101 Ways To Have A Sustainable Season
During the busy holiday season, it’s easy to put your green habits on the back burner in your rush to get everything done. We tend to excessively consume and waste during the season. This year, you can start a more sustainable holiday tradition. We’ve broken down how to have a successful, eco-friendly, simple and festive holiday season.
- Choose environmentally safe cleaning products instead of harsh cleaners full of dangerous chemicals.
- If you need extra help, hire a house-cleaning company that meets eco-friendly cleaning standards.
- Use one cleaning solution for multiple jobs. An affordable and effective solution is a spray bottle with equal parts water to vinegar for windows, countertops and shower doors.
- Use dishcloths instead of multiple disposable paper towels.
- Use the dishwasher: one dishwashing cycle uses less water than washing by hand.
- Use natural or homemade laundry detergents. You and your guests will enjoy the mild, chemical-free scents.
- Avoid antibacterial cleansers; it’s been proven that chemical-filled soap doesn’t work any better than regular soap and hot water.
- Avoid conventional dry cleaners. Heavy industrial chemicals used at dry cleaners are toxic to humans and create smog.
- Are you clearing out your closet to make room for new outfits? Donate wire hangers to a local green dry cleaner.
- Designate an area for guests to leave their shoes. This will help keep your carpets clean and free of the dirt and harmful pesticides that shoes track in.
- Embrace the magic of baking soda. Baking soda is a multi-purpose cleaner that is non-toxic and affordable. Not only is it a great odor eliminator, but it also serves as a great surface and drain cleaner.
- Avoid poor indoor air quality by keeping windows open as long as possible. Allow fresh air to come in and keep toxins flowing out.
ENERGY & WATER
- Choose energy-efficient lighting. Start by replacing house lights with LED bulbs and don’t keep them on for more than six hours at a time.
- Change to LED lights for Christmas trees and house decorations.
- Cut energy and heating costs by setting your thermostat to 68 degrees or lower.
- Pull your shades up to allow more heat and sunlight into your house to save on heating bills.
- Upgrade your refrigerator—the older the model, the more energy your fridge consumes.
- Install a low-flow showerhead before guests arrive. The showerhead releases less water per minute, which means long, guilt-free hot showers for all.
- Add low-flow aerators to your sinks around the house for additional savings on your water bill.
- Put timers on your Christmas lights and don’t leave them on overnight.
- Unplug appliances when they’re not in use.
- Defrost food in the refrigerator instead of the microwave to save on energy.
- Instead of buying holiday decorations, decorate your home with beautiful materials from nature. Try using natural decorations like berries, cookies and pinecones that can be moved outside after the holidays as snacks for the feathered and furry friends.
- Skip tree tinsel and other foil or plastic decorations.
- Ditch the artificial store-bought air fresheners and create soothing smells by boiling cinnamon, cloves and other autumn spices.
- Find ways to decorate your home without purchasing a real or artificial Christmas tree.
- Avoid plastic, artificial trees at all cost. These petroleum-based trees are usually shipped thousands of miles to get into your home and will eventually end up in landfills.
- If you absolutely must have a tree for your holiday centerpiece, select a tree from a local tree farm. These are grown and cut specifically for recreational purposes and help keep our national forests safe. Remember, trees can always be recycled.
- You could also choose a live tree that is planted in a large pot. Use it in your home for a week or so, then plant it in your yard to enjoy for years to come.
- Host your own decorating party with family and friends. Make ornaments out of old photos and greeting cards.
- Swap the traditional holiday wreath for a living, organically-grown succulent wreath.
- Use real fir garlands that can be composted (unlike their synthetic counterparts).
- Forgo glossy wrapping papers. These are usually banned from recycling bins.
- Burn natural Hanukkah candles that are made from beeswax, palm oil and soy.
SHIPPING & SHOPPING
- Nearly 3 billion greeting cards make it to the landfill every year. Try not contributing to this alarming statistic by choosing to send electronic holiday cards instead.
- Use email or invitation websites for an eco-friendly way to spread the word about your celebration.
- If you’re sending holiday cards, use cards that are made from recycled paper and soy-based ink.
- Create homemade cards using children’s artwork, photos and last year’s leftover cards or calendars.
- Sending packages? Protect shipped items with recycled newspaper, magazine pages or those millions of catalogs that come in the mail this time of year!
- Ask mail-order companies to ship your gifts with paper instead of polystyrene packing peanuts.
- Send gift cards or online gift certificates to save on shipping large, heavy items.
- Recycle foam packaging by returning it to mail carriers and shipping stores.
- Shop online to save on wasteful trips to the mall and stores.
- Skip the plastic shopping bags that sit in landfills for years. You can use reusable bags more places than just the grocery store.
- Take public transportation for your shopping outings.
- Go online and see holiday photo proofs before you order to reduce your carbon footprint on shipping, chemical inks and heavy paper stock.
