Keeping it Green this Holiday Season
For the environmentally conscious holiday shopper, staying green in aisles of plastic trinkets, decorations, and fake trees isn’t always easy. When trying to reduce waste, buyers can often be drawn into plastic trees, reusable bows and low-energy lights. But replacing every holiday decoration with a greener version may backfire by creating additional waste when your old products are tossed to the street! So, what old holiday traditions should be tossed out in favor of newer, greener products? We discuss three common dilemmas below.
Reusable Plastic Tree vs. Real Tree
One of the first steps for many shoppers looking to go greener around the holidays is to purchase a plastic tree which can conveniently be re-decorated each season. The (perfectly logical) thought process is that each year equals one additional tree that isn’t being cut down. Unfortunately, the negative aspects of plastic still outweighs many of the benefits of a reusability. When the creation process of plastic trees are considered (over 80 percent are imported from China, and created with non-biodegradable plastic), we discover that it would take 20 years to be better for the environment than cutting down live trees. Between moving homes and natural wear and tear, a plastic tree is lucky to survive 5-10 years before being replaced with a new product, and the old plastic ends up right in the landfill! The solution? Continue to buy real trees, from verified providers who will replace each tree with 1-3 new trees each season. Avoid chain retailers for both real and fake trees – and opt for organic farms whenever possible or, even better, a tree in a pot!
Bonus Tip: LED tree lights are much longer lasting and use 80 percent less energy than incandescent lights, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Replacing old bulbs on strands of holiday lights with LED is a win for the environment, every time! Plus, you can recycle old holiday lights!
Wrapping Paper vs. Gift Bags
Much like the tree dilemma, finding the best wrapping solution isn’t as cut-and-dry as one might hope. Some wrapping paper is reusable, but not recyclable (a bad sign for when Santa and his reindeer are ripped in half by an eager toddler) while other gift wrap is recyclable but intended for one-time-use-only. How do you navigate gift wrapping without forgoing it all together? There are three possible solutions which could work for you and your family this year. One: use what you already have! Buying something new almost always results in more waste, so if you’re content using paper bags, clay pots, scarves, magazines, pieces of old paper pathed together, or newspaper that’s already in your home, you’re both reusing AND eventually recycling! Two: use sturdy reusable bags and boxes. There are some truly stunning holiday boxes available that are easy to use, long-lasting, and usable year after year. Look for boxes made of wood, aluminum, or other materials that can’t be easily ripped or destroyed. Three: buy recyclable. Like plastic, not all paper is easily recyclable, so shop for wrapping paper that’s guaranteed recyclable (which means no glitter, plastic lamination or non-paper additives), and won’t clog up landfills post-holiday season!
Local Gifts vs. Handmade vs. Online
Local and handmade gifts are an increasingly popular option to reduce waste and harm to the environment with shipping and packaging. That doesn’t mean you can’t shop online at all, though, since there are some great zero-waste shops like Life Without Plastic and Package Free Shop. Local and handmade gifts are far superior to mass production, but if you’re not near a local shop, gift-givers can also give presents that are thoughtful and reused! Emphasis is often put on the new and best products by advertisers, but holiday shoppers can seek out items like second-hand jewelry, cookware, books and music instead of purchasing new pieces. Thrift shops are great places to find items that are gently used, in great condition, and ready for a new life!
The holidays have long been a focal point for criticizers of consumerism and waste – but with plenty of ways to celebrate wisely and purchase thoughtfully, green gift-giving is only getting easier (just veer far away from perfume, dry-clean only clothes, and battery-operated toys). Smart givers can even spread environmental awareness by gifting solar-powered chargers, handy reusable bags, and eco-friendly stocking stuffers, like biodegradable soaps, shampoo and conditioners. With the right information and motivation, Eagle County residents will have no issue getting closer to reaching the goals of the Climate Action Plan this season!