By ecoRI News staff
’Tis the season to consume, decorate and travel, which also means using a lot of resources and generating plenty of waste. The amount of household trash generated in the United States increases by about 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, from 4 million tons to 5 million, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The holidays are special, but they don't have to negatively impact the environment. There are a number of measures that you can take to lessen this impact:
Host a create-your-own-decorations party. Invite family and friends to create holiday decorations from old greeting cards and other reusable items.
Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day.
Try to buy items with minimal packaging and/or made with recycled content. Check product labels to determine an item's recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials.
Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly. Look for items that embody the concept of reuse.
Reduce the number of paper and plastic bags that are thrown out by bringing reusable bags gift shopping. Tell store clerks you don't need a bag for small or oversized purchases.
Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or old newspapers.
If you host a party, set the table with cloth napkins and reusable dishes, glasses and silverware.
Save and reuse party hats, decorations and favors.
Compost leftover food scrap.
Buy cards made from recycled paper — look for “post-consumer” content — and printed in non-toxic inks.
Consider substituting postcards for cards that require envelopes.
Reuse the fronts of old holiday cards as gift tags.
Decorate with more energy-efficient LEDs (light emitting diodes) strings rather than the larger, old fashioned lights. LEDs are small light sources that are illuminated by the movement of electrons through a semiconductor material. LEDs are exceptionally energy efficient when producing individual colors, many using up to 90 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light.
Avoid foil and plastic-embossed paper because it uses more resources in its manufacturing.
Don't accept a new gift box with your purchase if you have a supply of old ones, or try to wrap it without a box.
Carpool with friends and family to go holiday shopping.
Buy a living tree you can plant outside or keep as a houseplant after Christmas.