Easy ways to be 'green' for the holidays

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Although many people tend to go overboard for the holidays, getting into the holiday spirit does not have to be unfriendly to the environment. GG12B662

While the holiday season is a time of joy, giving and religious reflection, it also can be a time of excess. Holiday parties, meals brimming with more food than the average person can consume, wrapping paper tossed aside after minimal usage, and shoppers venturing for miles in cars in search of presents can all prove wasteful.

For the environmentally conscious, the holiday season is a great opportunity to put your ideals to use. Although it may seem like a challenging task, going green for the holidays is easier than you might think.

* Get a live Christmas tree. Christmas trees are planted expressly for the purpose of being cut down and turned into holiday decor. Responsible tree farms will plant many more trees than is needed for the purpose of Christmas trees. Be a good steward for the environment and recycle your tree once the holidays are over. Some recycling centers will pick them up for free or a small fee.

* Consider giving food as a gift. Food is consumable, doesn’t take up space, and locally grown food does not require shipping or wasteful packaging. It’s an ideal gift for those who already have everything.

* Cut back on holiday decor. Most people love showcasing their Christmas spirit with decorations. However, many decorative products are produced overseas and shipped over to North America on large vessels that require a lot of fuel. Think about reducing your decorations or replacing plastic and metal decorations for all-natural options. Branches of holly or twigs tied with ribbon to form a natural wreath are just as decorative as store-bought plastic decorations.

* Don’t leave lights on for extended periods of time. Homes and businesses bedecked in holiday lights are staples of the season. However, extra lights, inflatable lawn Santas and other accessories consume substantial amounts of energy. Instead of leaving lights and other decorative items running for hours each night, turn them off after a little while to save energy.

* Donate money in lieu of gifts. Choose environmentally responsible charities and donate funds to their efforts in the name of people who do not need another package of pajamas.

* Use decomposable shipping peanuts. Shipping peanuts are environmentally friendly packing products that are made from cornstarch. When they come in contact with water, they dissolve — making for easy clean-up and less trash.

* Donate unused gifts. Nearly everyone gets an unwanted gift come the holiday season. Instead of putting items in the trash or taking them back to the store, donate gifts you’ll never use to a charity or a thrift shop.

* Wrap gifts with wrapping paper alternatives. Wrapping paper is a luxury item and one that tends to be wasteful. There are many items around the house that can be recycled into decorative gift wrap. Sew scraps of fabric together for a patchwork bag or use glossy photos from a fashion magazine to papier mache a box. When you think creatively, you’re bound to come up with some very usable and eco-friendly ideas.