The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone. They can be even more so when you are trying to practice conscious consumerism, a practice that can be tricky at any time of the year. You want to fill every single inch of your home with the holiday spirit, but you can’t help being aware of all the extra waste. The wrapping paper, boxes, packaging material, water usage, wasted food, etc. seem to look like a dark cloud around your holiday festivities. That’s because you know better. The holiday season produces an extra one million tons of trash each week. EXTRA! That is about 25% more than we throw away each week during the other ten months of the year. With just a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking, you can clean and decorate ‘til your heart’s content while simultaneously reducing your amount of environmental impact. This holiday season try some of these strategies in your home.

GET A REAL TREE

Unless you plan on being around to celebrate 500 Christmases, please do not purchase an artificial tree. Artificial trees are made from PVC which takes around 500 years to fully disintegrate. The average family only uses their artificial tree for between four and six years before throwing it away and then buying another one! Real trees provide oxygen and homes for forest critters while they are growing, an authentic pine smell inside your home while you have them, and then once you take your real tree down it can be mulched and made into compost to facilitate the growth of other healthy plants.

CHANGE YOUR LIGHTS

When LED lights are used to decorate your home for the holidays, you use 90% less energy than you do with traditional Christmas lights. In addition to lasting around 200,000, which is longer than they will be hung for. Hopefully. LED also produce substantially less heat than the traditional string lights and are therefore safer to leave unattended or use as part of displays containing potential flammable materials. According to one U.S. Department of Energy study, if everyone replaced their conventional holiday light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved in a month. Making the switch to LED light strings means you can still win the neighborhood decorating contest without handing over all your money to the electric company.

USE COLD WATER

Well, for your laundry and linens at least. It’s no wonder that all of those holiday guests have tripled the amount of laundry you have to do. Almost 90% of the energy that is used by your washing machine goes to heating up the water. Your family can save the planet from roughly 350 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and itself approximately $40 just by using cold water instead of hot. As an added bonus, if there are any laundry stains you may have missed the cold water will not set them into the fabric the way that hot water will. In addition to your washing machine, make sure your dishwasher is at full capacity before running a load. The average dishwasher only uses around 6 gallons of water per cycle, but running it twice as often because it’s only partially full completely defeats its water saving purpose!

Following these easy ideas will leave your home lit with cheer and you feeling good that you are doing what you can to help our planet, and maybe that is the best Christmas gift of all. Throughout all the holiday festivities and cheer, hustle and bustle, don’t forget to take time to reconnect with friends and family. Spread cheer, bring peace, and offer comfort where you can.

Happy holidays.