Joy to the Earth

By Marcy Franklin

Everyone hopes for a white Christmas, but a green holiday season can be just as festive. Do you recycle and limit waste throughout the year but, amid all the gifts, garland, and extra lights involved with winter holidays, get too harried? Take these simple steps to make this season merrier for you and yours—and the planet.

Wrap smartly. We produce an additional 5 million tons of garbage, mostly wrapping paper and shopping bags, during the holidays, according to the Clean Air Council. Wrap gifts in old sheet music, maps, and kids’ artwork. Shoelaces, guitar strings, and headbands make festive bows.

Rethink holiday cards. Americans purchase and send 2 billion holiday cards per year, reports the Greeting Card Association. To minimize this massive amount of paper, update and downscale your mailing list, or send e-cards.

Buy a real tree. Yes, you can store and reuse artificial trees, but these noncompostable decorations sit in landfills once discarded. Live pines from tree farms can be recycled into mulch. Visit Earth911
to find the nearest tree-recycling center.

Light the tree or electric menorah with LED twinklers instead of traditional bulbs. LEDs use just 1 to 3 kilowatts of energy per hour, compared to a whopping 12 to 105 kilowatts for incandescent lights, and last twice as long.

Skip paraffin candles. Fill centerpieces and advent wreaths with candles made of renewable soy, palm oil, or beeswax. Paraffin, a petroleum by-product, releases carcinogenic soot and toxic chemicals when burned.

Craft ornaments out of old holiday cards, photographs, and clothespins. Make dreidels from empty, clean milk cartons from the kids’ school. Staple the spout together, then poke a pencil from the bottom through the top so the tip sticks out.