Environment and Conservation Offers Tips for a Greener HolidayFriday, December 09, 2011 | 04:29 pm
NASHVILLE – Americans throw away up to 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than at any other time of the year, but with some simple tips – you can showcase your creativity, save money, while making your holidays a little greener.
“Each year TDEC offers ideas for environmentally friendly gifts, unique decorating tips, and simple steps we can all take to reduce waste without sacrificing holiday tradition,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “These tips reflect ways we can celebrate the holidays and make a difference.”
TDEC’s TIPS FOR A GREENER HOLIDAY AND NEW YEAR
Choose Gifts Wisely: There are so many choices when buying or making recycled, repurposed or sustainable gifts. Here are some ideas for great, green holiday gifts:
- Get creative with your gifting – think renew, refresh and re-purpose. Transform items you already have into treasures. There are several companies that will turn college T-shirts into a quilt. Bind old family recipes into a special cookbook. Add a plaque to a baby cradle with the names of the children who have used it over the years. Turn vintage linens into baby clothes or aprons.
- Make your purchases count! Buy products from manufacturers who support your causes. Or consider a donation to support wilderness or conservation work in a loved one's name.
- Give the gift of experience, such as tennis lessons, horseback riding or cooking classes. This is a great way to spend time with friends and family, while passing on your talents.
- Some gifts actually benefit the environment such as gift trees, rain barrels, bird feeders and kitchen compost pails. So encourage gift recipients to do their part!
- Eco-friendly gifts make great stocking stuffers, such as reusable shopping bags, aluminum or steel water bottles or a coffee mug from a favorite, local coffee shop. Tennessee State Parks gift certificates also make great stocking stuffers!
Go Local: Purchasing local products when possible strengthens the economy, supports jobs and farmers, and even saves fuel and carbon emissions since many items are shipped from across the country. Buying locally grown food for holiday meals or a local organically grown (pesticide-free) holiday tree are always good choices, while showing support for your community. In addition to seasonal vegetables at your local farmer’s market, Tennessee is home to numerous specialty items like hams, baked goods and cheeses. Learn more at www.picktnproducts.org.
Don’t Forget the Tree: Don’t forget to recycle those holiday trees by turning them into mulch or compost! Many local communities now offer free tree recycling pick-up, which often benefits local parks and landscapers. Just contact your local recycling center for instructions and pick-up dates in your area.
Post Less: Postcards and electronic greeting cards are fun and produce less waste than a greeting card and envelope (and take less postage too)! Consider these alternatives for greeting cards, invitations or response cards, as well as thank you notes. Many local card stores and charities offer free Christmas card recycling. Finally, buy cards from an organization that uses the funds to make a difference. And don’t forget about TDEC’s own State Employee Recycling Program, which accepts old greeting cards year round!
Skip the Excess Wrapping: Remember, most store-bought wrapping paper is not recyclable and ends up in landfills. Try wrapping gifts in recycled paper bags or paper, scarves, or give gifts that don’t require excess packaging. Thrift store items make great gift packages that will have a second, useful life – look for picnic hampers, photo boxes, Mason jars and baskets. Making your own wrapping paper is easy by using old maps, newspaper (kids love the Sunday comics) or children’s artwork. Don’t forget to save leftover bows, bags, boxes and ribbon for next year’s holiday wrapping!
Make the Switch: From televisions to computers to Blu-ray disc players – look for the ENERGY STAR label this holiday season and your electronic gifts will keep giving throughout the year with greater energy efficiency and cost efficiency. Encourage gift recipients to reuse or recycle their old electronics, allowing the valuable materials within to be used again in new products while helping to save natural resources and keeping them out of landfills. Another great energy savings idea is instead of traditional holiday lights, also look for the ENERGY STAR label on LED decorative light strings to meet your holiday decorating needs. Visit the ENERGY STAR website for a guide to available products at www.energystar.gov.
Shop and Travel Efficiently: Whether it’s for holiday shopping or a trip to visit family, reduce your fuel consumption by taking public transportation, avoiding drive-thru windows, carpooling or mapping your route for the greatest efficiency and least amount of fuel consumption. Here are some additional travel tips this season:
Millions of paper and plastic bags end up in landfills every year. Skip the extra bags and bring reusable cloth bags when shopping – they are environmentally friendly and cost efficient.
Instead of driving to see the holiday lights, take a stroll through your own neighborhood!
While traveling look for "green" lodging and attractions. Tennessee State Parks feature a variety of environmentally friendly lodging options – all within a reasonable distance from your own community.
Prep your house before leaving by turning the heat and water heater down, and unplugging appliances, such as televisions – which continue to use power even when switched off.
Don't take a vacation from your good habits – research recycling options at your next destination, utilize green linen and towel programs at hotels, and patronize establishments that support your commitment to protecting the environment.
Have a Water Efficient H2Oliday: Preparing for and cleaning up after a holiday meal often requires more water use than usual. Running your tap continuously while preparing food or washing dishes wastes water and can use more than two gallons of water every minute your tap is running. If every American household reduced their water use by 10 gallons on just Christmas Day alone, it would save more than one billion gallons of water.
Create Memories Not Waste: Resolve to spend less time shopping and replace some of this chaotic time with fun, outdoor activities or just family time such as ice skating, sledding, or a winter stargazing night (complete with hot chocolate and a warm blanket). Other ideas for holiday traditions include:
Host a homemade ornament exchange in lieu of buying more! Collect pinecones, pebbles, leaves or any other items that can be made into tree ornaments using eco- and bird- friendly glue and craft products.
A winter scavenger hunt is a great way to get antsy kids outdoors. Take family and friends to a favorite wild place and write out a list of things to find, such as pinecones, types of rocks, animal tracks, bird or tree species, bird nests, squirrels or chipmunks. Pack up a thermos of hot chocolate to reward the team after the hunt is done. And don't forget to teach kids about leaving behind the things they find.
Make or Renew Your Commitment: Make a New Year's resolution to reduce your footprint – promise to do one more thing each month to reduce your impact on the planet, whether it’s as simple as turning off the water when brushing your teeth, switching to a more energy-efficient light bulb, adjusting the thermostat a degree or two, using public transit or carpooling once a week, or buying local and seasonal produce.
In addition to other time-honored waste reducing tips such as composting holiday trees and trimmings, Environment and Conservation encourages you to communicate these green holiday tips with family, friends and co-workers by sharing the following link www.tn.gov/environment/pdf/greenholidaytips.pdf.