Six ways to stay happy, healthy and eco-friendly over the holidays

It is in this month that we feel the holiday magic, innocence and spirit of giving, but the holiday season may be the most wasteful and unhealthy time of year. It’s not surprising to see long New Year’s resolutions, for in the span of a few weeks, we build massive credit card debt, discard millions of tons of wrapping paper (and trees) and put a few pounds on our beer bellies. How we could make January less painful for us and the earth: 1. Not a snow blower, but an Amazing Snowscoop! “The Snowscoop creates no pollution, creates no noise and does not need gasoline,” claims Clean Air Gardening (, manufacturer of “environmentally friendly lawn and garden supplies.” The catch: you need to do the work yourself. Approximately 5 by 2 feet, the Snowscoop is a long, durable sheet of plastic. The steel wedge on the bottom collects snow onto the main body (up to 250 lbs.) just like a large plow, and the wheel on the bottom makes it easy to unload. The width should be enough to clean most driveways in just a few passes. “The Snowscoop is almost indestructible,” Clean Air says. In fact, Clean Air recommends that the Scoop should not be used in less than 4 inches of snow. 2. Switch from incandescent to LED holiday lights. It’s not just for indoor lighting. According to a Dec. 2007 article on, the average string of holiday LED lights lasts more than twice as long as a standard string of incandescent lights. While there is some potential sticker shock (as with hybrids), in the long run, LEDs conserve more than enough energy to offset their additional cost over incandescent lights: LEDs use an average of up to 3 kilowatt hours, while incandescent lights use up to 105. On top of that, the LEDs Consumer Reports tested lasted over twice as long as their incandescent counterparts and were easily recyclable. 3. Eat Tofurky®. Yes, Tofurky is a registered trademark. Eating Tofurky isn’t just for ethical concerns, since to raise a commercial 30 pound turkey, it takes 75 to 80 pounds of feed, resources that could be either conserved or redirected to those in need. Some added bonuses: Tofurky takes less time to cook than turkey (no more timer snafus), comes pre-packed with a delicious center of wild rice stuffing and is available at your local supermarket (check the health food section or order from 4. Wrap your presents with a gift sock instead of wrapping paper. Instead of wrapping your presents in single-use gift wrapping paper, get some reusable gift socks (or simply reuse wrapping paper). Send the gift along with the sock (and its explanatory tag), and the receiver will likely notice the stylish, chic fabric, encouraging him or her to reuse the sock for someone else’s gift, thus continuing the cycle. As cited by, last year, Americans generated one million tons more trash than normal during each week between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, much of it due to packaging. Although gift socks won’t eliminate all of this trash, it will reduce a large amount, since wrapping paper alone accounted for 4 million tons of it. 5. Purchase a farm-raised fir. Real Christmas trees leave behind thousands of tons of waste, but at least that is easily biodegradeable. The larger problem is that old-growth forests are being decimated in order to support the demand for trees. Plastic trees don’t do much better, either. Most plastic trees are only used a few times before they are discarded. The PVC and trace amounts of potential carcinogens end up in landfills. Even if trees are reused, the production process generates huge amounts of pollution. Farm-raised firs, on the other hand, are sustainably grown and leave little permanent damage to the environment. 6. Stop worrying about your 401k/stock portfolio and help others (truly) in need. There are enough material goods left over from the holidays. “The best things in life aren’t things,” says “Consider something non-material. Something as simple as eye contact and a hello can make a big difference. Or a random act of kindness. Or how about your time? Tutoring, volunteering, fundraising, teaching a skill, or being a mentor can make a huge difference.”