Fake or Fir
The Green Challenge guide to the holidays.
Ah, the holidays—season of tinsel and trash. With all the parties and presents, Americans, on average, increase their garbage by 25 percent from Thanksgiving to New Year's, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That comes to a total of more than 25 million tons. From manufacturing, boxing, and wrapping presents, to carting them to store shelves and doors, lighting up our houses, and traveling elsewhere, this is a time of CO 2 hangovers, as well as the food and drink kind.
So, what's a carbon-conscious consumer to do? The simplest way to stay on your carbon diet is to consume less than you have in previous years. But that doesn't mean you have to be Scrooge. (After all, you certainly don't want to end up with coal in your stocking when biofuel is the new carbon-savvy you.) Just don't binge.
• When shopping online or by mail order, consolidate your orders into as few shipments as possible.
• Consider the benefits of buying locally made goods, which aren't transported over long distances to get to you. Or could you buy antiques as presents? They're all about recycling and reuse.
• Consider also gifts such as tickets to a play or concert, a museum membership, or art classes. They don't come with boxes and wrapping (and won't get shoved on the back of a shelf). Check out TreeHugger's roundup of holiday gift certificates.
• Could you reduce the number of holiday shopping trips you make, to save on gas? Could you bring reusable shopping bags? Most paper bags are made from virgin paper. Plastic ones are less CO2 intensive to make, but they're still made with petroleum and take hundreds of years to decompose in the landfill.
• If you're sending gifts by mail, choose small, light packages, which take up less space and fuel than big, heavy ones.
• If you're buying gifts for kids, toys made from natural materials such as wood and organic cotton are better for your CO2 count than stuff made from plastic, which is derived from fossil fuels.
Meaghan O'Neill is a freelance writer and founding editor of treehugger.com, an eco-Web site and Slate's partner on the Green Challenge.
Illustration by Robert Neubecker.