Q: I have to ship a lot of holiday presents to my family. How can I do it less wastefully?
A: The best thing is to order and send gifts early, ideally at least six weeks in advance. Last-minute air delivery burns more fossil fuels than boats or trucks and releases the most global-warming CO2.
A better choice is a lightweight gift or one that requires no shipping at all (such as theater, concert, or sports tickets held at a will-call window).
It can also be greener to buy in your gift recipients' locales. As you make your list, ask your far-flung family members about their favorite stores and order from there (which also makes returns simpler).
If several recipients live in the same town, send a batch of gifts from the same merchant, which saves on fuel miles. Finally, when you order, forgo gift boxes and ask retailers to minimize packaging and use recycled materials.
Q: Is it bad to use wrapping paper as fireplace kindling?
A: You've got the right idea to reuse wrapping paper rather than tossing it in the trash. An additional five million tons of waste -- including four million tons of paper -- is generated in the U.S. every holiday. However, destroying reusable paper is less green than saving it to wrap other gifts, make greeting cards, or use as scrap paper.
Burning it is also unhealthy: Fireplaces are a leading source of lung-clogging particulate air pollution and toxic carbon monoxide. The inks and metals in conventional gift papers may contain heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, that are unhealthy to send up in smoke.
For green-living tips on other topics, read more advice from Mindy.
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