It’s not just our waistlines that get bigger around the holidays – so do our trash cans and energy bills. Think of all the wrapping paper, plastic bags, packaging and decorations that businesses use around the holiday season.
It’s the perfect time to try and cut down on some of that environmental toll.
Here are several ways businesses can mix environmental sustainability into the holiday spirit:
1. Use 100 percent post-consumer wrapping paper. If you wrap gifts for customers or clients, at least use 100 percent post-consumer wrapping paper imprinted with soy-based or other organic inks. Post-consumer paper is recycled waste paper, meaning trees weren’t cut down to make the wrapping paper. Another idea for small retailers: Put customers’ purchases in decorative recycled-paper gift bags that can be reused.
2. Decorate with LED lights. If you deck out your store or office for the holidays with lights, make sure they’re LED (light-emitting diodes). Major retailers now sell LED holiday lights and other LED ornaments. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED holiday lights use one-sixth the energy of mini incandescent lights and 90 percent less energy than the bigger traditional bulbs. Some utility companies now give rebates to businesses that buy LED holiday lights; of course, the businesses also save money on electric bills. Have old lights you need to get rid of? There are holiday light recycling programs in many cities.
3. Buy real holiday trees and wreaths. If you can deal with the extra maintenance, real trees and wreaths are typically considered more eco-friendly than buying fake ones made from plastic or vinyl, which contain pollutants and are typically imported from Asia. Real trees, on the other hand, come from local farms. But pay attention to the farming practices, as many holiday tree farmers use lots of pesticides. Look for farms that use little or no chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which drain into local water systems. You can also typically recycle or compost your real tree. If you don’t have curbside tree pickup for composting, check out Earth911.com for potential recyclers.
4. Pay attention to waste. If you don’t already have a recycling program, the holiday season is prime time to get one underway. Make sure any wrapping paper, tissue paper and other plastic or paper waste gets recycled, and make it a point to use recyclable goods. Pay attention to little things like the cups you serve hot cocoa or coffee in at an event or in the office; encourage people to bring their own.
5. Buy eco-friendly gifts. If you buy gifts, make sure they aren’t creating needless waste. Food gifts rarely go to waste. Also consider buying locally from merchants that sell eco-friendly gifts made by local suppliers or giving gift cards.
6. Give to a good cause. The holidays are a feel-good time. It’s a good opportunity to sport your goodwill and give to an environmental cause, whether a local one or a national or international one. Programs such as 1% for the Planet make it easy to donate a portion of your profits and find reputable organizations to give to, but you can also give directly to your favorite organization.