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Thoughts on Sustainability during the Holiday Season

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Roasting chestnuts on an open fire while Jack Frost nips at your nose may not conjure images of

sustainability. However, here are some thoughts on how we can be more sustainable with our loved ones over the holiday season.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

The first step in the preparing the house for the holidays is the erection of the Christmas tree. The perceived immortality of an artificial tree is misunderstood. Most artificial trees only last for about 6 to 10 years after which they are sent to a landfill because they are extremely expansive to recycle since they are made from hard-to-recycle plastics such as PVC. Natural trees, in contrast are biodegradable, local, and they smell pleasant.  Additionally, the wood can also be reused as compost or mulch after the completion of the holiday season.  Just in time to be used for the grey water system you received as a gift for Christmas. Who can deny the aroma of a natural tree?

And under your tree may be Gifts

Many gifts in today’s marketplace come from halfway around the world, and the impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. Local shops are a good source for gifts which come without the added costs of transportation.

The EPA estimates about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard and even rechargeable batteries find their way into the waste stream eventually. So why not consider Natural powered gifts?

Second-hand presents are a modern and excellent choice in terms of sustainability which entails less waste and less consumption of resources.

Now we have gifts, of course, we will want to wrap them

Half of the paper America consumes each year is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. The annual trash from gift wrap and shopping bags totals over 4 million tons.

A clear option would be to use environmentally friendly wrapping paper and to avoid buying glossy foil or metallic wrapping paper which is difficult to recycle and has no value for use as mulch since heavy metals are used in the foil.  Use tape sparingly, or not at all and if you’re going to use ribbon to finish off your wrapping, you may not need to use tape. By not using tape, more of the wrapping paper can be reclaimed, and it’s easier for the recipient to save the wrapping for reuse. Finally gift wrap can be reused when possible.

Let’s hold on before sending Christmas Cards

Conventional Christmas cards require transportation across long distances when delivered by the postal service. Before we mail our cards each year, the United States alone cuts down 300,000 tress to create the paper to produce Christmas cards. 

The demand to create and consume the paper which can be avoided if we send our greetings via e-mail. Christmas cards with audio and light effects, are even more problematic because the electronics involved generate waste which often ends up in the wrong place – in the landfill.

Wow, aren’t those lights beautiful!

Outdoor Christmas lights create a pleasant atmosphere, but they also consume a lot of energy.  A method of reducing the energy is to reduce the size of outdoor lighting displays. A smaller presentation of lights can still be attractive, and more appropriate in the ‘season of giving’.

Two ways to limit the energy consumption including using only LED lights, and using a timer so the lights are only lit when dark.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) holiday lights use up to 95% less energy than larger, traditional holiday bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors. LED holiday lights use .04 watts per bulb, 10 times less than mini bulbs and 100 times less than traditional holiday bulbs.

‘Twas the night before Christmas

If you see Santa be sure to ask him if he maintains his reindeer in a sustainable manner. Of course, on Christmas Eve there should not be a sound in the house. Not even a mouse.

Happy Holidays from everyone at Speaking Green Communications to you and your loved ones.

Image courtesy of dreamstime.com

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