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Holiday decorations

Happy holidays! No matter what you celebrate, this time of year is filled with gathering of friends and family, food and gift exchanges. With that can come an excess of waste—according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans produce 25 percent more waste than usual between Thanksgiving and the new year. Here are a few tips you can use to green up your holiday celebrations:

1. Make your own gift wrap
Did you know many types of gift wrap aren’t recyclable? Save money and the environment by creating your own gift wrap using brown bags, newspapers, magazines or other paper products found around the house. If you do purchase wrapping paper, check the label to see if it’s recyclable!

2. Use natural candles
Instead of burning candles made from petroleum-derived paraffin, seek out products made from beeswax, soy or vegetable wax. They produce a naturally sweet aroma and last just as long as other candles.

3. Recycle your tree
Artificial Christmas trees are made from petroleum, which makes them difficult to recycle when you finally decide it’s time for them to retire. Instead, opt for a fresh tree—while it may seem sad to cut down a tree for the holidays, most Christmas trees are farmed specifically for the season, so you’re not contributing to deforestation. As a bonus, they can be planted or composted when you’re done with them!

4. Buy used
Vintage is in! Instead of purchasing new gifts, consider shopping at thrift stores, antique outlets or websites like eBay. You can get creative with unique gifts while saving money and reducing your carbon footprint.

5. Save energy
Speaking of decorations, we know how beautiful lights can be. Go for mini lights instead of larger ones and swap out for LED bulbs, which conserve up to 95 percent of energy over time. Don’t forget to use a timer or unplug those lights during the day and before you go to bed!

6. Carpool to parties
Transportation emits a huge amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, polluting the air. Consider limiting your travel (airplanes are the largest source of carbon dioxide emission) and carpooling with friends and family to all the holiday parties around town. Be sure to schedule your travel around traffic to minimize the amount of time your vehicle idles and wastes fuel.

7. Skip disposable utensils
There’s a ton of delicious food this time of year, which unfortunately means more disposable items end up in the landfill. Consider investing in low-cost or used dishware for your culinary needs.

8. Purchase local food
Do your best to buy food that is local, organic and sustainable. Not only is it healthier for you, it is more delicious and you can rest easy knowing that your feasts haven’t depleted natural resources or wasted energy en route to your dinner table.

9. Gift experiences
Who doesn’t love exchanging gifts throughout the holidays? Research shows experiences make us happier than possessions, so instead of buying material gifts for friends and family, try gifting experiences. (Zoo memberships and animal encounters are always a hit!)

10. Give back
They say it’s the season of giving—spend this holiday season sharing your good fortune by volunteering or donating unwanted used items to a shelter. It’s a great way to recycle your things and share with those less fortunate.