How to be an Environmental Steward This Holiday Season

Everyone plays an important role in sustaining our forests. Americans throw away 25 percent more trash from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day than any other time of year. So, the holiday season is the perfect time to enjoy and recycle renewable resources such as wood and paper products. The Abundant Forests Alliance (AFA) recommends ten simple steps families can take this holiday season to act as true environmental stewards:

Involve the Whole Family – The holidays are a great time to show children what it means to give back to the environment. Engage the kids, grandparents, aunts and uncles in creative games and projects that teach them what it means to be a true environmental steward.

Recycle Your Scraps – The winter holidays involve many wrapped presents, boxes and greeting cards. Approximately 3 billion Christmas cards are sold each year in the United States, for example. Don’t just throw it all away. Use your boxes again, if you can. If not, please recycle them. Create an easy system for everyone to gather used paper to recycle or reuse – such as making gift tags out of used greeting cards. The covers of greeting cards can also be used as decorations around the house, place cards for holiday parties or even ornaments to liven up the tree.

Don’t Tear, Share – Although it’s tempting to tear into a present, it’s also easy to save the paper without too much damage, providing usable wrapping paper for gifts down the road. This helps the environment and saves money.

Reuse Bows and Ribbons – Holiday presents will fill your heart with even more warmth if bows and ribbons are reused. Reusing these materials will save time and money. The time saved can be spent with your family, mixing and matching those old bows to create unique packages for all to enjoy.

Create Your Own Decorations – Kids love to create. Help them make their own environmentally friendly ornaments or other decorations. By reusing paper to create origami or paper mache ornaments, children will learn that being resourceful is fun.

Give Gifts That Last – Consider giving gifts made of a lasting material, such as wood. Such gifts last for generations, adding sentimentality and an enduring quality to your gesture.

Buy a Traditional Christmas Tree – Nothing signifies the holiday season more than the sent of fresh pine needles. Approximately 33 million Christmas trees were sold in the United States in 2003. Of those, 23.4 million were real and 9.6 million were artificial. This is great news because real trees are a renewable resource. Artificial trees are made from non-renewable resources such as plastics and petroleum-based products. Once discarded, artificial trees can remain in landfills for centuries.

Drag Your Tree to the Curb – Many communities and community service groups offer programs that will pick up trees and take them to a recycling facility where many become the paper products used everyday. Contact your local municipality to find out more about recycling.

Go for a Walk – Taking a walk with your family through a local park or even down the street is a great way to teach children about the beauty of nature, especially during a beautiful fall or winter day. Use this time to share with your children the importance of respecting our forests.

Make Recycling Your Resolution – Make recycling a family resolution this New Year. Your family can make a difference and be true environmental stewards.