Seasonal

Green scene: Simple ways to green up your holidays

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From a holiday wreath adorning a door to pine trees topped with a fresh batch of snow, the color green has always been an integral part of the holiday season.

Many Americans, though, have started to green up their holidays in another way, with simple steps that conserve energy and promote sustainability -- while saving a little green in their wallets in the process.

Although many homeowners might look at larger projects such as installing solar panelling or geothermal heat pumps to be applicable for a consumer energy efficiency federal tax credit as the new year approaches, there are lots of simple things you can do to add more green to your holiday scene. Here are a few...

Giving gifts

  • Make your own wrapping paper: Forget the traditional shiny stuff and cover your gifts in pieces of newspaper, old maps or children's artwork. Other alternatives include include dish towels and bananas. If every family would wrap three gifts in this manner, it would safe enough paper to cover three football fields. Source: Sierra Club.
  • Think simple stocking stuffers: Instead of getting the kids something that requires batteries or electricity, think about something that powers their imagaination. Source: Alliance To Save Energy.
  • Donate time or money to an environmental group: Get into the spirit of the season by volunteering at a local environmental group. Or you can make a donation in honor of loved one or sponsor a wild habitat. Source: Sierra Club
Less with lights, power

  • Buy LED lights: This a big one. Ditch the old energy-sapping lights sitting in the attic for LED lights, which are 90 percent more efficient than their incandescent counterparts. These bulbs can last up to 100,000 -- or 20 years -- and barely warm up, thereby eliminating most fire concerns. Plus, the lights can save you hundreds of dollars over time. Source: Alliance To Save Energy
  • Turn off the lights at night: Use a timer to limit displays to no more than six evening hours a day. Leaving your lights on all day will quadruple your energy costs -- while creating four times the pollution. Source: Alliance To Save Energy
  • Nix the video games: Instead of spending time playing video games and other electronic activities, power down and read a favorite holiday story with you family to create some quality one-on-one time.
  • Lower the heat before bedtime: If you have a programmable thermostat, have it lower the heat when you go to bed and when you're out of the house. Source: Alliance To Save Energy
A greener tree

  • Chose a pesticide-free tree: Did you know that some growers use up to 40 different pesticides on trees? And that doesn't even cover chemical colorants. Luckily, there is a growing trend of tree-farms selling pesticide-free trees across the country -- and demand is on the rise. Find an organic tree farm near you by searching the Local Harvest database. Source: Sierra Club
  • Recycle your tree: Every year, close to 10 million holiday trees end up in landfills. Instead of adding to that statistic, find a local tree-recycling program near you by visiting Earth911.com.Source: Sierra Club
Other ways to help out

  • Eat organic and local foods: Support local family farmers who grow sustainable produce and meat or join a CSA (community supported agriculture model).
  • Recycle that old cellphone: If you're getting a new cell phone or other personal electronic device for the holidays, what are you going to do with the old ones? Instead of throwing them away -- and letting hazardous materials such as mercury and lead end up in landfills -- find a local program that will recycle them and other electronics. According to the Sierra Club, 130 million cell phones alone are tossed out each year,weighing in at a staggering 65,000 tons. Start your search by checking out Earth 911 site. For cell-phone specific recycling, visit this page.
  • Seal up leaks, avoid drafts: A little caulk and weather stripping -- especially around a fireplace hearth if you have it -- can go a long way in reducing your heating costs by to 20 percent. In addition, you can also cover single-pane windows with a plastic film to keep the cold air out. Source: Alliance To Save Energy
  • Make a New Year's resolution: Start off 2013 by making a list of energy-efficient home improvements that you've been talking about doing -- or create a list of smaller things that you and your family can do by using the ideas generated from this site and all of the other links!