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Greening your holidays

December 12, 2012

While having lunch with friend and blog writer Andrea Nocito, I mentioned that the holiday season, while spectacular, seems so wasteful. Andrea agreed and quickly, we were off to discussing strategies for a less wasteful way to deck the halls. Here are some strategies for greening your holiday season.

Gifting

Laura: What can we do about all the wrapping paper we use? We use it only once and then trash it. Is there a better way?

Andrea: Be Santa’s little helper by wrapping gifts in fabric or newspaper instead of wrapping paper. Fabric works wells when sending baked treats as the fabric can be used for another purpose like napkins later. Extending a second life to newspaper increases your green footprint and allows you to be creative with the decorating. For the sports enthusiast, wrap using the sports section, bonus points if a Spurs’ win greets the gift receiver!

Holiday Cards

Laura: What about all those holiday cards I send and receive? Can I recycle those?

Andrea: Part of getting into the holiday spirit is sending and receiving dozens of holiday cards. But, when you count up the trees used to make each card coupled with the greenhouse gas emissions associated with each mile those cards have traveled, a wonderful pastime turns into a hard time for the planet. At the end of holiday season, send your cards to a great cause: St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. St. Jude’s collects cards year round, recycles them using fun activities for the children and then resells newly designed cards. To participate, separate the front of each of your holiday cards, pack them and ship them to St. Jude’s at St. Jude’s Ranch for Children
ATTN: Donor Office
P.O. Box 60100
Boulder City, NV 89006-0100. Learn more about this program and how to participate at http://www.stjudesranch.org/shop/recycled-card-program/

And while you are on that site, make plans to buy your next round of holiday cards from them to further this green and great cause!

Decorations

Laura: And what about twinkle lights? How much energy do they consume and is there a way to be green and festive?

Andrea: Usher in a new sparkle this year with LED holiday lights. LED lights can be made using fewer materials during the manufacturing process and require much less energy to operate. LED holiday lights will be both kinder to your utility bill, and to the environment. Recycle your old lights by dropping them off at the City of San Antonio’s Household Hazardous Waste sites. For more information, visit http://www.sanantonio.gov/swmd/HazardousWaste/

Laura: Is a real tree or artificial tree best?

Andrea: While it may seem that cutting down a tree year after year is environmentally unkind — and it is — doing so may be less detrimental to the planet than artificial trees. Artificial trees are made from plastics, which are laden with chemicals and petroleum. These products are not biodegradable, are energy-intensive to make (as nearly all plastics are), and require shipment from where nearly everything else is made, China. The carbon footprint alone for artificial trees is enough to warrant going oh naturale this year. Also, be sure to recycle your Douglas fur after the holidays by dropping it off at one of the twenty locations setup by the City of San Antonio’s Solid Waste department. For more information, visit http://www.sanantonio.gov/swmd/SpecialEvents/

 Travel

Laura: Is there a green way to travel?

Andrea: Opt for nonstop flights. Like our cars, the largest amount of emissions (nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, methane and particulate matter – among other things) associated with airplanes are released during the great fuel burn of take-off. So, the fewer take-offs you can manage, the greener your footprint. Be on the look out when booking your flight and hotel stays for opportunities to go green: many airlines and hotels, as well as discount reservation sites will have an option for offsetting your footprint with a $5 charge used to plant trees or purchase carbon offsets.

So, in addition to gifting for your friends and family, give our planet a gift or reduced impact. It’s the gift that truly keeps on giving.

In 2011, Andrea Nocito was named a Forty under Forty Rising Star by the “San Antonio Business Journal” and currently works as manager for the Energy Savings Solutions program at UTSA. In her spare time, Andrea founded EcoStrategies, a sustainability planning and implementation firm.

San Antonio activist and nonprofit veteran Laura Carter believes in enabling the community to work from the heart, not just the wallet. Laura is currently Communications Director at Providence Catholic School where her job includes working with traditional, creative, and social media public relations and marketing.

 

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