The Holiday Season is charging ahead, like a toboggon racing down a snowy hill. There are trees to purchase, decorations to put up and cards to be mailed.

Here are a few sustainable friendly tips to help you get through your Holiday To Do List.

Oh, Christmas Tree

Real or artificial? That is the question that consumers debate this time of year.

Christmas trees are often grown specifically for the holiday and so harvesting does not contribute to deforestation. This is an environmentally sound practice because trees actively remove carbon & provide home for wildlife while growing.

When purchasing a real tree, it is important to consider the amounts of pesticides, water and fuel that is used to grow, harvest, store and ship these evergreens to Hawaiʻi. Since there are only a handful of farms on Oʻahu that grow Christmas trees, the environmental impact of transporting trees are higher than for our friends and family on the mainland.

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If you decide to purchase a real tree, be sure to compost it at the end of the season. Oʻahu residents can take advantage of disposing their tree by taking it to the City Convenience Center, or leave for curbside pick up or take to the composting facility of Hawaiian Earth Recycling, a commercial company that makes compost. It is important to remember that trees will be composted only if they DO NOT have ornaments, tinsel or flocking. To learn more, visit the Honolulu City & County’s Opala webpage.

Another “real tree” option is purchasing a potted pine or fir that you can nurture all year and then decorate for the holidays. These trees can be purchased at many garden supply stores & are available in a variety of species and sizes.

One of the great things about living in Hawaiʻi is that you can have a “Hawaiian Holiday Season.” Consider decorating “local” plants you are already growing. Bring one of your potted plants into the house (i.e., a ti leaf, plumeria, palm, etc.) to decorate. “Hawaiian tinsel” can be created by draping Pele’s hair around/on the tree or you can make “Holiday Garlands” to drape on your “Hawaiian Tree” out of ti leaf rope, braided raffia or a haku or wili lei that you weave. This is a fun way for you to embrace your creativity & sustainability efforts while you celebrate the Holiday Season.

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While artificial trees seem like a logical alternative to harvesting real trees. It is important to know that they are made of non-recycled plastic and petroleum materials. If artificial trees are not properly cared for and stored their “life expectancy” is not as long as it could be. This could increase the amount of non-recycled, tree making materials in our landfills more rapidly than we intend.

It is important to weigh the pros & cons when purchasing a tree so that you make the best choice, not only for the environment, but your family as well.

Light ʻEm Up!

Colorful lights create a festive atmosphere & are a favorite part of the season. Here are some tips to help you light up your holidays while lessening the impact on the environment.

Switch to LED lights for all your “brightening decorating” needs. LED lights can use as much as 95% less energy than traditional bulbs. Although LED lights may cost more to purchase, the energy saved & the lower cost to power the lights outweigh the initial cost: it is estimated that during a 30-day period powering traditional holiday lights cost approximately $18, while powering the same number of LED lights cost $0.19.[1]

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LED lights also generate less heat, and they last longer. 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.[2]

When decorating outdoors you can be more “green” while saving “green” by:

  • Cutting back on the amount of lights used to decorate your house and yard can easily be done by;
  • Switching to mini lights;[3]
  • Investing in solar powered holiday lights;[4]
  • Purchasing a timer; and
  • Not leaving the lights on overnight/turning the lights off at bedtime.

Green Greeting Cards

Purchasing cards that will be used once and then thrown away is a HUGE waste of resources.

According to one source, the amount of holiday cards sold in the United States “would fill a football field 10 stories high & require the harvesting of nearly 300,000 trees.

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Here are some creative ways to reach out to family & friends in a more environmentally friendly way:

If you do buy cards, purchase those made of recycled materials. Conserveatree provides a list of companies/organizations that provide cards made on recycled paper.

Creating a Green Christmas: 30+ Ideas to Keep It Eco-Friendly has additional tips to help you be green this evergreen season.

Happy Holidays!

[1] How to Have a “Green” Christmas
[2] Green Christmas: Tips for an Eco-Friendly Holiday
[3] 15 Go Green This Holiday Season Simple Eco-Friendly Holiday Tips
[4] Here’s the Skinny on Solar Christmas Lights
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