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Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, American households generate about 1 million extra tons of waste. That’s right: the US throws away 25% more trash during the holidays than any other time of year! Luckily, it doesn’t take much to plan your own eco-friendly holiday. We’ve rounded up five of the simplest ways to ring in the new year while preventing contributions to air, water and land pollution—all while saving you time and money.
1. Cut back on unnecessary packaging
Image credit: splashofsomething.com
We generate four million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bag waste every holiday season in the US alone. This year, help reduce that amount by doing what grandmothers and thrifty-minded folks have done for decades: save your gift wrapping and reuse it next year! There are all sorts of guides online (such as this one on Pinterest) with creative (and easy!) ways for recycling all that holiday packaging. To take it up a notch, consider retailers that offer package-free products, such as Lush, which sells handmade soaps and cosmetics that come wrapped in paper instead of bottled in plastic.
2. Make sure your last-minute gifts don’t generate waste
Instead of hastily purchasing something with a big carbon footprint, consider giving a gift that helps the recipient change a life. You can fight poverty in a developing country through a Kiva.org gift card (values start at $25). When the loan is repaid, the donor can use those funds again and again to make even more loans on Kiva. It’s a gift that keeps on giving!
Your loved one — and a teacher in need — will thank you!
3. Use as few shopping bags as possible
Thousands of paper and plastic shopping bags end up in landfills every year. The United States Environmental Protection Agency suggests that when going shopping, bring reusable bags or tell store clerks you don’t need a bag for small or oversized purchases.
You can also combine your purchases into one bag rather than getting a new bag at each store—we’ve seen people using IKEA’s reusable 19 gallon capacity shopping totes for all sorts of things and you can order them online for as little as 99 cents each.
4. Reduce your food waste
49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households last year, including 15.8 million children. Meanwhile, Americans waste 96 billion pounds of food each year, according to the USDA.
By reducing your family’s food waste this season, you can save time, help clean up the environment and support hungry families in need. Here are some tips:
- Plan your menu: figure out exactly how much extra food you must purchase based on how many people you plan on serving/hosting. Try to incorporate food items you already have available at home, then make a shopping list and only get the things you need (limit your impulse buys!).
- Store leftovers: You can use leftover veggies, rice and beans for soup and other creative food remixes. Freeze the excess until you know what you want to do with it. Many families make “to go” plates for visitors who are happy to take the food home with them and share it with their loved ones.
- Donate excess food: Check with your local food bank or use Feeding America’s food bank locator to find one in your area.
5. Support businesses that source organic cotton
Organic cotton is grown in a way that uses methods and materials that lessen the impact on our environment. The crops aren’t treated with harmful chemicals or Genetically Modified Organisms. These toxins are dangerous for farmers and workers, consumers, and entire wildlife eco-systems (learn more on HuffingtonPost.com). Despite these facts, only one percent of all cotton grown is organic.
Lonesome George & Co.’s products are manufactured in organic White Cotton, a certified organic cotton grown in ancient cotton fields in Peru. Additionally, 10% of every purchase funds youth education at the Academy of Agents of Change. You can purchase 100% organic cotton apparel for less than $20 right here.
For more ideas on how to have a stress-free and eco-friendly holiday, check out these links: