How To Be More Environmentally Conscious During the Holidays


Now that it’s officially December, students at Green Level look forward to the holidays. Thoughts of presents and spending time with loved ones take the limelight, and often the effects of our consumerism go unnoticed. However, this is the time when we should be paying the most attention to the environmental impact of our actions. Here are some ways you can be more environmentally conscious this winter: 

1. Decorate with LED String Lights

Decorating with LED String Lights is approximately 90% more efficient and takes around 4 watts a strand as compared to the traditional string lights 34 watts a strand. After the lights become worn out and it’s time to replace them, consider recycling your old lights. LED lights are completely recyclable, and the materials can be repurposed into things such as copper wire, which both reduces the cost of copper wire and the amount of copper mining necessary to produce copper wire and copper goods. 

2. Use reusable gift packaging methods

Americans themselves use 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper each year, most of which is used during the holiday season. Switching this out with reusable gift bags/baskets will help reduce our paper usage. 

 3. Decorate a live tree

Contrary to popular belief, artificial trees are more environmentally damaging than live trees– around 88 lbs of carbon emissions are produced by a single artificial tree, which is around ten times higher than the carbon emissions released by a sustainably resourced tree. Most artificial trees in production today are also not made of recyclable materials and end up in landfills after a few years. Real trees are able to be repurposed after the Christmas season; whether it be replanting it, giving it to a program that can turn the tree into mulch or wood chips, or donating it to a tree replanting program or habitat restoration program. Wake County has designated facilities for Christmas tree dropoff that is open for about a month into the new year. Small-scale Christmas tree farms integrate sustainable farming practices by blocking off younger trees and allowing them to grow. In fact, the average age of a purchased tree is around 7 years old, which lowers the carbon footprint of the tree and means that the regeneration of Christmas trees on these farms is inherently sustainable– it uses sloped land that is typically unsuitable for agriculture and one to three trees are planted per tree bought. 

4. Reduce food waste

The holidays are a prime time for buying food in excessive quantities. Americans waste 25% more food during the holidays than they do at any other time of the year. Planning menus accordingly and donating leftover food to food banks/shelters will reduce this percentage.

5. Consider green holiday shopping 

Excessive consumerism occurs especially during this time of the year, which is why we need to consider the sustainability of our gift choices. When picking out gifts for your loved ones, try aiming towards reusable items or items that are long-lasting. Making your own gifts or giving gift certificates to local restaurants, shops, or theaters would also reduce your negative environmental impact.