Green Your Post Holidays

Although the holidays are a time for relaxing, there is always a slew of new gifts, used decorations, and household waste to deal with in the post holiday clean up. Almost all of these holiday by-products can be taken care of in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

By making some small changes to your typical new year routine, you can continue spreading the holiday spirit by helping the environment, your community, and reducing your carbon footprint. Consider the following ways to go green during the holidays and start the year with a more sustainable lifestyle.

Recycle Old, Used, or Burnt Out Lights –  The Department of Energy estimates that U.S. households would save $410 million every month in electricity expense if everyone switched to LED lights. The benefits of energy efficient LED holiday lights are discussed in a previous Green Blizzard article, Sustainable Living with LED Holiday Lights, but whether you’re upgrading to LED, or just have a pile of burnt out, tangled light strings to get rid of, consider one of these convenient and green ways to recycle your holiday lights.

Drop off your old lights at Lowe’s and Ace Hardware stores for recycling.  Home Depot offers an extra incentive by offering a discount on LED holiday lights when you trade in used or broken incandescent light strings. These in-store programs only run for a certain amount of time, so check online for dates and keep this green recycling option in mind during the pre-holiday season when decorating starts.

You can also mail in your holiday lights to be recycled.  Businesses like The Refining Company and Holiday LEDs offer free, no-hassle mail in programs for recycling holiday light strands in any quantity or condition.  Holiday LEDs even offers a 15% discount on new LED lights when you recycle old ones.  Think about coordinating with friends, neighbors, or co-workers to compile a bulk shipment, which will reduce the costs and environmental impacts of shipping.

Recycle and Reuse Wrapping – Although holiday wrapping is basically a purely aesthetic waste of paper, I have to admit that I do love a nicely wrapped gift. To offset the thousands of trees used to produce wrapping materials each year, I like to save, reuse, and find creative ways to make pretty packages.

If every family in America reused just two feet of holiday ribbon and wrapped three presents in reused materials, we would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields and enough ribbon to tie a bow around the entire planet.

Alternative Wrapping Options Using the comics, the front page from the newspaper, magazine covers, reusable gift bags and boxes, and saved ibbon. Some nifty ideas are discussed in a popular Green Blizzard article, Conserve Your Use of Holiday Wrappings. I’d also like a share a few of my personal favorite green wrapping tricks. Save boxes and packaging materials all year round.  At the risk of being judged as a boarder line hoarder, I promise this practice pays off. 

Throughout the year, I toss boxes, nice shopping bags, and lightly used wrapping materials (the tissue paper stores wrap purchases in often barely have a crease) into a closet.  This makes my life very easy when it comes to packing things for shipping, moving, or holiday gifts.  What an easy and convenient way to be green! Save money and go green by making your own gift tags.

I like to combine tools and materials I already have in my craft bin with scraps of pretty wrapping paper to make gift tags.  This is an easy, fun, and sustainable way to make gifts even more personal.

It’s also a great project for kids!

Make room for new gifts by recycling old things  A pile of gifts under the tree is a great opportunity to clear out the old and make room for the new.   Donating goods to charities is a great form of recycling that not only helps the environment but also your community.  Getting new things makes it easier to let go of old things, so consider setting a goal to spread the holiday spirit by donating one thing to charity for every new gift you receive.

As the holidays remind us to be grateful, generous, and kind, don’t forget to put the environment on your list! Keep these simple and convenient tips for going green in mind as this holiday season wraps up and try incorporating them into your annual routine for years to come.


About the author

Hannah Bagby

A recent Masters of Management Science graduate at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, Hannah writes about how to be green in your everyday household consumable choices and your personal living environment.