The holidays draw out the best in most of us each year, but they also bring tons of extra garbage, millions of chopped-down trees, and megawatts of flashing lights. With a little tweaking, however, everything from holiday gift-giving to light-stringing can celebrate the environment, too. Here's how:
- Between Thanksgiving and New Year's day, Americans throw away a million extra tons [900,000 metric tons] of garbage each week, including holiday wrapping and packaging. So why not recycle holiday gift wrap? If every family reused just 2 feet [0.6 meter] of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles [61,000 kilometers] of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.
- Recycling fresh trees after Christmas can make a huge difference in reducing holiday waste. Instead of taking up space in the landfill, trees can be ground into wood chips, which can be used to mulch gardens or parks or to prevent erosion at a local watershed.
- The newest energy-saving stars on the holiday scene are Christmas lights made with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. First introduced in 2001, LEDs incorporate the same computer-chip technology used to light calculators and watches. The lights, which use semiconducting material rather than incandescent filaments, are 90 percent more efficient than traditional Christmas lights. According to one U.S. Department of Energy study, if everyone replaced their conventional holiday light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved in a month. The savings would be enough to power 200,000 homes for a year, according to Littleton, Colorado-based Holiday Creations, which makes and distributes a popular line of LED light strings.