Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tips on how to save money, energy and the planet

Dreaming of a green Christmas

With a little bit of effort - maybe much less than you thought - you and your family can enjoy the holiday and help save the planet at the same time.

Holiday lights

Save money and energy by switching your old strands of incandescent holiday lights with newer light emitting diode holiday lights, which also are safer.

Plus, LEDs stay cool to the touch so they will not burn the tree or a child's fingers.

And, during the day shut off your holiday lights. It saves energy, and it allows your lights to last longer.


"Think about Christmas morning - you get done, and you have all these garbage bags full of trash," said Susan Angel, a green events planner from Boise.

The biggest thing someone can do to green their holiday, Angel said, is to do away with traditional wrapping paper and packaging, which often cannot be recycled.

Last year she made gift bags out of fabric.

"They are so easy to sew - three seams and a hem with a piece a ribbon," she said.

"If you are not real crafty, consider pillow cases tied with a ribbon." Other options include cloth or reusable gift or tote bags or wrapping gifts in usable items like dish towels or scarves. And try old newspapers, magazine pages, paper bags or old maps.

Last-minute shopping

Need to run to the mall one more time? BYOB; that's bring your own bag. Take your own cloth shopping bag and turn down clerks' offers of plastic bags.


Fake holiday trees are not environmentally friendly. Most are made in China from petroleum-based plastic and are not biodegradable, so they will sit in landfills for decades.

For a "greener" holiday tree consider a live, uncut tree, which can be replanted in your yard after the holidays.

Living Christmas trees can be purchased at some retail lots, choose-and-cut farms and some nurseries and garden centers.

The trees require a little extra attention. They need to acclimate for a couple of days in a garage or enclosed porch before being brought indoors, where they should not remain for more than one week. Then they should be gradually reintroduced to colder outdoor temperatures before being planted.

Fresh-cut Christmas trees from tree farms are a better choice than trees harvested from the wild.

Most fresh-cut Christmas trees now come from tree farms, so deforestation isn't an issue.

Additionally, Christmas tree farms keep large swaths of land from being developed. When the trees grow, they emit oxygen into the air.

When a cut holiday tree is past its glory, it can be recycled into mulch.

If you want to recycle your tree, do not use tinsel or spray it with fake snow, as tinsel and white trees cannot be recycled.


Here's a good rule for when your fancy new Christmas present replaces last year's electronics: If the gadget still works, donate it. If it is broken or antiquated, recycle it. But whatever you do, don't throw it in the trash.

E-waste is a growing environmental and public health concern as the world becomes more wired and companies introduce new products at a faster pace.

Discarded computers, televisions, cell phones, radios, batteries, cameras and other electronic gadgets contain a stew of toxic metals and chemicals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

The average cathode ray tube, found in green computer monitors, televisions and other electronic devices, contains up to 8 pounds of lead, which can leach into the ground and contaminate groundwater.

Old cell phones can be dropped off at Staples office supply stores for recycling.

And don't forget the batteries. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well.

Related Post: Ways to go green with the remnants of your Christmas