5 Big Tips for a Carbon Friendly Christmas

How deep is your Christmas carbon footprint? If you’re looking to have a green holiday and save the climate by saving on fuel, we have some tips for you.

This is serious business. The year 2016 is going into the record books for crossing several key thresholds for climate change, according to a number of experts. August 2016 was the warmest August in 136 years of modern record-keeping, according to NASA. The Arctic is seeing record low sea ice this year, which is devastating the natural habitats of polar bears and contributing to steady sea level rise. On the other end of the planet, an unprecedented 70-mile crack has opened up in Antarctica. It has the potential to create an ice berg the size of Delaware.

1 Million Tons of Waste for the Holidays

The amount of household trash in the United States generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. About 1 million extra tons of waste ends up in landfills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

So what can you do to help? While it may seem that your carbon footprint is shrinking — holiday traffic to retail outlets has plunged, more and more people stay home to watch Netflix and Hulu instead of venturing out to the Cineplex – every action can have an equal and opposite reaction (Newton’s Third Law of Physics).

The products you order on Amazon require a legion of workers, truckers and myriad forms of transportation (land, sea and air) to get to your door. Increasingly, those fuel expenditures often seem to be dedicated to one package per delivery per order based on availability. So just because you’re driving less doesn’t mean there is less driving.

But we don’t want you to go without. So in that spirit, we offer these tips to help “green” your Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or other holiday gathering without making you suffer.

  1. Make Your Thermostat Smarter – There are no shortage of apps and systems to make your home and thermostat smarter so you can turn up the heat (or the air conditioning, depending on what part of the country you’re in) from the office or as you’re heading home in your car. Some even help by reading the current temperature and weather predications. The key is not to be heating (or cooling) your home unnecessarily when you’re not there.
  2. Buy a Living Christmas TreeNASA has done the math, and a real tree really does have a much lower carbon footprint than a plastic one. How? Here’s NASA’s reasoning: “Farmers grow trees especially for the holidays. They plant huge tracts of land in beautiful noble pines, Douglas firs, blue spruce, and other favorites. It may take 8 to 12 years to grow a good sized tree. But during that time, the tree is taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. It is cleaning the air and helping slow climate change. If people didn’t buy the cut trees, the farmers wouldn’t plant them.”
  3. Keep It Local – This is simple. Whether they’re flown or driven to our home, it takes more resources for imported goods to reach our homes and offices. Buying local products cuts carbon emissions while boosting the local economy. Locally grown organic produce and manufactured handicrafts really help, particularly if the raw materials are sustainably sourced, like twigs, leaves and pine cones.
  4. Wrap, Recycle, Wrap – or Don’t Wrap at All – Do you really need to wrap that gift? Especially if you’re not giving it to a child, and especially if it’s not going to sit under a Christmas tree for a week or more, is there any reason to wrap that gift? According to the EPA, half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. Many different types of wrapping papers – especially those that are shiny or feel waxy – contain chemical compounds and metals that are particularly unkind to the environment. Some environmentalists suggest using newspapers, brown paper bags or old maps to wrap gifts. Others say wrap but don’t use a box. Instead of using ribbons or bows, adorn gifts with a sprig of evergreen. If you do use ribbons, bows and bags, reuse them next year.
  5. LED Lights – Energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) Christmas lights are up to 90 percent more efficient than regular tungsten bulbs. The EPA and numerous experts also stress that they’re far safer and last longer, too. Use automatic timers. That ensures they’ll turn themselves off after you go to bed, saving power and guaranteeing that your carbon footprint won’t be naughty, but nice.