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KNOXVILLE — Fretting that the tree may be the only part of the holiday season that is green?

Experts say household waste often increases more than 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That means the holidays can have a negative impact on the environment.

However, there are ways to make the holidays more environmentally friendly. Gordie Bennett, sustainability manager at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, shares a few tips for “greening” the holidays:

1. Use LED lights –- LED lights are great for people planning to buy new decorations for a holiday tree. LED lights use less energy than conventional tree lights.

2. Give handmade or local gifts –- Gifts that are handmade or produced locally cut down on energy used to transport goods.

3. Shop at secondhand stores –- Shopping at secondhand stores reduces waste by reusing items, instead of throwing away old items and buying new ones.

4. Forgo gift wrap –- While newspaper is a good option for replacing gift wrap, sometimes it can bleed onto gifts and clothes. A safer, more creative way to wrap gifts is with out-of-date roadmaps or old posters.

5. Plan shopping trips –- Save gasoline by making a shopping list and determining which stores to visit before leaving the house. Try to visit stores that are close together on the same day, and bring reusable tote bags to avoid waste.

6. Donate –- Donate unwanted gifts to a charity, instead of throwing them away.

7. Give energy-efficient gifts –- Include rechargeable batteries with toys and games, and look for the Energy Star label, which indicates energy efficiency, before purchasing computers and other electronics.

8. Have a homegrown feast –- Use seasonal vegetables that are locally grown. You will be supporting the local economy and helping reduce shipping expenses.

9. Recycle the holiday tree –- Watch local news media for Keep Knoxville Beautiful’s annual tree recycling efforts (http://www.knoxcounty.org/solid_waste/christmas_tree_recycling.php) or visit http://Earth911.com to find places that recycle trees. Recycled trees can be ground into wood chips for mulch.

10. Reduce paper waste –- Avoid using disposable plates, cups and utensils for holiday meals. Update mailing lists to avoid receiving holiday junk mail. Consider sending e-mail greetings to friends and family, instead of purchasing and sending holiday cards.


Amy Blakely, UT media relations, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu