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Have a "Greener" Holiday Season

    • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds of garbage a day, or a total of 29 pounds per week. Reducing and reusing is therefore one of the key things we all can do to improve the health of our environment. The holidays present one of the best times of year to put this into practice because seasonal parties and gift giving typically generate a lot of trash.

      You don’t have to be a "green" Grinch to have a more environmentally friendly holiday season this year. Here are 10 simple tips to get started.

      • Set your holiday table with real plates, glasses and silverware, as well as fabric table cloths and napkins. This will add class to your party and cut down on needless waste from the disposable alternatives.
      • Shop thoughtfully. There is a lot of pressure each year to get something for everyone and that can lead to buying lots of small useless gifts on impulse. Environmental groups recommend switching your small gift purchases to charitable donations, gift certificates or foods that can be presented without wasteful gift wrapping.
      • When old strings of lights burn out, replace them with LED lights. These are more energy efficient and last longer, which means less waste over time.
      • Unless you already own an artificial Christmas tree that you reuse every year, opt for a live tree. The best ones are potted trees that you can plant in your garden after the holidays are over. However, farm-raised cut trees are also OK, as long as you recycle them for garden mulch after the holidays. The "greenest" evergreens are grown without pesticides and have not been treated with artificial substances like “snow flocking” or fire-retardants.
      • Decorate with reusable and recyclable materials. Heirloom ornaments that you reuse year after year are a great way to be green while creating special family traditions. Living and cut plants along with attractive foods like citrus fruits, popcorn strings, gingerbread houses and holiday cookies make natural biodegradable decorations.
      • Wrap gifts in plain non-glossy paper that can be recycled or present gifts in a reusable tin or gift basket. If you feel really green, replace plastic or fabric ribbons with raffia that can be composted when you are done.
      • Arrange carpools for holiday parties to reduce greenhouse gases from automobiles. (By choosing designated carpool drivers, you can also ensure no one drinks and drives.)
      • Limit the size of outdoor lighting displays to save energy and always turn off the display when you go to bed.
      • Buy organic or local ingredients for holiday meals.
      • Scent your home with natural citrus oil spray, holiday potpourri or cut pine branches. Artificial holiday air fresheners sometimes contain toxic ingredients.