7 Tips to Make Your Holidays a Little Greener

It’s getting colder (though not as cold as it should be) and the days are shorter. The holidays are here, and with it an opportunity to have a more environmentally-friendly celebration. Make your holidays joyous in spirit and gentle on the environment. Here are some tips from us at the Rainforest Alliance for a green, clean holiday season.

1. Buy an actual tree.

In an article about how to reduce your personal carbon footprint over the holidays, it may seem counterintuitive to talk about Christmas trees. After all, trees are a carbon sink and provide a ton of other benefits, from clean air to water filtration. But keep in mind that Christmas trees are not cut down from virgin forests. Christmas trees grown on farms, just like other crops—and while they grow on the tree farm, they still do provide those essential carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services. Like other crops, you have a choice about what kind of tree you purchase. Organic, more sustainable options exist. Check this list of organic and low-pesticide trees to find a vendor near you.

But what about fake Christmas trees, you ask? Fake Christmas trees are made from plastic and often manufactured in China. This comes with a bevy of environmental and human health problems, from the pollution that springs from the production of the plastic, steel, and brackets in the tree, to the emissions generated from shipping it from another country, to the packaging and resources required to store the tree. Fake Christmas trees are not recyclable, and often end up in landfills.

A 2009 report from the Montreal-based consulting firm Ellipsos compared resource use and emissions generated from the production of natural trees versus fake trees. The report notes that while a fake tree can be reused, you would have to reuse the fake tree for twenty years before it could be considered greener than a real tree.

2. Recycle or compost your Christmas tree

Unlike fake Christmas trees, real trees are recyclable or compostable. Many municipalities offer recycling programs within the first two weeks of the New Year—so it’s important to be timely about your recycling. On the other hand, trees in more rural communities are often taken to landfills, if you’re not careful to take the right steps. Check this handy recycling tool to see how you can recycle a tree in your town. Be sure to remove all the decorations before you put it out on the curb—if your tree still has ornaments, or if it’s “flocked” (sprayed white for a more wintery feel), it will almost certainly go to a landfill.

Another option is composting. If you already have a compost heap, your tree will have a happy home. If not, tree branches provide a great base layer for composting. In both cases, chop the tree into smaller, more manageable sections, and add to your compost bin. Some cities, like New York, will convert your tree to mulch for free—great for the compost heap or for your garden later in the year.

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Source: 7 Tips to Make Your Holidays a Little Greener

Category : Green Living, Living It.
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