How to Have a More Environmentally-Friendly Holiday Season
Americans create a lot of waste during the holidays. According to Stanford University, we throw away 25% more trash during the holiday season, adding up to 25 million tons of garbage or approximately 1 million extra tons every week.
There are many ways we can work to trim our waste during the holidays to have a greener season – including reducing paper and plastic use and choosing greener options like composting food scraps.
To help get you started, here are 10 eco-friendly ways to enjoy the festivities.
1. Electronic Invitations
Free services like Evite are a great way to get the word out about your gathering without using paper. Not only is it good for the environment, but the service makes it easy to send out reminders and keep track of who’s coming to dinner. Evite isn’t the only game in town, though. Check out GreenVelope, an electronic invitations site that donates a portion of its proceeds to Mountains for Sounds, a non-profit that supports forest maintenance. There’s also Punchbowl, an app that makes it easy to create your e-cards on your mobile device. And Paperless Post has elegant cards made in-house by a diverse and inclusive team of designers.
2. Use Real Dishes and Cloth Napkins
Disposable plates and napkins are a significant contributor to the holiday waste problem. So, get ready to dust off your “special occasion” dinnerware and bring it to the table. Pull out those beautiful cloth napkins you’ve been saving and turn them into a decorative rose that will surely impress your guests. Help reduce our holiday landfill waste by using glass cups or wine glasses. Personalize your drinkware by using a marker to write your guest’s names on the glasses safely. If you aren’t sure of everyone’s names, opt to add charm markers to the glasses for easy identification.
If real dishes are not feasible, use biodegradable plates and cutlery made of sugarcane, cornstarch, recycled paper, bamboo and other sustainable materials.
3. Use Natural Decorations
Fall and winter are some of the most naturally beautiful seasons. Colored leaves, pine cones, pumpkins, apples, pears, artichoke and acorns are just a few options for natural decor. Instead of buying new decorations, combine a few of these items inside a clear vase for table decor that is instantly festive and colorful and smells seasonal.
Also, consider purchasing eco-friendly candles made out of soy wax, coconut wax, beeswax and other sustainable materials. If you love DIY projects, you can also make your own using Ecopedia’s simple guide.
4. Lower the Heat
With a house full of guests and the oven working overtime on dinner, the house is bound to get warm. Save energy by lowering your thermostat.
5. Scrape Dishes and Use the Dishwasher
Rather than rinsing every dish with hot water before placing it in the dishwasher, scrape the dishes’ clean, and compost the scrapings. If a dishwasher is unavailable, let the dishes soak in the sink, then shut off the tap as you soap and sponge them. Shut the water off while you place the dishes in the drying rack.
6. Serve Tap or Filtered Pitcher Water
Definitely don’t use plastic water bottles. They’re horrible for the environment, aren’t necessarily better than your tap water and cost more. Nestle, a major bottled water company, uses child labor, over-pumps natural water supplies and is a major contributor to the single-use plastics problem.
7. Support Dry-Farmed Vineyards
California produces some of the best wine in the world, but the state is no stranger to drought. Many farmers have switched to a more sustainable way of farming those precious grapes – it’s called dry-farming.
Dry farming uses a particular soil to trap natural rainfall, eliminating the need for irrigation. This process saves water, and some believe it enhances the flavor of the wine. Natural Merchants has a list of highly rated dry-farmed wines, but next time you’re in a retail wine market, ask for recommendations.
8. Carpool to Dinner
With family and friends often spread out across the country, the number of vehicles on the road increases during the holidays. According to the EPA, transportation makes up 29% of our greenhouse gas emissions. Consider carpooling with friends or family traveling in the same direction as a great way to cut down on your carbon footprint.
9. Inflate Your Tires
Keeping your tires properly inflated might seem like a small thing, but improperly inflated tires have poor traction, are unsafe and reduce fuel efficiency.
10. Compost Your Food Waste
Scraps of food waste like fruit peels, eggshells and coffee grounds are compostable. If you have a green thumb, composting at home is a great way to create nutrient-rich soil. Or if at-home composting isn’t an option, BioCycle’s search engine makes it easy to find a composter near you.