wonderful gift for those who strive to protect the largest of all land mammals from extinction.

FlowerIconTinyArchangel Ancient Tree Archive propagates the world’s most important old growth trees before they become extinct. Their goal is to reforest the Earth with the offspring of these “giants”  providing a myriad of beneficial ecosystem services for all life forms to thrive.

FlowerIconTinyDonorsChoose.org provides teachers and students all over the U.S. support to bring their classroom dreams to life. Help with crayons, books, telescopes, field trips and more for a classroom today.

FlowerIconTinyFood & Water Watch An undeniable organizational force committed to defending Community health & safety by protecting natural resources. Arguably one of the most powerful Environmental Advocacy organizations at work at this time.

FlowerIconTinyNew York Sunworks builds innovative hydroponic farming science labs in urban schools. The Greenhouse Project Initiative educates students and teachers about the science of sustainability offering a K-12 environmental science curriculum.

FlowerIconTinyAction Against Hunger  is a global humanitarian organization that takes decisive action against the causes and effects of hunger – with a staff of 8,000 serving 21 million people in 47 countries.

FlowerIconTinyWaterkeeper Alliance is the largest and fastest growing nonprofit solely focused on clean water.

FlowerIconTinyConcern Worldwide is a global humanitarian organization focused on the world’s most vulnerable. Working in the poorest places on earth to relieve disasters, poverty and crisis for over 50 years.

Please share any of your favorite charities and non-profits. Tell me why you support them!

Happy 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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