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Dreaming of a Green Christmas - by Sarah Ryan

Between Thanksgiving and New Years, Americans throw away an extra million tons of garbage each week. This additional trash includes holiday wrapping, packaging, cards, food, paper plates, napkins, party decorations, bottles, cans and more. With that in mind No time of the year is more emotional than the holiday season, whether you're bursting with the joy of baking and caroling or overwhelmed with the stress of shopping and wrapping. But even with all those other factors weighing on your mind, it's possible to put a green spin on your holidays with these simple eco-friendly tips: Start with your gift list. Some gifts are certainly more eco-friendly than others. Such as giving an experience, like tickets to the theatre, sporting events or a concert, they create less waste than complicated toys and gadgets. And remember some of the best gifts can be homemade like cookies and cakes, or simply having guests over for Christmas dinner with seasonal, local and organic ingredients. For many people, the holidays just wouldn't be the same without a live, fragrant Christmas tree. So as you search for that perfect tree, keep in mind if you purchase a tree from a tree farm up to three seedlings are planted in its place the following spring, there is no damage done to forests and they tend to be locally grown and sold. Another option is purchasing a potted plant that can be enjoyed year round such as a Norfolk pine, fig or fichus. And to ignite your family with holiday cheer, be sure to purchase Christmas lights made with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. These lights have been around since 2001 and are ninety percent more efficient than traditional Christmas lights. They also release little heat and last about 200,000 hours. According to one U.S. Department of Energy study, if all families replaced their conventional holiday light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved in a month. The savings alone would be enough to power 200,000 homes for a year. And if one light goes out, the strand still works! Now start the New Year off on the right foot and try treecycling. By recycling your fresh tree you can make a huge difference in reducing holiday waste. Instead of ending up in a landfill, Christmas trees can be ground into wood chips and be reused for various things, such as mulch, hiking trails even shoreline stabilization. If you visit, you can search your zip code to find the nearest Christmas tree recycling center near you. Most importantly, keep in mind that the holidays are not about the gifts, the errands, the trimmings; they're about celebrating with your family and friends and appreciating the blessings in your life.

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