Tips for green holiday entertaining
Green holiday entertaining doesn't mean you have to forgo the seasonal fun.
You can still decorate and entertain in festive style - and you can do it with a clear conscience, knowing that you are not contributing to the waste the holiday season generates each year.
In fact, it might even be more fun knowing that you are lessening your carbon footprint while merrymaking this holiday season. These 4 ideas can help get the party started.
1. Go Natural With Your Holiday Home Decorations
Go natural this year with your holiday home decorations and you'll be helping the environment along with extending your holiday budget.
- String popcorn and cranberries to trim the tree. This is going back to basics at its best.
- Make paper chains instead of hanging tinsel. Tinsel must be removed before your tree can be recycled. (Plus, it can be lethal if consumed by pets.)
- Decorate naturally. Choose dried flowers, pine cones, felt, leaves, photographs, last year's ribbons, yarn, drawings, shells, sand dollars and edibles such as candy canes.
- If you do buy ornaments, choose recycled metal, glass or paper.
- Trim your home with nature. Create decorations and centerpieces of pine cones, dried flowers and other natural materials.
- Choose better outdoor lights. When
trimming your home, look for light strands with parallel wiring. These
have separate circuitry so that if one bulb goes out, the rest will keep
shining; all you need to do is replace the bulb.
- Choose smaller bulbs with lower wattage. They are cheaper, consume less electricity, and are safer because they give off less heat.
- Use timers for all your seasonal lighting. Put all your lights on timers for big energy savings.
2. Think Green As You Shop for Gifts and Party Supplies
When shopping, buy in bulk and take your own canvas bags or reused shopping bags from Christmas Past. Select items with the least packaging and buy only what you'll use.
Make sure your green holiday entertaining uses the least amount possible of items that end up in our landfills. Here are a few ways you can make a difference:
- Party invitations. Use e-mail for your party invites instead of printed invitations.
- Decorate with plants. Deck the halls with holiday plants (keep them healthy with this Christmas plant care guide) instead of traditional store-bought ornaments.
- Choose washable plates and utensils. Don't opt for the more convenient, but more waste-generating disposable plates and utensils for your party. Instead, choose cutlery and plates that can be washed and reused.
- Rent or borrow punch bowls or large platters. Consider renting or borrowing items such as punch bowls or large platters. Or share the expense of these dishes with a neighbor.
- Recycle. Set up a highly visible area with containers for recycling bottles, cans and paper.
- The party's over... Once the party is over,
the edible leftovers and give your yard a holiday treat. In addition to improving the soil structure, texture and aeration, compost also increases the soil's water-holding capacity.
- Good compost ingredients include fruit and vegetable trimmings, flowers and coffee grounds. No-nos include meat, fish, poultry and dairy products, which might attract wildlife.
3. Give Green Gifts from the Heart
Remember that the best gifts come from the heart, not a department store. Look for products made from recycled materials, or those that can be recycled or reused after the holidays. Earth-friendly gifts to consider:
- Membership in an environmental organization
- Handmade items of recycled materials
- Long-lasting gifts that benefit the environment, such as a solar battery charger (with batteries) or water-conserving shower heads.
- For your significant other, consider giving a weekend getaway to a bed-and-breakfast (you can go, too) or a bike-riding excursion.
- For kids, create a certificate for excursions such as a whale-watching or camping trip.
Call your local recycling company to find out which materials are accepted for recycling in your community. Not all facilities recycle all materials, even those marked "recyclable". For example, gift wrap, cards, and cardboard boxes with special finishes cannot be recycled because they release potentially dangerous fumes when burned.
4. Choose or Create Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap
One ecological and budget-friendly way to wrap gifts is to use recycled or recyclable materials already in our homes, such as newspaper funny pages, cloth napkins, or scarves. Other ideas include:
- Wrap Grandma's gift in a piece of your child's artwork
- Arrange gardener's tools in the pocket of an apron, neatly tied with twine in a planter box
- Wrap a traveler's gift in old street or city maps
- Use a colorful tablecloth to wrap dishes or dining room gifts
Kids get a kick out of opening individually wrapped presents, but for an adult's gifts you can keep packaging to a minimum by wrapping them all in a single reusable box or by using last year's left over wrapping and bows.
If you send greeting cards, choose recyclable ones or postcards. Or buy cards from local organizations that benefit good causes. Save the cards you receive to cut up and reuse them next year as gift tags. They're also a good resource for kiddie art projects.