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Were you ‘naughty or nice’ to environment?

CARNEGIE MELLON (US) — Eating less meat, buying local, and consolidating your holiday shopping may have helped you get to the top of Santa’s green nice list, but it probably didn’t impact your environmental footprint.

“Around this time of year, we routinely get asked questions about how best to protect the environment during the holiday rush, so we put together this suggested shopping advice,” says Chris Hendrickson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

“For the average consumer, generally the two biggest sources of your environmental footprint come from your residence, and the kind of car your drive,” says H. Scott Matthews, professor of civil and environmental engineering and engineering and public policy.

“For example, our previous work shows that about two-thirds of your carbon footprint comes from these two categories. So, if we are really trying to reduce your impact, those are the places that matter the most. And these are just two pieces amidst thousands of decisions that a household makes in a year.”

There are relatively few holiday gifts that one can buy (or not buy) that have a significant effect on “footprints” despite all the marketing messages saying otherwise. It may be too late this year, but to help have a green holiday in 2013, consider the following tips throughout the year:

  • Buy and eat less red meat and dairy, since environmental impacts of both are larger than other foods.
  • Bike, walk, or take a bus to the store. That activity lessens the carbon footprint of purchases by about 50 percent.
  • Shop in advance, buy multiple items at the same store, or choose the slowest online delivery service since overnight transport increases transportation and fuel carbon footprints by 20 percent.
  • Recycle gift-wrap.
  • Buy replacement appliances, lights, and cars that are energy efficient.

“If you have an artificial Christmas tree, use it as long a possiblethe higher impacts of manufacturing it “pay off” in environmental terms compared to a natural tree in about 10 years,” Matthews says.

“Similarly, look for efficient lighting. Households use about 20 percent of their electricity on lighting. Energy efficient bulbs, including Christmas tree lights, are a great thing to buy.”

Source:  Carnegie Mellon University

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