By Kimberly Blaker
Taking steps to reduce our negative impact on the Earth is a year-round job. But it can seem much harder during the winter season. Cold weather and long, dark nights, along with holiday celebrations, make it challenging to prioritize planet-healthy habits.
Still, there are ways to reduce our impact for a more sustainable planet. So follow these tips to keep your winter – and our world – green!
Watch the thermostat – One thing people struggle with most during winter is the chilly temperatures. As the weather gets colder, it’s tempting to crank up the thermostat. But over-using your heater consumes a lot of energy. Depending on the size of your home, you’re likely warming up areas that aren’t even being used. Before you turn up the thermostat, add some layers of clothing, socks, and warm fuzzy slippers. It may be enough to keep you warm and comfy. If you’re just relaxing, get cozy and cuddle up under a blanket with warm food and a hot drink.
Getting a smart thermostat is also a smart investment which will pay for itself in a relatively short time. There are many brands available that offer features to help you stay eco-friendly. These include timers to set specific temperatures for when you’re at home, away, or sleeping. There are also recommended eco-friendly temperature settings and even the ability to control the thermostat from your phone.
Starting a fire in your fireplace can be a fun heat alternative for winter. It gives off heat in a smaller, concentrated space and uses less energy than a furnace. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, be sure to have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually for fire safety.
Be aware of light use – With the sun setting earlier and more gray days, it’s tempting to switch on a lot of extra lights. But lights also use a lot of energy. So make a conscious effort to turn off lights when you leave a room (unless you’ll be returning in a reasonably short time), and only use the lights you need.
Another way to cut back on energy use from lights is to switch to LED or CFL bulbs, which are more energy-efficient. Also, consider lights with dimmer switches. There are lights with sensors that turn them off automatically when there’s no movement in the room for a set amount of time, as well.
Another fun alternative is to use candles, which also add ambiance. Just make sure they’re eco-friendly! Also, if you have pets or young children, the candles should be kept in a high, secure spot to reduce the risk of injury or fire.
Conserving on electrical lights also goes for outdoor holiday lights. These lights use a lot of energy. So consider more Earth-friendly options. Holiday lights with LED bulbs and solar-powered outdoor lights are better for the planet and your wallet. You can also use timers for outdoor decorations, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to turn them off.
Eco-friendly gifting – A big highlight of winter is holidays and get-togethers with gift exchanges. But all the gift-giving leads to a lot of waste and overconsumption of goods. The best option is to eliminate gift exchanges. Instead, make the holidays special by focusing more on fun activities and quality time with family and friends.
But there are many ways to go green, even with gifts. Doing so is also an excellent opportunity to share environmentally friendly practices with your loved ones. A few ideas for green gifting include:
• Give experiences instead of things.
• Do a white elephant or Secret Santa exchange where each person gifts one item.
• Look for gifts at second-hand or thrift stores (if everyone can agree to this, no one will feel like a cheapskate).
• Gift eco-friendly products like reusable straws or mugs.
• Choose wooden toys over plastic.
• Shop locally from small businesses.
• Green gift wrap. Once you’ve found the perfect gifts, get creative with wrapping! Traditional wrapping paper is typically used once then discarded, which consumes more resources. Some alternatives are to:
• Reuse old wrapping paper.
• Repurpose other products like newspaper or paper bags from the grocery store (some stores even have themed bags during the winter).
• Look for gift bags that can be reused (nice fabric ones, such as reusable tote bags, can be passed along for years to come).
Small changes to your winter routines can help you stick to your values and reduce your consumption of the planet’s resources. So look for opportunities to reduce, reuse, and recycle throughout the winter months to help keep our Earth evergreen.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance lifestyle writer. She also writes content, blog posts, and more for businesses in a variety of industries and is an expert in on-page SEO. Find her at kimberlyblaker.com.