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The holidays are full of jolly times and making memories. From opening presents to exchanging a kiss under the mistletoe, it’s all a part of the season’s bliss. What’s not so cheerful and full of joy is the waste and environmental impact that comes from celebrating the holiday season.

The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) states, “between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the amount of trash produced in the United States increases by an estimated 25%—that’s about one million extra tons of garbage each week.”

Annually, Americans discard an estimated:

  • 38,000 miles of ribbon, or enough to wrap around the planet (with some left for a bow)
  • $11 billion worth of packing material
  • 15 million used Christmas trees

However, there are ways that we can reduce our footprint and not add to landfills. These are 3 ways to go green during the holiday season.

1. Card Alternatives

Christmas cards are a great way to stay connected with family and friends. By sharing a photo and a holiday greeting with loved ones, you get to stay in the loop. Traditional cards from big box stores are often expensive and contribute to paper waste.

Ditching the tradition this December may not be on your list of things to do. There are alternative ways to continue sharing sweet messages. You can:

  • Purchase vintage postcards from a local thrift store or antique shop
    • Make sure there is no writing on the postcards before purchasing
    • Be sure that the cards are in good enough condition to withstand going through the mail
  • Send an e-card
  • Cut off the front of any holiday cards you received in the past and write on the back
  • Handmake paper from recycled materials
  • Make a social media post

2. Shop Second-hand

Consider finding gifts, decor, and donations at second-hand stores. When purchasing gifts at a thrift store, you will likely find something unique and something no one else has under their tree. Ornaments, stockings, garland, ribbon, lights and other items you’ll need to deck the halls are available for lower costs at discount stores as well.

Do you like baking cookies during the holidays? Find platters and storage containers at second-hand stores. When you buy them at a discounted rate, you can save yourself the worry if you happen to not get the dish back after taking it to a holiday party. In fact, bringing your goodies with a dish personally chosen for the host can be a great gift idea.

Parties are the center of the season. Some parties have themes including “ugly Christmas sweater.” These can easily be found and purchased used. Another person’s trash can be your tacky treasure.

Not only is the holiday season about gift-giving, but also a time to donate. If you know of a coat drive happening locally, you can purchase quality coats or other items from thrift stores to donate.

3. Wrap Wisely

This holiday season, wrap gifts wisely. Wrapping paper can be expensive and quickly go to waste. There are ways to avoid spending a pretty penny on paper that will end up in the landfill.

By substituting grocery store brown paper bags for wrapping paper, you are recycling. Brown paper may seem dull. As for dolling up the presents, you can reuse ribbon, cut fabric from an old shirt to create a bow, or even collect pinecones or other items for attaching to the gift. 

Quit buying gift bags and instead purchase reusable totes. This time of year, there are a variety of holiday-patterned totes offered at stores of nearly every type. If your gift recipient has a favorite restaurant or business, consider purchasing one of their reusable bags and place the gift in that instead.

Holidays in Racine

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