Tips for Having a Low Impact Christmas
Every year, folks ask ULS (Use Less Stuff) what they can do to reduce waste during the holidays – the time of year when the amount of garbage created increases by 25% versus the non-holiday season. (That’s an extra 5 million tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, for you accounting types.)
The people at ULS have come up with a list of five broad categories where the average Earthling can make the biggest impact on the environment. None are very hard to do, and many will help you save time and money as you save natural resources and reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
1. Think conservation, not consumption
There are many gifts that actually help people learn the value of saving resources, rather than spending them. We also include in this category gifts that don’t require you to purchase any physical stuff:
Savings accounts Movie Tickets Mutual fund shares
Concert Tickets Stocks or Bonds Sports Tickets
Don’t forget that many party-related items can be rented rather than purchased. For example, you can rent dishes and glassware, making your party more elegant and eliminating the need to buy special holiday china.
Rather than buying ornaments, children can make their own out of things you already have around the house, or from materials they might find in the backyard: twigs, back, leaves, flowers, pine cones, etc.
Plan meals wisely and practice portion control to minimize waste in the first place.
2. Focus on energy savings
Turn down the heat before the guests arrive. You’ll save energy while the extra body heat of your guests will warm up the room.
Purchase holiday lights with small bulbs. Remember, the smaller the bulbs, the lower the wattage. Low wattage has two advantages: it consumes less energy and gives off less heat, making your lights safer.
When taking photos, use “fast film.” Faster film speeds, such as 400 or 800, reduce the use of flash and extend battery life. Both save energy.
Turn off computer, TVs, VCRs and so forth, when not in use. Ditto for outdoor and Christmas tree lights. Why not put the lights on timers so they turn themselves off?
Insulate! Keep hot-water pipes covered in either foam or pre-cut fiberglass insulation. Watch the attic too, since much of the heating and cooling loss in your home goes through the roof.
3. Practice systems thinking
Too often, we look at the little picture and don’t see the overall effect of our actions. We’ll save far more resources if we think through our decisions from start to end. Thus, it makes good environmental and financial sense to:
Plan your meals before you shop. And don’t forget: Stick to the list!
Consolidate your purchases into one bag rather than getting a new bag at each store on your shopping rounds.
4. Encourage self-sufficiency
The more we can do for ourselves, the less we need to rely on what others can do for us. For example, if we can grow our own food, we can reduce the energy costs associated with transporting foodstuffs from thousands of miles away.
Make the wrap a part of the gift: put cookies in a flower pot or hide jewelry in a new pair of gloves. Doing so will keep “wrapping” out of the trash.
Give gifts that encourage other to use less stuff, like a book about making crafts from reusable items, cookbook for leftovers, reusable tote bags.
Simply set a good example by giving homemade food or something you’ve made yourself from reused items.
5. Give the gift of time
Nothing costs less or means more than spending time with loved ones. Enjoy your family and friends, and your need to find joy through consumption will decline.