The holidays are the time of year for abundance — extra food, extra lights in the trees, and extra heat to keep your family warm as the snow falls outside.
That’s why reducing your carbon footprint is probably the last thing on your mind during this time of year. But going green for the holidays doesn’t have to be a major sacrifice.
Think about this: The United States uses more energy on Christmas lights than some entire countries use in a year.
Since the holidays are also a time of giving, going green this holiday can be a way to give back to mother earth. Plus, curbing your energy usage can save you some money on energy bills — which means a bigger presents budget.
By making a few small changes to your traditional routine, you can cut out energy waste and still enjoy the spirit of the holiday season. Here are five easy ways you can go green for the holidays.
Upgrade to Green Lighting
The holidays are marked by their beautiful, shimmering lights everywhere you turn. But all those extra bulbs don’t have to bloat your home’s carbon footprint or break the bank this season.
According to the Department of Energy, you can save up to $75 per year by replacing your 5 most-used incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or light-emitting diode (LED) lights.
Estimates show this can cut your bill by as much as 80%, and these bulbs can last 3 to 25 times longer.
You can save even more cash over the holidays by decorating your home and tree in transitioning to high-efficiency energy bulbs this Christmas.
Speaking of your Christmas lights, using a timer on your lights both inside and out can save you big on energy bills when you and your family aren’t home, or after you go to bed.
A timer on your lights provides an extra advantage this holiday season, too — it can deter criminals by cycling your lights on and off, simulating the appearance of someone being home.
No one wants to experience a house break during the holidays (or ever!), so picking up a timer is a low-cost and high-return investment — especially if you’re headed out of town.
2. Decorate Naturally
When you shop at a retail or home improvement store during the holiday season, you’re probably tempted to pick up at least a few decorations to add some festive flair to your home.
But many mass-produced items you find at big-box stores aren’t made with eco-friendly materials. That means once you go to toss for new decorations next year, they’ll probably end up in a landfill.
Waste in landfills is a huge contributor to America’s carbon footprint. Researchers at Yale University estimate that Americans sent 294 million tons of waste to landfills in 2013.
To cut down on waste gathering in landfills, try decorating your home naturally.
Gather pine cones and acorns from your yard or local park to adorn your dining room table. Place naturally-made candles around the house that emanate a relaxing smell for your family and guests to enjoy when they visit.
Or, find an eco-friendly store that sells seasonal décor made from natural ingredients, not an assembly line. Natural decorations can be much warmer and more inviting than artificial décor, all while doing the planet (and your wallet) good.
3. Go Green to Gift Wrap
Wrapping gifts can be one of the most fun activities of the Christmas season. But using all that extra paper isn’t exactly eco-friendly.
Not only that, but most gift wrap isn’t recyclable.
Newspaper is a green alternative you can use to wrap gifts that’s both recyclable and free if you have a subscription. If not, newspapers can usually be purchased for just a dollar or two.
Newspapers allow you to add some individuality and flair to your wrapping, too. You can use color comic pages or find a page that matches the personality of the gift recipient.
Reusable bags are another alternative to gift wrap. Save the bags after your children or other family members open their gifts, and reuse them year after year.
4. Think Like a Vegetarian
Eating vegetarian and vegan is more than simply a dietary preference — it’s actually more eco-friendly not to eat meat.
The crops that are fed to livestock are crops that could be directly fed to people, which would reduce excessive waste in terms of both water and food consumption.
Plus, livestock farming produces somewhere between 20% and 50% of all manmade greenhouse gasses. So limiting your meat consumption can help the environment in more ways than one this holiday season.
If having a huge turkey or ham is part of your holiday tradition, you don’t have to give it up completely. But making small changes to the rest of your menu could be an easier sacrifice that still makes a big difference.
By opting for vegetarian sides and appetizers, you can help limit the environmental impact of meat consumption.
Plus, these vegetarian Christmas starters and dishes are sure to make your and your family’s mouths water this holiday.
Cutting waste at your home during the holiday season can be easy if you know where to start. But why stop going green when the holidays are over?