With the holidays, family, friends, and good times are sure to come. However, it can be difficult to continue to be “green” and eco-friendly, especially when consumerism and excess are so promoted. Let’s get real: whether you’re traveling to a family member's home or hosting the event yourself, one thing is for sure: energy costs skyrocket and waste production follows close behind. Luckily, this year you can arm yourself with some energy and money saving tips to make the most out of this holiday season.
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Number 1. Buy Ahead of Time
When it comes to presents, do yourself a favor and buy them when they are cheap. Instead of waiting until the first, second, or even third week of December, get to the store in early November. This way you’ll beat the lines, sold out stock, and you’ll save hours of time.
Number 2. 21st Century Greeting Cards
Next, ditch the greeting cards (especially the ones that sing). Try something new this year and you’re your own, or even send an e-greeting card. Caroling cards contain batteries that can leach mercury, lithium and cadmium over time and regular cards can be impersonal and, well, cheesy. Turn this into an activity! Either sit down on the computer and customize your own, or pull out the supplies and make them yourself!
Number 3. LED Christmas Lights
Standard lighting is out! If anything on this list, follow this. It’s cheap, simple, and a no brainer. LED lights for Christmas trees use about four watts per strand, while traditional lighting uses about 34 watts per strand – notice a difference? Yes, you can power 8 strands of LED lights with the same energy needed for one traditional. So save energy! LED lights also last incredibly long: 20 years or 100,000 hours.
Number 4. Timing is Everything
Get a timer! Limit your Christmas tree lights – no one needs to see them at 2am or when you’re not at home. This will save energy and reduce the risk for fire. Also, time your heating schedule during the winter months. Close off unused rooms, avoid using the fireplace and heater at the same time, and seal your leaks. In fact, employ all your heating tips for winter!
Number 5. Re-gifting
Give the gift that keeps on giving! Instead of buying stuff, try giving something away you think your giftee will appreciate. Books are always good to re-gift, for example. It could be anything though. Remember that laptop case your mom got you two years ago and you still haven’t used? Re-gift!
Want to make someone else’s holiday? Have your kids round up all the old toys that they no longer want, wipe them down, and donate them to a children's hospital or homeless shelter. The holidays can be the coldest time of the year in more ways than one, so help spread a little of the cheer we take for granted.
Number 6. Secret Santa
This is a great idea for friends or work. Don’t waste energy, time, or your money on 10 people you ‘kind of’ know. Switch it up and do a secret Santa! Here are some simple rules: list 2-3 items you like, 2-3 items you don’t like, and keep a $15 limit.
Number 7. Limit Travel
Travel can be one of the worst things for the environment, so try to avoid it at all costs. Carpool with family, seek alternative means of transport (Santa?), or just host your own dinner. If you’re already staying local, take a walk to see the Christmas lights instead of driving. Even take a sleigh ride!
Number 8. Alternative Wrapping and The “Intangibles”
First, avoid wrapping paper. Tons of it is used, all just to be torn to shreds and wasted. Instead, use something you’ve had laying around. For the children, use old comic books. Maybe even use old magazines. You’ll recycle and keep waste down this way, and it adds a creative flair to your presents.
Next, try this one on for size; this holiday season, give the gift money can’t buy. That’s right, don’t buy presents! We urge you to try this for at least one person. Make them dinner, give them a back rub, or give them something you created yourself (homemade soap, candles, dryer sachets, potpourri).
Number 9. Avoid the “Stuff”
Please, oh please, avoid “stuff”! If you have a young child, have them make an actual wish list. This list should include things they actually want. Sit down with them and help limit the junk: we all know that battery-powered race car set will only entertain for a few weeks, at most. On that note, we should avoid batteries at all cost – 40 percent of batteries are sold during the holiday season. Avoid it!
Number 10. Minimize the Munch
Finally, don’t make expansive, 30-person holiday dinners for 15 people. Sure, make enough for left over’s, but don’t go crazy. Also, choose healthy, free-range meats. Just make smaller, proportioned meals that everyone can finish. Consider how many holiday plates you’ve had to clear into the trash. That’s a practice that needs to end! Smarter eating will save money in food costs, energy in cooking, and precious time that should be spent with the family.
Arm yourself with the knowledge! Go save green!