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Be green this holiday season

Five tips for an energy-efficient, less-wasteful holiday
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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The holiday season may be a joyous time. But the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is also a time of waste, waste and, oh yes, even more waste. During those five weeks, household waste increases by more than 25 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This results in an additional 1 million tons of trash entering landfills each week. Opt to go green for the holidays. Follow these five tips and you’ll save money, seem interesting and creative to your friends and family, and automatically end up on Santa Claus’s “nice” list. Visit the Roseville Utility Exploration Center How, you ask, will a visit to the local science center help your eco-friendly approach to the holidays? That’s easy. Exploring the center’s current exhibit, Greening Your Holiday Season, offers several tips for celebrating the holidays in style, while saving energy and reducing waste. “Holidays are the most energy and waste-intensive time of the year,” said center Director Bob Garrison. “So why not talk about ways to reduce waste and still have a great holiday season.” The exhibit is organized into naughty and nice practices. For instance, learn how much less energy the “nice” LED holiday lights use compared to “naughty” energy-draining incandescent lights. Americans consume 27 percent more electricity between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Garrison said, much of that spent on lights strung on Christmas trees and houses. Through a Roseville Electric light-exchange program, Roseville residents (with a recent bill proving residency) can stop by the center and trade up to three strands of incandescent Christmas lights for three strands of the LED variety. The old lights are recycled by Sims Recycling Solutions. Don’t forget to check out the center’s Greening Your Holidays First Friday lecture, hosted by Marie Brown, owner of Eco-Chic Design, who will present ways to practice sustainable holiday entertaining, green decorating, eco-friendly alternative gifting and eco-gift wrapping. Entertain with less waste Why wait for that lecture — Brown has several tips right now for hosting parties that produce less waste. “Reuse what you have, like existing dishes and silverware,” she said. “If you’re having a big party and don’t have enough (place settings), ask your guests to bring theirs. Just explain to them that you’re trying to do as little waste as possible.” When shopping for the party, avoid packaged products by buying in bulk, and load those items into reusable canvas shopping bags. Send an Evite rather than a paper invitation. Make place cards out of old Christmas cards. Make ornaments and decorations from items lying around the house or stop by a local thrift shop to purchase some gently used ones. “There are some really cool ornaments out there in thrift stores.” Brown said. She suggests pouring water left over in guests’ glasses into a watering can to later use on plants. If you steamed vegetables for a dinner party, wait for the water to cool and then drizzle it on your backyard winter garden. Give an alternative gift Brown promotes “green gifting,” which means giving presents that don’t require large amounts of energy and resources to produce, or contribute to an overly consumptive American public. She has plenty of ideas for alterative gifts, starting by donating to local nonprofit organizations — such as Roseville Arts or Placer Nature Center — or covering membership fees on behalf of a family member or friend. She also suggests buying donations on behalf of a friend to Heifer International, a charity that tries to end hunger and poverty through self-reliance and sustainability, or to Kiva, which supplies micro-loans to families trying to start small businesses in developing nations. If you prefer giving a tangible gift, Brown suggests a mini kitchen compost bin for food scraps, a water pitcher to prevent the use of bottled water or a hydroponics garden starter kit. Cook up a vegetarian meal The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock is responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions. Not to mention 5,214 gallons of water go into producing 1 pound of beef. Preparing a vegetarian meal may require lots of will power for devoted meat eaters. But giving up meat for a holiday dinner doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Use the opportunity to taste test unfamiliar — and delicious — vegetables, herbs and spices. Cook up a chestnut soup or butternut squash soup. Prepare some mashed Yukon gold potatoes with celery root. Bake some pumpkin bread filled with dates and walnuts. Whip up some apple dumplings or a carrot cake. Offer guests a serving of vegetable casserole instead of a plate of ham or turkey. Master the art of Furoshiki Most mass-produced wrapping paper is not recyclable. Although reusable gift bags offer an inexpensive option, they can be a bit bland. You can make your own wrapping paper using old maps, comics’ section of the newspaper, dishtowels, bandanas or scarves. According to the Sierra Club, if every family wrapped three gifts this way, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Learn an eco-friendly way to wrap gifts at the Roseville Utility Exploration Center’s Holiday Decorating and Furoshiki Gift Wrapping class. Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth available in a variety of vibrant colors, designs and materials. “I am nowhere near Martha Stewart,” said instructor Kallie Arroyo. “But this is super, super easy.” She encourages the reuse of durable items and wants people to produce less waste by limiting consumption and buying what they need. When it comes to Furoshiki, the Roseville resident suggests using fabric napkins, scarves, sarongs and even bed sheets for large items, such as a bike or dollhouse for the kids. “For the last 40 years, the focus has been on recycling,” she said. “Yet, Americans have doubled the amount of garbage we create.” Arroyo, a self-described “green-lifestyle advocate,” worries about pollution and makes choices to limit her carbon footprint, and not just during the holidays. “All year long,” she said, “there are lots of things we can do to reduce our impact.” Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Greening Your Holiday Season exhibit When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, through Friday, Dec. 24 Where: Roseville Utility Exploration Center, 1501 Pleasant Grove Blvd. Cost: Free Info: Visit www.roseville.ca.us/explore or call (916) 746-1550 Greening Your Holidays First Friday lecture series When: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3 Where: Roseville Utility Exploration Center, 1501 Pleasant Grove Blvd. Cost: Tickets are $9 for Roseville residents, students and Placer Nature Center Members, $12 for general admission. Info: Buy tickets at the door or purchase tickets in advance by calling (916) 746-1550. Holiday Decorating and Furoshiki Gift Wrapping class When: 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4 Where: Roseville Utility Exploration Center, 1501 Pleasant Grove Blvd. Cost: Cost is $7 for Roseville residents, $10 for general admission Info: Call (916) 746-1550 to register