Although December is rife with parties, gifts, and good cheer, the holiday season is also notorious for creating excess waste—from wrapping paper and tinsel to dried-out cut trees. But no need to get all bah humbug. Follow our tips below to make this holiday something the environment can celebrate, too.

Parties

  • Entertain with real plates, cups, silverware, and napkins instead of disposable goods. If you’re worried about cleanup, recruit a few friends to help while caroling in the kitchen or playing festive music.
  • Throw a holiday party with an ecofriendly theme. Make homemade gifts from recycled items such as fabric or old photos, or have a gift-wrapping bash using Sunday comics and magazine cutouts. Or host a good-use party at which you collect old winter jackets and clothing for your local homeless shelter.
  • Whatever the event, save on postage and reduce waste (and clutter) by sending an “e-vite”—an electronic invitation—rather than a paper one.

 

Gifts

  • Give (or get) greener gifts, such as organic cotton sweaters, locally produced food baskets, or commuter-friendly bus passes.
  • Spread the word that you’d like to receive an ecofriendly present this year, such as a plot at the community garden or monthly shipments from an organic fruit and veggie supplier. Or ask that friends and relatives donate to a charity of your choice rather than purchasing more traditional gifts.
  • When shopping for gifts, lighten your impact on the environment— and create more cheer—by carpooling with friends. Consider walking, biking, and using public transportation, which reduce not only pollution but also those extra holiday calories you’ve consumed.

 

Decorating

  • Buy holiday lights made with LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, available from many major retailers. The bulbs are 90 percent more efficient than traditional lights, which can mean major savings if you keep your tree or house lit at night.
  • Collect pinecones and tree boughs to make garlands and table centerpieces, and string popcorn and dried cranberries for your tree instead of using tinsel, which takes many years to decompose.
  • Recycle fresh Christmas trees. While you need not feel guilty about purchasing a cut tree (almost all are grown on tree farms and have no impact on forests), used Christmas trees create significant landfill waste. To find out where your tree can become mulch for local gardens or parks, log on to www.earth911.org and enter your ZIP code.