Debbie Levin, President, Environmental Media Association
By Debbie Levin
Did you know that Americans increase their garbage by 25% from Thanksgiving to New Years? That’s a lot of garbage -- more than 25 million tons of extra waste, according to the EPA. But the good news is that there are some simple things we can all do to limit our impact and reduce our overall consumption.
Here’s what you need to know to go greener this holiday season:
- Use Recycled Wrapping Paper – Wrapping paper and shopping bags account for 4 million tons of trash annually in the U.S. Most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable because it’s made out of materials that are dyed and laminated, contains non-paper additives such as gold and silver coloring, and usually is taped. You can get recycled wrapping paper from companies such as Fish Lips and Earth Love'n Paper. Or get creative -- make fabric gift bags, or visit eartheasy.com for other alternatives.
- Recycle Your Tree – Over 33 million Christmas trees are purchased in North America every year and most of those end up in a landfill or rotting somewhere. Find out where to recycle your tree by visiting earth911.com. In the top right of the page, enter your location; the site will give you local recycling facilities.
- Buy Recyclable Christmas Cards – There are 2.65 billion holiday cards sold each year in the U.S. If they are shiny, or contain glitter or other materials, they aren’t recyclable. So buy and send cards that are made from recycled materials. And, after the holiday, recycle the non-shiny cards you received. Another option: Send out e-cards rather than real ones.
- Shop Responsibly – There is no definitive answer to whether shopping online or in person is better. Whenever shopping, either online or in person, consolidate your purchases so as to use less packaging and fuel. If you can, shop locally so as to benefit the local economy. Bring reusable bags when shopping; they aren’t just for the grocery store.
- Green Your Gift Giving – Consider gifts that don’t require lots of packaging or wrap. Concert, theater or movie tickets, art classes and gift certificates are all low impact gifts. Or you can give gifts with an environmental theme or benefit. For stocking stuffers, give reusable coffee mugs, gift cards, etc. Other gifts include nature books, membership in environmental organizations, bikes, trips to eco-resorts, antiques (they’re reused) and items made of organic/reused materials.
- Manage Your Electronic Waste – Many gifts during the holidays are tech gadgets that replace older, outdated, or unwanted electronics. Make sure that they are properly disposed of through e-waste recycling.
- Buy Rechargeable Batteries – For tech gift purchases that require batteries, purchase rechargeable batteries rather than disposable. In the long run they will save you money. They also keep hazardous materials out of the landfills and water supplies.
- Check Toxicity of Toys for Children – If you’re concerned about toxic chemicals in children’s toys, check out “The Consumer Action Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys.” Thousands of toys are tested and the results are listed with toys and toy makers which are ranked based on toxicity. They also provide mobile widgets and SMS texting options if you are in a store and want to check the toxicity of a toy.
- Buy LED Holiday/Christmas Lights – It may be time to look into LED Christmas lights. LED light strands consume 80-90 percent less energy than standard light strands, and unlike normal bulbs, they don’t generate heat. You can find large or small lights at some retailers or they can be found online at sites like: Forever Lights and Mini LED Christmas lights.
- Cook Healthy Holiday Meals – It’s time to break out the family recipes! Let’s give thanks to nature’s abundance with a conscience. Cooking local and organic meals will not only go perfectly with that eco flatware, but will also benefit your health and the environment. Visit your local farmer’s market for your holiday shopping.
Debbie Levin is president of the Environmental Media Association (EMA) and is regarded as a true thought-leader, merging environmental awareness with entertainment platforms and people. EMA works to garner attention for pressing environmental issues by leveraging the power and visibility of television/film and celebrities through various initiatives including greening productions and award shows, supporting organic gardens in public schools, and working with the corporate sector to promote and encourage sustainable lifestyle choices.