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Tuesday Tip: 5 ways to have a green holiday

Two women standing in Christmas tree farmThe holiday season can be a time for family, cheer, generosity and love. But the waste, packaging, and travel can take a real toll on the environment and our climate.

Recent studies – including one report that the Trump administration attempted to bury – reveal that our climate is changing even faster than we thought, and it’s up to us, in part, to change our habits to make a difference.

This holiday season, we can do our part to reduce our impact on the environment.

Here are five steps you can take to have a green holiday.

Get a real tree

Real trees are greener than plastic ones. Yes, you’ll be cutting down a tree—or buying a tree that someone else has cut down—but this tree is a crop raised to be harvested. And when you purchase it, you’ll be supporting a tree farm, which is good. Trees on farms work year-round cleaning the air, protecting water supplies and providing wildlife habitat. Tree farms are also economically important. There are over 15,000 tree farms in the U.S. and most of them are family-owned.

Fake trees are made overseas out of plastic and other toxic materials. Shipping them to the U.S. produces a lot of pollution. A study several years ago by environmental consulting firm Ellipsos found that buying a fake tree does far more environmental damage than cutting a real tree. You can use your fake tree again, true, but the Ellipsos study concluded that you’d have to use that tree for more than 20 years for it to be greener than buying a cut tree annually.

Consider purchasing your tree locally, which can minimize the impact of driving and transport and help your local economy. Be sure to recycle the tree when you’re ready to take it down, too.

If you have space, of course, the best choice is to have a living tree. Keep it outside in a pot and move it in and decorate it for the holidays. After a few years, you’ll feel like old friends.

Buy sustainable gifts

We know. It’s hard enough to come up with gift ideas for family and friends as it is. Limit yourself to sustainable gifts and you might as well throw in the holiday hand towel. Right? Well, not exactly. Try Googling “sustainable gifts.”

We did. And we came up with a list of good ones (check out our gift guide here). Like the Pela Case, a line of colorful, non-plastic phone cases made of a plant-based material called Flaxstic that is tough and child-safe (no BPA, lead, cadmium or phthalates). Or Elephant Pants, each pair of which supports the fight for elephant preservation.

Don’t waste food

A meal is the centerpiece of most holiday get-togethers. If you’re cooking this season, be mindful of waste. It’s a serious problem. Around 40% of the food produced in the U.S. is wasted—an average of 400 pounds per person annually. Globally, one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, along with all the work, water, energy and land that goes into producing it.

There are ways to minimize waste. Shop smart: plan your meals, check what you already have on your shelf and then make your shopping list. Don’t shop hungry (seriously, it works). Don’t buy food just because it’s on sale. For more tips on reducing food waste, check out our post How you can help stop food waste.

Use less paper and packaging

You might have grandparents who insist upon saving all the wrapping and ribbons after gifts were opened for reuse later.  That’s a great start – but we can do even more to reduce or reuse the things we would normally throw away during the holidays.

Saving paper is easy. Fold it up, put it in the closet and use it later, maybe for a birthday. Or save the Sunday comics and wrap gifts in those. Burlap makes an attractive package, as does a colorful box or basket.

The Stanford University Recycling Center reports that if every American family wrapped just three gifts in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold every year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. So this year consider sending e-cards instead.

Make the most of staying home

The holidays, of course, are peak travel season, and flying and driving to your destination can produce a lot of CO2 along the way. A round-trip flight from California to New York produces a fifth of the greenhouse gases that your car emits in an entire year—nearly 1 metric ton of CO2 per person.

If you’re staying home instead of getting on a plane, we have 8 tips for better video calls. If you can’t be with grandma, we want to help you make sure she feels as close and connected as she can.

We wish you cheer this holiday season. We also wish you change—the power to make it and the courage to embrace it. If you’d like to make a change every day, consider joining CREDO Mobile, the only phone company that works for your progressive values. Another way you can help our planet is to switch on clean energy in your home. It’s now easy to do with CREDO Energy with Energy Rewards.