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5 New Ways to Stay Sustainable During the Holidays

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In the excitement of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget about recycling habits that may be like second nature during the rest of the year. It’s inevitable that the holiday season produces more trash and waste, but a great holiday season doesn’t have to be a wasteful one! Here are five great ways to remain sustainable through the holiday season.

1. Wrap Presents with Earth Friendly Alternatives
Wrapping paper contributes to a lot of waste during the holidays. A great way to reduce this waste – and make your gift stand out – is to use a reusable form of wrapping. Here are a few alternative ways to wrap your presents:

  • Use scarves or bandanas – not only reusable, but wearable!
  • Old posters and maps
  • Newspapers (especially the comics section)
  • Unused boxes or tins, like reusable cookie tins
  • If all else fails, recycled wrapping paper – this still isn’t ideal because it probably costs more than traditional wrapping paper, and it requires extra energy and resources to produce, but it’s better than the alternative!

2. Recycle Your Tree
Between 25 and 30 million fresh Christmas trees are sold each year. That’s a lot of perfectly useful or biodegradable trees that could end up in landfills. Instead of simply sending your tree to the trash, contact your community and see if there’s a recycling program available. Many communities turn old Christmas trees into mulch for local parks, hiking trails, or to help prevent beachfront erosion.

Alternatively, buy a live, potted Christmas tree, and either plant it in your back yard, or donate to a park, school, or church In your area. Rather than trash the bark, needles and the memory of the tree every year, start a family tradition in planting your trees in the same place so that those memories can be revisited. Plus, this practice can teach children about resources, and how important it is to contribute back to the Earth.

3. Conserve Power
It just wouldn’t be the holidays without warm, cozy holiday lights everywhere. However, the electricity spent on powering these lights is enormous. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), holiday lighting consumes more than six tera-watt hours each year – which is about the same as 500,000 homes use in a month’s time.

  • Switch over to LED Christmas lights. The DOE estimates that if all LED lights were substituted for regular lights, energy costs would go down by $410 million.
  • Save energy and the life of your lights by putting them on a timer and shut off during the day.
  • Instead of throwing away your lights, keep them for next year – or give them away.
  • If new lights are needed this year, be sure to purchase ones that signal when one bulb is out, so that a whole strand need not go to waste next year.

4. Give Earth Friendly Gifts
This is where voting with dollars can make a huge impact. Encourage manufacturers to create responsible practices by boycotting products who do not.

  • While shopping, check labels to see if that product is made from recycled materials.
  • Packaging alone is a huge contribution to holiday waste, so be cognizant of the amount of packaging a product has. Children’s toys are notorious for excessive packaging.
  • Buy products that can be recycled later, such as materials made from metal and glass instead of plastic.
  • Give a hand-made gift made of recycled or reused materials. Search around your local area for those gifts that are thoughtful, meaningful, and responsible, like the Janey, a hand crafted hoodscarf made from unwanted sweaters, or these beautiful hand painted salvaged windows.

5. Recycle Leftover Holiday Waste
After the holidays, you’ll likely have lots of leftover paper, boxes, decorations, and more. Rather than toss in the garbage, recycle everything you can. Even wrapping paper can be recycled – as long as it’s actually paper. Save and reuse decorations and lights for next year, or donate them to charity so others can use them. Anything you have leftover can often be recycled or reused. Doing so greatly reduces your impact on the environment, and promotes sustainable living.

Consult your calendar now and pick the date you will commit to taking down decorations, visit the recycle center with your tree or bulky items, donate to thrift stores etc. Go into this holiday season with a plan to make it your most sustainable year yet!

Rubi Wiswall is a writer for Revolution Recovery, a Commercial Recycling Center in Philadelphia, PA. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter. Joe Bergess is a contributing author who specializes in writing, Social Media, & SEO. Follow him on Google+ and Twitter.

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