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Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season is here! People get distracted by all the hustle and bustle and forget that it is important for your health and your environment to stay eco-friendly. Here are some tips to help you stay “green” and how it can help you save some money, too!
Tree:There has always been a debate as to which is better, the artificial or the real tree. Certainly there are benefits to both. However, the live tree is a better choice when it comes to reducing waste and greenhouse emissions. Most artificial trees are shipped here from China after manufacturing and are made from chemicals derived from petroleum. These trees also may contain lead and other toxins. It’s understandable that the artificial tree may last a long time and so it seems worth it to pay for one tree that will last an average of six to ten years. The problem is that it lasts even longer in a landfill once you throw it away. Stick with a real tree since most of them are grown in the United States on tree farms, so the native trees aren’t depleted during the holidays. These tree farms provide jobs for Americans and in January your real tree can be recycled into mulch instead of being tossed into a landfill. If money is still a concern, wait until closer to Christmas when you can get your real tree cheaper.
Decorations:Try some natural decorations. Use fruits, nuts, pinecones, and cinnamon sticks around your home and on the tree. These items are cheaper than most ornaments in stores and also much safer for kids and pets since there are no breakable parts. Also, try making your own wreaths. There are lots of ideas for DIY decorations that use repurposed materials such as shirts, ties, paper, and even last year’s Christmas cards. Websites like repurposexmas.org and salvagedgrace.com can show you how to make your own decorations at little or no cost. Pinterest is also a great resource for ideas.
Lights:Cut back on the number of Christmas lights you hang and use more greens, ribbons, and candles. If you prefer lots of lights, switch to LED lights that are 90% more energy efficient. You’ll be glad you did when you get your electric bill! These are usually sold at a higher price than traditional lights but they last a lot longer. If one bulb goes out, the rest of them stay on. No more checking every bulb to find the one that burned out! Don’t forget to use timers for your Christmas lights and keep them lit for no more than 6 hours per day to save energy.
Cards:You can send Christmas cards for free by using eCards. 123greetings.com and bluemountain.com are just two websites of many that offer this service. If you prefer a physical card, be sure to print or buy cards on recycled paper and try to send cards only to people who live a distance away to cut back on the amount of paper used and money spent.
Wrapping:Try a scavenger hunt! Ask Santa to hide gifts in the house so that the kids will spend time searching for presents after finding clues left under the tree. It keeps the kids active and you can use less wrapping (you only have to put a bow on a present hidden under the bed). Also, many kids get disappointed that Christmas morning is over so quickly, so many parents spend extra money on more gifts for kids to open. This won’t be necessary if you hide the presents well. If you are wrapping the gifts that you give, try repurposing your newspapers or catalogs instead of wrapping paper. (I prefer the comics.) Also, save the gift bags that you receive from others and reuse them next year to save money and reduce waste.
DinnerSupport local farmers and shop at local farm markets if you can. Also, try going vegetarian! It helps the environment and is a healthy alternative to the traditional feast. Since most people don’t want to swap out their turkey for a Tofurkey, try making only vegetarian or vegan side dishes. There are many delicious options to choose from!
TravelIf might seem too simple, but driving the speed limit really does wonders for gas mileage. If you use less gas you save money and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. If there are other family members that live nearby be sure to carpool. You can spend some extra quality time together while spending less on gas. If you don’t get along that well, at least you can find Christmas music on the radio to break the awkward silence.
Hopefully you’ll find these green ideas useful for your family’s celebration. If it seems overwhelming you can always try one or two of these changes this year. Every little bit makes a difference!
Additional ResourcesYou Don't Have to Work Hard to Be Green
How To Save Money By Going Green
10 Simple Ways to Save Cash While Saving The Environment
5 No-Brainers to Live a Little Greener
Consider the costs of your waste, then consider composting
Cyndi D. (from Mission: $ave Green, www.missionsavegreen.com) is married with 2 furry kids. She spends time trying to keep her family healthy and also making lifestyle changes that will benefit the environment. Since this isn’t always cheap, she started a blog to share the tips and discounts she finds along the way. When not blogging, she works as a biologist and spends time camping, playing volleyball, and travelling.