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Green Holiday Tips

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Opt For Organic

We know that organic foods are better for our bodies, but did you know that they're significantly better for the planet too? Since organic farmers don't use toxins on their crops, they prevent chemicals from contaminating our soil and water, and from harming wildlife. It doesn't just need to be just the turkey or ham that's organic; it can be the wine, too, or the vegetables in the side dishes. An added plus: organic foods taste better!

Serve Green Drinks

Studies suggest that warm drinks promote good feelings, so turn up the cheer with homemade eggnog or vegan eggnog. Give premixed hot chocolate with fair trade cocoa powder and marshmallows in mason jars as a party favor. Scrap the gift wrap entirely and give gifts in reusable tote bags.

Do Right With What's Left

If there's one thing synonymous with American holidays, it's lots and lots of leftovers. So what to do with yours? If there's a food bank or homeless shelter in your region that takes prepared foods, you can bring ‘em there. If not, you can turn your leftovers into other meals, including soup or sandwiches; mashed potatoes can become a breakfast hash.

Whatever becomes of your grub, you can also deal with those licked-clean dishes in responsible ways: A full load in the dishwasher is greener than washing them by hand, especially if you skip the drying cycle.

Plan Your Transit

Chances are, there's more than one way to reach your destination. Trains are a great option for traveling long distances at a leisurely pace. If you're planning to drive, try renting a hybrid or carpooling. If you must fly, consider buying offsets for your emissions. Coordinate your arrival time with other relatives to minimize the number of trips from the airport to Grandma's house.

Fresh Food Drives

If there is anyone who needs fresh, healthy, and organic food, it's the malnourished hungry people of this country. Fortunately there are organizations like Farm Fresh Rhode Island that run a "Fresh Food Drive" at local farmers markets, where people can donate fresh produce to the Rhode Island Food Bank and other meal sites. Also, Arm & Hammer has teamed up with the non-profit Feeding America with a goal of delivering one million pounds of fresh food to the needy. So leave your unwanted canned foods in the back of your pantry, and donate some fresh, healthy food. Oh, and you don't have to wait until the holiday season to do this, we're pretty sure the hungry are hungry all year.

Decorate a Live, Local Tree

Real or fake? If you're wondering which kind of Christmas tree is better, keep in mind that Sierra magazine's advice columnist, Mr. Green, recommends staying natural. A potted, native tree is a good choice if you can plant and care for it after the holidays, or if your town has an organization like Friends of the Urban Forest that will take back your tree and plant it for you. If you don't have the space (or a green thumb) to accommodate a living tree, an organic, locally grown cut tree is your best bet.

Christmas trees can and should be mulched to help create healthy, new soil. Check with your local recycling or disposal company to find out whether they do curbside pickup. Go to Earth911 to find a recycling location near you.

Reusable Glassware

One way to avoid the waste of disposable cups and plates is to use small, removable labels for glassware. Many hosts go through three or four times the number of disposable cups as they have guests, and this is a good way to not only conserve resources, but to inspire your guests to do the same.

Think Through the Decor

If you’re shopping for table settings for the big meal, look for organic, reusable linens and cloth napkins. As for the centerpiece, try to go with one that’s nondisposable or edible -- such as a cornucopia filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables -- instead of flowers. Did you know that around 80 percent of flowers sold in the U.S. are imported from Colombia and Ecuador and contain 50 percent more pesticides than is legal to have on edibles? Just some food for thought.

Be Bright About Lighting

By switching to LED lights, you'll save power even while keeping the holiday spirit bright -- some LED strands are even solar-powered. Instead of going overboard with a power-sucking display get maximum impact from fewer lights by choosing a smaller tree or focusing on one central part of the house, like the front door. Just as you would with any appliance, remember to unplug lights when they're not in use.

Don't Get Burned by Petroleum

If you're preparing to light a menorah or stocking up on candles for Kwanzaa, look for eco-friendly candles made from soy or beeswax instead of petroleum-derived paraffin. For better air quality, opt for unscented varieties. Keep wicks short to get more life out of your candles.


Save the Paper

Instead of dressing presents with one-time-use wrapping paper, you can repurpose newspapers, magazines, or old posters or maps. Even better, turn bandanas or pillowcases into furoshiki (traditional Japanese wrapping cloths) or deliver gifts in a reusable bag or a handmade purse. If every family wrapped just three gifts this way, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Be Creative

By making your own gifts, you'll have more control over the manufacturing process. Whether you're knitting a scarf or baking cookies, opt for raw materials that are sustainable, local, and organic. Bonus points if you can reuse something that would've ended up in the landfill otherwise.

Green Gifts

Spread a little love for the planet along with your holiday cheer. Green gifts are often unique and more meaningful than run-of-the-mill purchases, and they're easier than ever to find

° Buy recycled, organic, fair-trade, and other environmentally friendly items like those on and

° Give green experiences such as a certificate to an organic restaurant or a membership in a cycling club or car-share program (such as

° Make your activism gift-worthy by combining an inspiring book or DVD, a compact fluorescent bulb, and some organic treats in an attractive, reusable container ( sells a prepackaged version).

° Make your money do double duty by donating to a conservation organization in the recipient's name. Donations to the Sierra Club's Sponsor a Wild Place program help protect some of the planet's most spectacular wilderness areas, and comes with an adorable animal puppet or a useful backpack.

Gifts that keep on giving

No need to hunt for receipts or wait in line at the store. Unwanted gifts can be swapped online for what you really want. Even gift cards can be sold back or exchanged. Or, give a gift that gives back, make a donation in honor of a friend or loved one and share in our country's most special wild places.

Support Green Businesses

You can help fund green jobs this holiday season by purchasing goods or services from sustainable businesses. Gift certificates to local vegetarian restaurants, green spas, or nearby eco-hotels make thoughtful, low-impact presents. Need stocking stuffers? Check out Sierra magazines' gift guide to find a range of ecofriendly products.

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