We've expanded so much that we've had to add on!
We've made this guide the most comprehensive yet, with 180+ gift ideas in three shades of green, making it a perfect reference while shopping for everyone on your gift list. In addition, we've be added organizations to support and useful tips for making your holidays more efficient.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans, on average, increase their garbage amount by 25% between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That's an awful lot of garbage considering it's only a few weeks period of time. Below are some tips that we pulled from TreeHugger & Slate Magazine's "Green Challenge" that will help you in greening your holidays a bit more. Also, check out our "How to Green Your Gifts" guide for even more pointers.
- When shopping online or by mail order, consolidate your orders into as few shipments as possible.
- Consider the benefits of buying locally made goods, which aren't transported over long distances to get to you. Or could you buy antiques as presents? They're all about recycling and reuse.
- Could you reduce the number of holiday shopping trips you make, to save on gas? Could you bring reusable shopping bags? Most paper bags are made from virgin paper. Plastic ones are less CO2 intensive to make, but they're still made with petroleum and take hundreds of years to decompose in the landfill.
- If you're sending gifts by mail, choose small, light packages, which take up less space and fuel than big, heavy ones.
- Wrapping paper--usually made from virgin materials--is a large part of the holiday-waste stream. And if it's shiny or sparkly, it can't even be recycled. If every household wrapped three gifts in recycled materials (reused maps or cloth make great trimmings), we'd save reams and reams of paper. (Here's one calculation.) Other alternatives include buying gift-wrap made from recycled paper or hemp and flax. While you're at it, try Sellotape, which is made from biodegradable plant cellulose.
- Every year, 2.65 billion holiday cards are sold in the United States. If you're buying, choose cards made from recycled paper and avoid the shiny can't-recycle kind. Even better is to send e-cards. And recycle the non-shiny cards you receive.
- A deluge of catalogs has probably already descended upon your mailbox. It takes 14 million trees to produce the mail-order books we receive annually. And along with direct mailings, catalogs account for more than 4 million tons of CO2-emitting landfill mass. Encourage the catalogs you like to use recycled paper and get off the mailing lists of those you don't want.
- Christmas trees are a topic of much environmentalist debate. Fake trees are reusable but are made from petroleum-derived sources and often shipped from abroad. Real trees, for their part, are typically sprayed with lots of pesticides. And new research shows that pine-tree farms capture less CO2 than the hardwood species they're displacing in some parts of the country. Organic Christmas trees are tough to come by. Plus, of the 33 million real Christmas trees sold in North America every year, many end up in a landfill, emitting carbon dioxide as they rot. If you opt for a real tree, be sure to bring it to a local recycling center, where it can be chipped for mulch or used whole to stabilize wetlands. A better choice may be to purchase a live, potted tree, which can be planted outside after the holidays. Evergreen varieties such as pine, spruce, and fir work well in many regions.
- Replace conventional incandescent holiday string lights with their light-emitting diode counterparts. These energy-efficient strings use up to 95 percent less electricity, last up to 10 times longer, and are safer since they produce very little heat. LED lights are more expensive, but you'll shave a few dollars off your electricity bill and pounds off your carbon weight. And unlike conventional light strings, if one bulb goes bad on an LED string, the rest will still work. No matter what type of lights you use, limit yourself to keeping them on for four or five hours a day, and turn them off at night.
- Skip the tinsel and other decorations made from fossil-fuel-intensive plastics.
- If you're decorating with candles, choose the ones made from soy wax or beeswax. Both are renewable resources, as opposed to regular paraffin candles, which are made from petroleum.
- For holiday parties, rent real plates, glasses, and silverware (or use your own) instead of using the disposable kind.
- Consider staying close to home rather than blowing your CO2 budget on high-emissions travel to faraway places.
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When it comes to shopping for gifts, many feel that supporting organizations and donating money is a better alternative to actually buying anything. Not only does it cut back on consumption, but it also assists non-profits to strive and well as those in need. If you're looking for a gift donation, below is a list of organizations that our team here at TreeHugger likes to support. And don't forget to check out our "Feel Good Favorites" from 2006 as well.
- Amnesty International
- Architecture for Humanity
- Biomimicry Institute
- China Dialogue
- Dropping Knowledge
- David Suzuki Foundation
- The Go Green Initiative
- Heifer International
- The Innocent Foundation
- Natural Resources Defence Council
- Nature Conservancy
- o2 Global
- Partners in Health
- Practical Action
- Rocky Mountain Institute
- Seva Foundation
- Sustainable Table
- Tech Soup
- Wiser Earth
- World Bicycle Relief
- World Resources Institute
- World Wildlife Fund's "Extraordinary Gifts" program
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