Ah, the cold winter months. Nothing says bundle up quite like morning frosted lawns, snow-covered rooftops or school delays. Wintertime is typically a joyous time when family and friends come together and over indulge their senses and palettes. It is also a common time when we splurge on gifts and food. And while we may be overzealous with a giving spirit, an environmental awareness can make for a new tradition. Savings and eco-conscious thinking is generally non-existent this time of year, but fear not! Following is a list of ways to combat that winter drab and make it eco-friendly.
Cut Down On Paper Waste
The holiday season is an exceptional time in which paper usage increases while little to no thought exists for reducing pollution. From holiday wrapping paper to foil crafted baking pans, an over abundant use of such items swells our landfills. The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2010 wrapping paper sales accounted for $9.36 billion. To put that into perspective, that amount of wrapping paper could easily cover 5,787 NFL football fields and equates to about four million tons of trash in the U.S. alone. That is a massive amount of paper. Worse, the shiny, laminated paper that we are accustomed to is actually not recyclable due to the numerous dyes and low quality fibers within them.
Many eco wrapping paper companies exist today, offering recycle-friendly alternatives. Often using recycled newspaper, these companies print beautiful patterns and designs making them not only attractive, but good for the environment.
Which leads us to…..
Getting Children Involved
Kids are often the most creative ones, thinking of the perfect gift to give parents and siblings. Encourage your children to think outside the box and put their creativity to use by hand making a gift. Kids can also take time out to learn the importance of gifts of value such as coupons for services in the form of babysitting or household chores. One of the most fun ways to help kids learn about sustainability is showing them alternative ways to present gifts. For example, instead of wrapping gifts with non-recyclable paper, have children create a scavenger hunt leading recipients to their gifts. These are fun and easy ways to incorporate eco-friendly gift giving while teaching children the importance of preserving our planet during a wasteful time of year.
Children just as much as adults love their electronic devices and therefore can be mindful of our next tip….
Energy Efficient Electronics
When your phone or tablet dies, life seems to almost stop. Whether gifted or used to entertain the crowd that will gather at your house, energy-efficient chargers such as a solar powered charger come in handy during a time when electronic consumption is at its highest. Although often confused with temperature, for a solar powered phone charger to work, it requires abundant sunshine. This coupled with snow cover is not at all uncommon. In fact, many winter days even when cold can be filled with hours of sunlight. Harnessing the power of the sun not only reduces your personal carbon footprint, but also gets people talking.
If preservation becomes a topic of interest, the conversation can easily turn to….
Preserving Your Tree
The fir tree, pine tree, or even the spruce tree -- aka the Christmas tree -- are all staples among many households during the holiday season. While the practice of driving afar to find the perfect tree is a pastime for some, consider instead finding a potted tree, one that can be planted later or otherwise donated to be planted by someone else. Additionally, farmed trees are great in that they provide a habitat for wildlife throughout the year, making their existence much more sustainable.
If tree preservation is crucial, this next tip is especially important…..
With the holidays also comes a seemingly endless food supply. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 33 percent more food is thrown away during the holiday season. If leftovers don’t fit in your refrigerator, consider dropping it off at a shelter or soup kitchen. Feeding Forward, a web based app that coordinates the task of delivering highly perishable food to a shelter exists today for the sole purpose of communicating and planning drop offs so that food is sure to not go to waste. Komal Ahmed, the app’s founder noted, “food is a fundamental human right, and it’s staggering that in such a wealthy and powerful nation, so many people end up begging for it, while in our homes, restaurants, supermarkets, dining halls, and offices we waste so much.”
Another alternative to turning your food into something beneficial and eco-friendly is composting. When you have too much food on your hands or are unable to prepare all of the food you purchased, consider composting it as many uncooked fruits and vegetables are easily compostable. This also includes those tasty satsumas in your stocking -- the peels are great for composting. For hot foods such as turkey, mashed potatoes, or gravy, a hotbin or food waste digester will do the trick. While it’s true that composting works faster in warmer conditions, insulating your bin despite the cold can aid in the process.
What environmentally friendly tips and tricks do you incorporate during and after the holiday season?