Anyone who's ever spent the holidays away from home knows how tough it is to break from cherished traditions. But to be honest, our celebrations could stand to evolve a little, at least from an environmental perspective. Fortunately, it's easier than ever to keep festive without straining global resources.
WRAP IT UP. Most gift wrap ends up in landfills. Instead of adding to the pileup, tap into your creativity: repurpose newsprint, maps, or fabric scraps. Prefer more polish? Fish Lips Paper Designs (fishlipspaperdesigns.com) sells stylish holiday wrap made from recycled paper and vegetable-based inks.
ECO-HOST. Resist the allure of paper plates when hosting a holiday party. If you need to add to your personal tableware collection, browse at a thrift store. As an alternative, Preserve (recycline.com) offers cheery, dishwasher-safe recycled-plastic goods. If you're determined to banish dishduty from your holiday plans, try eco-disposable dishware: VerTerra (verterra.com) collects fallen leaves to make lovely, compostable plates and bowls.
LET THERE BE LIGHTS. Replace incandescent strands with LED lights, and you'll use 90 percent less electricity. EnvironmentalLights.com stocks an especially eclectic selection. If you'll be lighting candles, choose natural beeswax or soy varieties over conventional types, which are made with petroleum-derived paraffin. Global Exchange (store.gxonlinestore.org) carries beeswax menorah candles and colored tapers.
HUG A TREE. Most live Christmas trees are farmed with pesticides and fertilizers, and artificial trees are predominantly made using toxic polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. Seek out a vintage aluminum tree; just keep it from ending up in a landfill. If your heart's set on going natural, decorate a houseplant, or find a sustainably grown tree through Green Promise (greenpromise.com/resources or localharvest.org). Most communities have recycling centers that will give dead trees new life as mulch or wood chips; check earth911.org for local services.