GIFTS & WRAPPING
- Use secondhand thrift or consignment stores to find unique and affordable gifts.
- Save the tins from chocolates and candies to reuse as storage containers.
- Look for high-quality gifts that have been made with natural ingredients.
- Purchase reusable batteries for gifts. Batteries eventually wear out and are thrown into landfills where they leak toxic metals into the soil.
- Consider buying battery-free gifts like books, musical instruments, arts and crafts, and gift cards.
- Consider the durability of a product before you buy a gift. Cheaper gifts often wear out quickly and create more waste.
- Check product labels to see if a product is recyclable or made with recycled materials.
- Purchase jewelry that is free from harmful chemicals like mercury, nickel and lead.
- Use newspaper, fabrics and magazines to wrap gifts.
- Decorate plain brown wrapping paper by carving shapes into halved potatoes or apples to make a holiday stamp.
- Know what type of packaging is recyclable. Some glossy plastics are banned from recycling bins, while others are easily recycled.
- Look for eco-friendly gift-wrap that is made from flax or hemp.
- Save gift tags and bows to be reused next year.
- Keep your holiday parties close to home to reduce your overall carbon footprint.
- Carpool to parties and holiday events to help lower gas and fuel consumption.
- Instead of flying, stay in your local community and plan a Skype session with those that are far away.
- Before you travel for a long period of time, make sure to turn off your heating system, unplug electronics and temporarily cancel any newspaper subscriptions.
- When traveling, pack light. Heavier planes use more fuel.
- If you’re staying in a hotel, change your towels and bed linens only when necessary.
- During your trip, consider renting a bike or using public transportation.
- Arrange several recycling cans around your house during parties to make it easy for your guests to recycle.
- Avoid disposable paper plates and plastic utensils. These items load landfills every year. Use reusable and washable dishes and silverware instead.
- If you must use paper plates, use ones that are biodegradable.
- Need more plates than you have available? You can rent plates, silverware and glasses from local party stores.
- Make table arrangements using organic flowers or pinecones you collect from your yard.
- Use herbs, like rosemary or lavender, as a floral arrangement for an affordable and fragrant bouquet.
- Purchase affordable, eco-friendly containers and send your guests home with leftovers.
FOOD & COOKING
- Purchase organic food to keep your body, and the environment, healthy.
- Buy locally grown produce to support local agriculture and farmers.
- Buy from local businesses to help cut emissions, fuel consumption, unnecessary traffic and your overall carbon footprint.
- Enjoy sustainable, organic wine or beer that is grown and processed in ways that support healthy people and a healthy planet.
- Try eating fresh, raw foods that do not require energy to prepare.
- Ease up on meat and try to go meatless at least one day a week. Meat is the most resource-intensive food on the table, as it requires huge amounts of water, grain, land, pollution and soil to produce. Eating less meat can be the single most sustainable decision you can make.
- Buy in bulk to minimize waste.
- Bring your own containers when buying bulk products to use less packaging.
- Order baked goods from local bakeries or local grocery stores for freshness.
- Purchase sustainable seafood to help preserve the ocean population for future generations.
- Buy and cook the right amount for your party. Remember that each guest should have 1 pound of food or less.
- When cooking, use non-toxic or cast-iron cookware. Nonstick and Teflon pans emit toxic particles and gases when heated.
- Purchase a variety of reusable glass pans, pie dishes and trays instead of the disposable foil alternatives.
- Never microwave food or drinks in a plastic container.
RECYCLE & SAVE
- To store food, use glass containers instead of plastic containers and bags.
- Sometimes the simplest ideas can go overlooked. Instead of purchasing new glass canisters, wash out old, empty food jars to store your bulk food items.
- Pass on a formal event this year and host an ugly sweater party. Guests can purchase secondhand sweaters at thrift stores and then re-donate them once the party is over.
- Give back, return or donate gifts you won’t use (or don't like!).
- Recycle whenever you can. Many holiday items can be recycled, like wrapping paper, Christmas trees, cans and cartons.
- Try composting kitchen scraps. Reduce any waste by throwing them into a compost pile that will fertilize your soil and plants. Even if you live in an apartment, you can compost. There are many new compost bins available for small spaces and kitchens.
- Do you already compost? Take a stab at vermicomposting. This type of composting feeds your waste to live worms. The worms help create nutrient-dense soil for your plants.
- Donate or properly discard of any old electronics or batteries. Electronics should never be put in standard garbage or recycling bins.
- Recycle cardboard boxes by first breaking down and then bundling them.
- Reuse the front image of greeting cards for frames or next year’s decorations.
- Donate old decorations to schools, charities and non-profit organizations.
- Reuse bubble wrap and packing peanuts.
- Save ribbons and bows to be reused for future birthday gifts and holidays.
- Keep the season of giving simple. Less stuff means less waste and a healthier environment.
What steps are you taking to have a green holiday?