There’s something in the air during the holiday season—something that encourages giving and selflessness…and unfortunately a whole lot of waste. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, American household waste goes up by about 1 million tons a week! Not to mention that twinkling lights, music and delicious meals—hallmarks of the festive season—can really rack up an energy bill. Here are a few ways you can reduce the waste, save energy and go green without becoming a Grinch over the holidays.
Use LED Christmas lights:
Light-emitting diode, or LED, lighting uses as much as 75% less energy than incandescent lighting and lasts 35 to 50 times longer. While a strand of festive LED bulbs is going to be a little more expensive than a traditional garland of incandescent bulbs, you’ll end up saving overall during the season—ensuring that yours is the happiest and brightest house on the block.
Wash with cold water:
The holidays create a lot of laundry, from all that festive party-wear to the tablecloths you feast on and the extra linens for your overnight guests. While you may not be able to spare the chore of handling those extra loads, you can spare yourself the high-energy bill. When you switch loads from your normal warm water wash to cold water, you will use as much as 80% less energy if you use a standard top loading machine. Turn that dial to cold, and make sure you use a detergent designed specifically for washing in lower temperatures.
Turn down the heat:
…when you turn up the cheer! Your famous holiday parties are always well attended, of course, which means there are quite a few more bodies naturally warming up your home! So turn down the thermostat even if it ends up being a White Christmas. Although it’s snowing outside, you enjoy the savings of a greener holiday. Also, sealing and insulating your home’s air ducts can improve heating and cooling efficiency by 20%.
Resist the urge to open the oven door for a quick look at that juicy turkey roasting, that holiday ham sizzling, or that sweet-smelling pie baking before it’s ready. Opening the door even for a few seconds can lower oven temperatures by as much as 25 degrees—which increases cooking time and wastes energy. Save your energy for enjoying the feast! If you can’t resist the urge to see how the cooking is going, turn on the oven light for a few seconds for a view through the glass.
Wrap and rewrap.
Annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags in the U.S. amounts to 4 million tons of waste! When it comes to holiday gifts, it’s the thought that counts, right? Use leftover newspaper or magazine pages to wrap presents, or swaddle them in brightly colored seasonal fabrics that can also be part of the gift (make it extra special by pre-washing to add an irresistible scent!). And there’s no harm in reusing holiday ribbon either. If every family reused just two feet of ribbon over the holidays, that recycled ribbon would be long enough to tie a bow around the entire planet!
It’s tough to avoid driving altogether during the season, but you and your family can cut back on the mileage by carpooling to holiday gatherings, using public transportation or even taking a nice winter stroll if possible. If every family drove 20 fewer miles over the holidays (saving about 1 gallon of gasoline), greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by one million tons.
Recycle your Christmas tree.
It’s always hard to take down the tree after the holidays are over, but knowing that you are helping to save the planet in the process can lift your spirits. Thirty million of the 50 million Christmas trees that are purchased in the U.S. every year go to the landfill. Check with your town or city to see how you can recycle your tree. And instead of vacuuming up those fallen pine needles on your floor, collect them to add to a festive potpourri medley that will keep the smells of the season lingering in your home.