With the mission of improving the quality of the environment in North Carolina, the nonprofit NC GreenPower was founded in 2003 as a statewide program. In 2015, NC GreenPower launched a new program to support solar PV installations at North Carolina K-12 schools.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Tips for a Sustainable Holiday Part 2
The Holidays are a time for gift giving, sharing meals with
friends and family, and decorating your home in merry holiday splendor. While
all of these activates are fun and good for the soul, sometimes this increased
consumerism isn’t so good for the environment – according to the EPA the amount
of household garbage from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day can increase by 25%,
or 5 million tons! NC GreenPower has some suggestions below for ways to
decrease your holiday environmental impact while still spreading holiday cheer.
Food waste reduction is one goal that is relatively easy to
accomplish; simple behavioral changes like composting, always using reusable
plates, silverware, napkins, etc. (as opposed to disposable), saving leftovers,
buying in bulk and buying local can all have profound impacts. Visit NC State
University’s Sustainability page to learn more.
Waste reduction can also be accomplished by tweaking the
gift-giving process. Recycling favorite wrapping paper and nice ribbons from
year to year, or using quirky wrapping paper like newspaper or an out of date
map both reduces the amount of paper produced and thrown away, and adds fun
character to your gifts.
This Huffington Post article has several more ideas of how to reduce holiday waste, from giving
home-made gifts to paying attention to a gift’s packaging.
There are several approaches to having an “eco” tree. My
favorite is what my family used to do back home in Colorado. We’d buy a $5.00 permit
from the USDA National Forest Service and go into the woods to cut down our own
tree! Unfortunately, the National Forest Service in North Carolina does not sell
permits to cut down your own Christmas tree. Many other states do have this fun
option, however, which helps reduce forest fire danger and allows people to
have a fun experience searching for their perfect tree in the woods. If you are
spending the holidays in a different state, this might be something to consider
– you’ll not only be helping our national forests, but you’ll also create a fun
memory! States with this opportunity are: WA, OR, CA, ID, WY, CO UT, KS, MT, SD,
NB, AZ, NM, VT, FL, and possibly more. Visit your state’s National Forest Service
Website to find out more.
Since that isn’t an option for most North Carolina
residents, the decision comes down to real vs. fake. This article from Mother News Network does a good job at laying out the pros and
cons of both. Its top suggestion is to get a tree from an organic farm, and a
list of NC farms selling organic and low-spray trees can be found here. If that isn’t viable for you, the final decision is still that
real trumps fake, all things considered. And following the holidays, be sure to
recycle your live tree! (We’ll remind you about this part after Christmas.)
There are other less traditional options as well, as
outlined in this Good Housekeeping article. They too recommend organic trees in addition to plantable
trees, using a living tree outside (if you live in a mild climate!) or making
your own “tree” (think: Charlie Brown-type tree). You can also decorate a small
Rosemary tree, usually available at any grocery store.And Inhabitat shares 6 fabulous faux Christmas tree ideas, such as a 100% recycled cardboard tree from Cascades. Essentially, what it comes down to is how traditional
you are and what resources are at your disposal.
Finally, this tip page from the EPA has
some good general guidelines to be more environmentally conscious during the
holidays (and many tips apply for year round, too!).
We hope you consider implementing some of these easy changes
to make your holidays greener – or maybe you already do them! Regardless, we at
NC GreenPower send you warm wishes for a happy holiday season!