Dreaming of a green Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa

Environmental Defense Fund offers tips for reducing holiday waste

provided by Environmental Defense Fund

ccording to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the greenbacks you spend on gifts this holiday season can also make the world a greener place. If you follow some basic guidelines, the gifts you buy will bring joy to friends, relatives, and to Mother Nature.

"If a tree is part of your celebration, buy one that can be replanted in your yard. If you can't replant your tree, compost it after the holidays, along with wreaths and other 'live' decorations," said EDF policy analyst Elizabeth Sturcken. "It's not too late to start a compost pile. Check with your local hardware store or gardening center for information, or check out municipal composting options. Another alternative is an artificial tree, many of which will last for years. If you decorate a tree, try to minimize the size, number and use of electric lights. You can use edible decorations like popcorn and cranberry strings which can be fed to birds after the holiday."

Sturcken recommends giving holiday cards made from recycled paper, and using reusable or recyclable wrapping paper. "When giving someone a gift, skip the card and sign your name right on the box. A gift has the same value if it is wrapped in newspaper or cloth instead of wrapping paper made of bleached and heavily dyed paper. Recycling newspaper and reusing cloth can make holiday cleanup a breeze. Use the comics for kids or the arts section for your favorite artist. If you are mailing gifts, use newspaper or real popcorn instead of plastic foam peanuts for cushioning," said Sturcken.

Gifts that help reduce environmental impacts include household goods like plants, reusable napkins or reusable canvas shopping bags. Try giving something a little less material but a lot more fun, like home-baked goods or movie tickets. Educational items like nature books or memberships to environmental groups make good gifts as well.

Finally, look for gifts that are: durable; not over-packaged; energy efficient; recycled (for example, antiques or used bikes); recyclable; and not made of tropical woods like teak, rosewood or mahogany. Toys that wind up or use rechargeable batteries are also environmentally friendly.

If you are planning a holiday party or open house, try not to use disposable utensils, plates, napkins or tablecloths. If you have a lot of extra food, donate it to a shelter. Also, make sure your guests recycle beverage containers and compost food scraps.

Gift buyers can help reduce traffic and air pollution by minimizing the amount of driving they do. EDF recommends going shopping by public transportation. Shoppers should try to combine car trips, or carpool with family, friends and neighbors.

"Most of all, use this holiday to think about your everyday habits and actions to reduce waste 365 days a year. Individual actions can make a huge difference in our future," said Sturcken.

The Environmental Defense Fund, a leading, national, NY-based nonprofit organization, represents 300,000 members. EDF links science, economics, and law to create innovative, equitable, and economically viable solutions to today's environmental problems. Environmental Defense Fund, 1875 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20009; (202) 387-3500; fax (202) 234-6049; www.edf.org.