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Five Ideas for Eco-Friendly Holidays

As you get together with friends and family for holidays or birthdays, why not celebrate the environment too? Here are some simple ideas for greening up your festivities. As an added bonus, many of them are as kind to your wallet as they are to the planet!

Choose eco-friendly gifts. Look for gifts made with the environment in mind (such as shade-grown chocolate or coffee; or items made with recycled glass, metal, plastic, or paper). Or give gifts that get used up, like soap, food, or candles.

You could also give gifts that help people cut down on waste. Reusable grocery or produce bags and refillable water bottles do more than just save landfill space — they also save the resources used in making and transporting the disposable versions.
There's nothing to wrap or throw away when you donate to a person's favorite cause. Making a gift donation in someone's name is a good choice for parents or grandparents who don't need more "stuff." Or give the gift of your time, such as coupons for babysitting or computer help.

Green up your gift wrap. Instead of spending money on store-bought wrapping paper that ends up in a landfill, make your own wrapping from newspaper, magazines, or catalogs. Or use fabric items to wrap gifts, such as wrapping a cookbook in a dishtowel, or clothing in a scarf. Reusable gift bags are another eco-conscious way to present gifts — they're also easier to use than wrapping paper!

Decorate with the planet in mind. Holiday lighting can be a big energy user, so try to find efficient lighting (such as LED lights). Turn outdoor lighting displays off when you go to bed or if you're not at home. If you light candles, choose natural ones made with beeswax or soy instead of petroleum-based ingredients.

If you buy a Christmas tree, consider a live tree that can be replanted after the holidays. Decorate it the old-fashioned way, with popcorn and cranberry strings — then hang these out for hungry birds to enjoy when the holiday is over. Decorate your table or home with biodegradable natural items, such as pinecones.

Send greetings that really care. Create your own holiday cards using your computer or art supplies and recycled paper. Some people cut the pictures out of holiday cards they received the year before and use these to make new cards or gift tags. Better still, go paperless with e-cards.

Reuse and recycle. As you plan your holiday celebrations, keep in mind ways to reduce waste, such as using rechargeable batteries in electronic items. If you receive gifts you can't return or use, pass them on to someone who can — or donate them to a charity resale shop. (You can also do this with any old items that this year's gifts replace.) After Christmas, use a chipper to turn your cut tree into mulch for the garden. (


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