The holiday season can be a challenging time for anyone, but maybe even more so for those looking to decorate, host and celebrate in a more mindful manner. It’s a challenge we as conscious consumers welcome – and we’re here to help.
We want to fill every inch of our homes with the holiday spirit, but we're also acutely aware that the food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons can add an extra 1 million tons of trash a week to our landfills.
With a little creativity, it's possible to enjoy all the trappings of the season — with less waste.
An added benefit: Being mindful of your environmental impact while trimming your tree can also help trim your budget.
From cleaning to decorating, we're sharing simple strategies to prep your home for holiday celebrations while preserving the planet for future generations. And perhaps that's the most important gift you can give your loved ones this season.
- Get a real tree. That 'plastic smell' when you unpack an artificial tree comes from PVC, which releases dioxins during manufacturing and disposal. That's problematic, since the average family only uses an artificial tree for 6 years before throwing it away, where it will hang around in a landfill for about 500 years. Real trees, on the other hand, absorb carbon dioxide and provide refuge for wildlife while they're growing. After the holiday season is over, real trees can be recycled into mulch for the garden or paths for hiking trails. Plus, they smell wonderful! When you're shopping for a tree, look for local farms that grow sustainably and learn as much as you can before you purchase.
- Decorate with foraged finds. Decorations made from citrus, pinecones, evergreen branches, and holly are both festive and free. It's a great way to cut down on waste from plastic/petroleum-based decorations, and reclaim some storage space in your garage.
- Switch to LED lights. Recycle broken strands through one of these light recycling programs, and replace them with ENERGY STAR Certified LEDs, which last longer and can help lower your holiday energy bill.
- Make your own seasonal fragrances. One scented candle can contain any combination of the more than 3,000 commonly used fragrance chemicals — including known allergens and VOCs. You can still enjoy the scents of the season by reaching for natural alternatives like simmer pots, dried herb bundles and wax tarts made with essential oils:
- Fill Your Home with Seasonal Winter Scents
- How to Make a Holiday Scented Herb Bundle
- 5 Tips to Freshen Stale Winter Air
- Wash laundry in cold water. From table linens to bedding, holiday guests can add to the laundry load and your home’s energy usage. Since about 90% of the energy consumed by a washing machine goes to heating water, the average family can eliminate 350 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year and save around $40 just by switching to cold water. Most detergents, including Seventh Generation, are designed to work equally well in hot or cold water.
- Hang laundry to dry. Most of us think of line drying as a summer activity, but hanging items to dry indoors can save on energy costs as well as add some much-needed humidity to dry winter air.
- Do dishes as you go. Cleaning up while you cook will not only save on water and energy usage, but also free up more time to spend with your guests. To conserve water, fill your sink with warm water and a squirt of dish liquid instead of running the water each time. Then wait until after the meal to run the dishwasher once it's totally full.
- Use real tableware. Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times. If you're hosting a large crowd and don't have enough place settings, borrow from friends or family for a chic mismatched look.
- Don't forget to fight off holiday germs. Proper hand washing habits can help prevent the spread of illness. Additionally, Seventh Generation disinfectant spray kills 99.99% of household germs. Try using it on hard, non-porous surfaces around your home where household germs may be a problem.
- Spread holiday cheer beyond your home. 70% of Americans say they would welcome less emphasis on gift-giving and spending. Take time to reconnect with friends throughout the holiday season by investing in experiences rather than just gifts. Consider those less fortunate and find ways to give back.