Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
November 30, 2021

Tips to having a green holiday season

By MEGAN CRANTS | December 6, 2012

Christmas is coming soon and many wasteful and environmentally unfriendly traditions are coming along with it.

Many have argued, for instance, that the simple act of putting up a Christmas tree might well have a deleterious ecological impact. The standing debate between purchasing a real tree or an artificial tree has led me to believe that authentic pines are more “green.”

Although artificial trees can be reused, a recent study conducted by Ellipsos Strategists in Sustainable Development suggests that each tree lasts approximately six years and has three times the impact on climate change and resource depletion than do natural trees.

Real trees emit 39 percent fewer carbon dioxide emission and both types have the same approximate impact on human health. If artificial trees were used for 20 years, though, the study suggests they would be a better choice than real ones because the harmful environmental impacts occur during production.

Since the average lifespan is six years, however, natural trees are a better short-term solution. They can be recycled, don’t typically have to be shipped and absorb carbon dioxide during their lifespan. It can be argued that the fertilizers used in growing the trees make them more harmful, but the Socially and Environmentally Responsible Farm program requires that most Christmas tree farms take steps to protect the environment from damage.

When selecting a Christmas tree, it is important to ask for organic farm suppliers which don’t use harmful chemicals when growing their products. If you want to be really environmentally conscious, you can purchase a Christmas tree with roots still attached and replant it when the season is over. You can also rent trees in some states and return them to be replanted after the holidays.

Decorating with Christmas lights can also be a strain on the environment. I recommend not wasting energy with the aforementioned embellishments, but if you must have them then at the very least turn them off during the day. Use LED lights, which use 80-90 percent less energy than the standard lights and last longer, which could also end up saving your family money in the long run.

Using wrapping paper is another environmentally questionable Christmastime practice. According to the Guardian, 8,000 tons – or 50,000 trees – are used to conceal our presents. This is fairly absurd, considering that gift wrap is ripped to shreds shortly after its use. In order to avoid this wasteful practice, it is important to be creative while concealing the gifts under the tree. Recycled wrapping paper is available for purchase, but there are also cheap alternatives. Newspaper, aluminum foil and recycled brown paper can all be used to decrease the landfill piles. Gift bags and assorted boxes can be reused and are practical alternates as well.

Holiday cards are also quite wasteful and often end up being thrown away shortly after being received. Try sending e-cards instead, or if you must use paper try making collages of recycled magazine clippings. Recycled Christmas cards ornamented with vegetable-based ink are also available for purchase.

Have a happy – and green – holiday season!

Megan Crants is a junior Writing Seminars and Cognitive Science double major from Nashville, Tenn. She is the science columnist for TheNews-Letter.

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