Go Green This Holiday Season and Save Money

By Rickie Harvey
As published in The West Roxbury Transcript
Thursday, December 3, 2009

During the holidays, many of our activities might not seem to have anything to do with saving energy and saving money, but as you think about your holiday traditions, here are some tips for making them more “green,” many of which will help your pocketbook as well.

Christmas lights: Switching your current bulbs to strands of light-emitting diodes allows you to enjoy the season and be energy efficient at the same time. Many households are making the change because LEDs use 90 percent less electricity and last up to 10 times longer. They are safer because they do not get hot, and an added benefit is that, unlike traditional bulbs, if one burns out, the rest of the strand still works.

LEDs are now more affordable than ever and are easy to find; in West Roxbury you can purchase LED strands at Atlas True Value, Walgreens, CVS and Home Depot. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes as well as in vivid colors that don’t fade over time. But don’t throw your old bulbs in the trash! Recycle them before February 2010 at www.holidayleds.com and receive a coupon for 15 percent off new lights.

Gifts: For starters, remember that when you buy items that come in lots of packaging, you are paying for all that cardboard or plastic wrap, as well as the creating, shipping and disposing of it — all of which also require energy and harm the environment. Consider purchasing gifts without packaging: for example, a service or tickets to a concert or movie. Give baked goods, a plant or a tree. You can also share the gift of yourself, with the promise of babysitting, snow shoveling or leaf raking. Green gifts might also be appreciated and can come in the form of carbon offsets for a friend who travels a lot or a ZipCar membership for someone who frequently uses taxis.

Gift wrap: We all know how expensive it is to buy wrapping paper, bows and ribbons for holiday packages. In addition, all this wrap creates waste that mostly ends up in our landfills.

Why not get creative by using more interesting gift wrap this year and save on the cost of wrap? Some easy ideas include reusing old maps, outdated calendar pages, the comics section of a newspaper, crossword puzzles, children’s artwork, magazine pages or attractive junk mail from the recycling bin. You might have cloth items around the house to use as wrap that could become part of the gift, such as bandanas, scarves or never- or little-used dish towels. With a bit more work, you could consider sewing together leftover fabric pieces you might have to make gift-holding purses, soaking labels off glass jars or decorating clay pots (after you put your gift in the pot, use the drainage dish as the lid and tie the two together with reused ribbon or fabric strips). The possibilities are endless, and most won’t cost you a penny. According to the Sierra Club, if every family wrapped just three gifts in one of these ways, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Are all these ideas for gifts and wrapping sounding great, but you feel you don’t have the time to be this creative yourself? One local West Roxbury resident has taken these green concepts and developed a local business that will help you execute the steps. Marianne McLaughlin started All Set Now about a year ago and features gifts that come in reusable containers such as baskets or fabric-covered boxes and uses baby blankets or gift towels instead of tissue paper. Check out her “Green” link at the Web site, www.allsetnow.com. As Marianne says, “It’s mostly about value and not wasting money” on all that gift wrap that just gets thrown away; “it’s about how you spend your money, and the by-product is acting in a way that helps the environment.”

Quick tips: Take your own reusable bags for all holiday shopping. Use a timer for your external lighting decorations — a huge electricity saver. If you like using (or giving) candles during the holidays, consider the soy or beeswax types; typical candles are made from paraffin, which is a petroleum-based product. And finally, use the real stuff (your own or rented) for your holiday party and avoid wasting plastic and paper by buying expensive paper goods that just end up in our landfills.