The holidays may be a time for celebration, but not when it comes to American conservation. According the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans produce 25 percent more waste from Thanksgiving to New Year's than at any other time of the year, adding up to a whopping 25 million extra tons of garbage going to the landfill.
There are many ways to cut down on the trash, starting with more eco-friendly ways to pack and send packages. Here are three tips to keep in mind to green your gift giving this holiday season.
Tip One: Go Light on the Peanuts
Kids may love those little Styrofoam peanuts that are used each holiday season to protect fragile gifts, but the environment hates them. They take centuries to break down and are rarely recyclable, making these packaging supplies are an environmental nightmare. Luckily, there are many alternatives.
If you have peanuts already, or other shipping materials such as bubble wrap, packing cartons, or newspapers, try to re-use them. If you end up with lots of packing materials from gifts you receive, call the Plastic Loosefill Council's Peanut Hotline at 1-800-828-2214 to find out the local businesses near you that reuse them. There are even some stores that offer discounts for people who return their packaging materials.
You can also use newspapers or magazines you have around the house as packing materials.
Lastly, do you like peanuts but refuse to buy Styrofoam? Try other options like Caremail products, which are sold at Staples, Office Max, Amazon.com or Green Depot. They are made from 100 percent post-consumer content -- and the peanuts even dissolve if you run water over them in a tub or sink.
The waste is biodegradable and won't harm ground or surface water.
Made from 100 post-consumer recycled paper and fully recyclable $29.99 vs. $32.99 for shredded newsprint at Office Max
Caremail Shipping Boxes
Made from 100 percent recycled fibers, 90 percent post-consumer
12 pack range from $10.99 to $69.99 depending on sizes, vs. $10.99 -$43.99 for regular shipping boxes at Office Max
Cushioned with recycled newsprint
90 percent recycled fibers
25-mailer pack for $11.99 vs. $10.49 for regular padded mailers
Geami offers products made from paper that is 100 percent recyclable and compostable.
Tip Two: Pick What You Pack
If you can skip the packing materials completely, all the better. When buying gifts that you know you will be sending through the mail, try to pick items that are easy to ship and require less packaging.
That way, you avoid the problem altogether, while still guaranteeing that your gift won't break while en route.
(Maybe the crystal vase can wait until next year...)
Tip Three: Use the Right Postal Service
If you have to ship packages to get them there in time for Christmas, the U.S. Postal Service is the eco-friendly way to go. It is the first mailing or shipping company to achieve Cradle-to-Cradle environmental certification for its packaging -- which means more fuel efficient vehicles, eco-friendly packaging, and higher environmental standards.
If you send your gifts via Express or Priority Mail, Monday, Dec. 21 is the last day you can send them to make it in time for Christmas, so try to get them together early! And if possible, send them the greenest way you can.
Packing boxes and sending them may seem bad for the environment, but it doesn't have to be. You can choose presents that do not need an excess of packaging. You can use biodegradable packing materials, and postal companies that try to conserve wherever possible. Christmas can be a time of giving -- both to others and the environment.
For more tips on how to reduce your environmental impact this holiday season, visit use-less-stuff.com.