Dreaming of a GREEN Christmas

December holidays bring extra packaging, millions of chopped down trees, and megawatts of flashing lights, adding 25 million tons of garbage to our landfills. Consumers can decrease these excretions by taking small measures to lower their carbon footprints. According to National Geographic News Online, if every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet! The following tips suggest more ways of accomplishing a green holiday.

Recycle Wrapping Paper

Wrapping paper adds excitement to gift giving, but it also adds to tons of accumulated trash during the holidays. Consumers wrap an average of 20 gifts during the holidays. If just three of those gifts were wrapped in reused paper, the paper saved could cover 45,000 football fields!

Look for leftover paper from gifts you received last year, use old newspaper clippings or magazine adds to cover shoe boxes, or cut up brown paper bags as wrapping paper. If you can’t stand the do-it-yourself projects, opt for 100% recycled wrapping paper. You can find it online at FishLipsPaperDesigns.com or PaperMojo.com, and even in some organic foods markets.

Reuse Old Cards

We all love to hang those Christmas cards around the door frame or make collages on our refrigerators, but cards are known to stack up! Most of us throw them away after the holidays or stash them in a dark closet to take up space. The amount of cards sold in the U.S. each holiday season could fill a football field 10 stories high and consume up to 300,000 trees. Using the fronts of old Christmas cards as gift tags, new card stock (just glue on new pictures), or as a homemade postcard could save on paper where envelopes are no longer needed. If you can, opt for a paperless Christmas by calling family and friends on the special day or by looking for eco-friendly e-cards online.

Reduce Lights

Christmas tradition says the house with the most lights is the best. Well, not anymore! An average of 300 Christmas tree fires occur in the U.S. every year, leaving 14 fatalities. Timers can emit fires by controlling the amount of time lights stay on while you are not at home. Electricity also drains natural resources and reducing the size of displays can still offer an attractive light show and cut down on consumption!

Can’t live without your life-sized nativity scene in the front yard? Using LED lights can offer an alternative to downsizing, and they stay cool to the touch. If all conventional holiday lights were replaced with LED lighting, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved in a month. That could power 200,000 homes for a year! LED lights can use up to 95 percent less energy and last much longer than traditional bulbs. Over a 30-day period, using 500 traditional lights could cost you $18 or more, where the same number of LED lights would only cost around 19 cents! Another huge incentive to switch, they are virtually indestructible, and when one bulb burns out, the others keep on shining.

Cut Down on Trees, Literally!

The U.S. Census Bureau observes that each year, roughly $410 million is spent in the U.S. for the purchase of real Christmas trees. Yet, fake trees are made out of nonrecyclable plastic. Fake trees may be used longer, but they are mostly manufactured overseas and emit toxins into the atmosphere when heated, and once they are shipped to landfills, they stay forever.

This season, opt for a real Christmas tree. These trees are grown on farms and are replaced by seedlings every year. As they grow, they help reduce carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help support the farmers who produce them. Try to buy locally to reduce manufacturing and shipping emissions. You will love the smell, and you can even recycle the real tree once the holidays are over! Enter your zip code at Earth911.com to find nearby recycling posts for Christmas trees. The mulch could be used in gardens, playgrounds, and along riverbeds.

More: Picking the Perfect Christmas Tree

Paper or Plastic? How About Neither!

The Internet can be a great way to forego unneeded packaging, gas emissions, and overspending! Utilizing your options can help you save money on offers as you take the time to compare prices instead of indulging your impulses. Four in 10 consumers research purchases by Internet, but fewer than two percent buy online.

Buying online helps reduce several trips to several stores, overuse of paper or plastic bags, rewrapping, and spending more time and energy to mail gifts. As the song says, brown paper packages tied up with string are some of our favorite things! Shipping directly from the store to your recipient’s house will lack the pretty paper, but memories during the holidays are usually focused on time spent with family and friends. They won’t even notice the packaging; besides, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Experience the Gift of Giving

Instead of opting for physical objects, think of different activities that your recipient can enjoy without the use of packaging and bows! There are several choices: gift certificates, massages, tickets, etc. Check out Care2.com/greenliving/holidays/green-gifts for ideas. Just by using your imagination, your recipient will feel like you went out of your way to get to know them, and will appreciate the gift all the more!

Make It a Habit

It may seem difficult at first, making your holidays green, but be persistent. Once you take the challenge and are successful, you will reap those good feeling rewards. It will be much easier to continue through the holidays to follow—like second nature. And speaking of nature, she’ll be happy, too! Get out there and have yourself a green Christmas, and just like that old Mr. Grinch, you may be finding your heart growing a few sizes!