During the holidays, the to-do lists seem endless and last-minute shopping binges inevitably occur. With an estimated 25 percent increase in waste generated between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, environmentally friendly behaviors can reduce waste and energy costs substantially. This holiday season, deck the halls with green decor, re-purposed wrapping paper and LED Christmas lights.

Simplify gift wrapping. By embracing the concept of less is more, reuse paper grocery store bags, newspaper and last year’s supplies for this year’s present wrappings. With many companies now featuring recycled paper in their holiday product lines, it has become easier to be an eco-friendly gift wrapper.

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Use LED Christmas lighting. Mass-produced and conveniently available at supermarkets and drugstores, LED Christmas lighting offers an environmentally friendly alternative to holiday decorations. It even comes in all sorts of colors and uses less energy to stay lit longer.

Monitor holiday lighting. Holiday lights contribute to the coziness and comfort aura from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Making an effort to turn on lighting when at home and to turn off lighting when not will reduced energy usage and costs. 

Buy a local, live Christmas tree. The dining room would not be complete without this evergreen furnishing. This year, buy a tree to plant in your backyard or donate back to a local park. If planting is still not a feasible option, transforming the tree into mulch is an environmentally friendly way to handle old Christmas trees.

Make DIY green gifts. Everyone appreciates the extra effort and love put into a homemade gift. Choose to go with a simple idea that uses existing household items for your friends and loved ones. Many websites, such as Pinterest, feature DIY gift ideas for the holidays.

Send electronic holiday cards. While the annual greeting card is always a nice gesture to keep in touch with distant friends and families, group emails or personalized e-cards are a great alternative. Feeling especially festive? Elf Yourself is a fun way to embrace the holiday spirit and reach out to friends, families and co-workers.

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Purchase eco-friendly and green gifts. Be green, buy green. Supporting businesses that sell green gifts is a great way to be more environmentally conscious this season. With a wide array of options from Heifer International donations to a Klean Kanteen, green gifts accommodate every type of person.

Swap IOUs for gifts in Secret Santa. Instead of panicking minutes before a Secret Santa present is due, create personal service gifts, such as cleaning the office or making breakfast for the recipient. 

Keep a reusable shopping bag close by. With hectic schedules, planning shopping adventures does not always happen. Spontaneous shopping trips occur to fulfill all of the holiday necessities. Reusable —and hopefully recycled or re-purposed— bags help reduce the excessive plastic bag count and minimize holiday waste.

Correctly dispose of your waste. Compost, recycle and reuse before throwing away gifts, décor or holiday meals. Taking on zero-waste challenges at the office or on a personal level is another way to help eliminate landfill waste and stay green during the holidays.

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Isabel Sepkowitz is a freelance writer. She is an environmentalist who values sustainability, education, and innovation for the emerging green economy. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.