Easy ways to 'green' your holidays
This is a column that I wrote last year around this time, and I’m re-running it with a couple of updates. It’s information that I believe is important to remember this time of year.
It is estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, household waste increases 25 percent. I want to share some easy ways to reduce waste, and help make your holidays earth-friendly!
An easy step to take is to purchase local and/or organic foods when possible. Locally grown and raised food reduces the carbon dioxide emissions from shipping foods to you. Purchasing organic foods reduces the need for pesticides and toxic chemicals, and every time you do this, you “vote” for organic foods with your dollars. These chemicals, when used on conventionally grown items, are not only detrimental to your health, but they enter the soil, which eventually runs off into rivers and lakes. This time of year it is not as easy to find locally raised produce, but it’s still available. I have seen it at both Heinen’s and Whole Foods in recent weeks.
Purchasing food and other items in bulk when possible reduces packaging waste (reducing your waste) and also saves you money. Also, please remember to bring your reusable shopping bags when shopping for the holidays! This is an extremely simple step you can take to drastically reduce your waste. Be sure when buying bulk not to purchase more perishable food than your household can consume before it expires.
It is estimated that 28 billion pounds of edible food is wasted each year. This is equivalent to more than 100 pounds per person. If you are hosting holiday gatherings, it is important to estimate the correct amount of food to purchase so you don’t end up with too much or too little. General guidelines are as follows per person you are serving: 1 pound of turkey, one-quarter pound stuffing, one-quarter pound green bean casserole, and one-eighth of a 9-inch pie.
There are simple steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint if you are going to be traveling for the holidays. The first would be to turn lights off in your home before you leave, and make sure your thermostat is turned down. If you are traveling by car, it is a good idea to check for proper inflation of tires and that the air filter is clean; these actions will reduce carbon emissions.
If you are hosting an event, please consider using real plates, napkins, silverware and glasses. Doing so will greatly reduce your waste. In my opinion, I like eating a nice holiday meal with a real plate and a real fork as opposed to disposable. If you must use disposable, please consider purchasing biodegradable and compostable napkins, utensils and plates. These can be found at Whole Foods or Amazon.com. Another idea is to go to a thrift store and pick up some inexpensive plates, silverware and glasses for your holiday. These are items you can pack in a box after your party and store until the next time you need them. This will reduce waste in your home and possibly reduce stress, as you will not have to run out and purchase disposable items again.
When cleaning your house either before or after a holiday gathering, consider using non-toxic cleaners. Vinegar and newspaper works extremely well for windows, and baking soda with water is a great tub and sink scrub. Simple, non-toxic cleaner recipes are very easy to find on the internet.
Last, but certainly not least, please make sure you recycle everything you are able. Plastic containers, beer cans and bottles, wine bottles, food cans, etc. Taking even a few of these simple steps will go a long way in reducing your environmental impact during the holidays!