Vice President, Heal the Bay
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photo: Shutterstock

photo: Shutterstock

While the weather outside is frightful…Okay, maybe not here in Southern California. But, it is that time of year. With the buzz of decorating, baking, travel, parties, and shopping, many people lose sight of how their actions and increased consumption during the holidays are affecting the environment. Here are 12 tips on going green for the holidays. And the best part (besides saving the environment) is none of these efforts will cost you a single wave this winter:

  1. Bag the bag. Hopefully you are already in the habit of bringing a reusable bag with you to the grocery store, so why not just bring a reusable bag with you for your retail shopping, too? Sign this pledge to go reusable this holiday season and be entered into a drawing to win a gift bag full of reusable goodies from Heal the Bay. Here’s a tip to remember your reusable bags: keep them in a variety of places – your car, purse, office, and by your front door.
  2. Get a living tree. A living Christmas tree is the gift that keeps on giving, sequestering carbon and producing oxygen year after year unlike cut trees that are destined for the dump after one holiday. Check out The Living Christmas Company for more information. If you opt for the more traditional cut tree, make the most of it by using the tree trimmings to make a decorative wreath or runner, and after the holidays reuse the tree and cuttings as mulch for your garden instead of throwing them away.
  3. Offset your emissions. Getting to Grandmother’s house may require a plane rather than a sleigh. Consider reducing the impact of your holiday travel by offsetting your carbon emissions with Carbon Fund or TerraPass.
  4. Bring your own. Be the eco-envy of the holiday party by bringing your own straws, utensils and food containers for all those yummy leftovers! And remember your reusable water bottle when you’re pounding the pavement for presents. To-go Ware, Life Without Plastic, and Simply Straws offer some great products.
  5. Gift experiences instead of things. Concert tickets, a whale watching expedition, a gift certificate to a local sustainable seafood restaurant – experiences are much more meaningful than the latest gadget or gizmo. Plus, doing something fun with family and friends provides the lasting gift of memories. Speaking of experiences, your donation of $25 or more to Heal the Bay earns your giftee free family admission for 4 to our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. If you want to support the animals at our aquarium directly, Aquadoption is an awesome option.
  6. Avoid using your car to shop. Be greener (and stave off holiday poundage) by walking or taking public transit to do your holiday shopping. You’ll also spare yourself the huge headache induced by traffic and crazed mall parking lots.
  7. Give a water saving gift. Consider giving an El Niño-friendly rain barrel or low-flow showerhead to encourage your family and friends to be more water-wise. Kick it up a notch by offering to install it yourself.
  8. Be a green party host. Go meatless at your holiday party to save on greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural water consumption. Avoid serving food on disposable products if possible, and rent dishes from a catering company or borrow from a neighbor if you don’t have enough durable plate to go around.
  9. Decorate with LED lights. Swap out old holiday lights for newer, energy-saving LED lights. Their low energy usage makes them the cheapest option in the long run. And remember to use a timer for your outdoor and indoor lights to save electricity.
  10. Use reusable gift wrap. Wrap your gifts in newspaper or magazines and recycle the wrappings afterwards. Or, even better, use fabric, a pretty basket, or a decorative box to make the wrapping itself part of the gift.
  11. Start a green holiday tradition. Create an outdoorsy holiday tradition: Plant a tree, ride bikes to the beach for a family surf, or head to the park for a holiday clean-up. In the LA area, there’s even free coffee in exchange for your good deed, thanks to a new partnership between Heal the Bay and Starbucks.
  12. Host a swap party. After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, lighten your load with a regifting extravaganza. Invite friends over to swap their new or lightly used unwanted clothes, toys, home goods, and pet supplies. Donate what’s left to a local shelter or cause in need.

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