Sustainability Tips For the Holiday Season
Its the most wonderful time of the year that just so happens to be the most wasteful time of the year. Between the holiday cards, shopping, wrapping, traveling, and unwrapping, Americans end up wasting millions of tons of trash. Despite what mainstream media depicts, the season of giving doesn’t have to be full of excess. Sustainable holidays can be practical, and in many ways even more meaningful. We’re encouraging you to have a green holiday season this year, and have laid out the best ways to minimize your impact and stay sustainable.
1.Christmas Tree & Decorations
Let’s begin at the very place our holiday season commences – decorating. Before getting eager to buy loads of lights, trees, and tinsel, consider what alternatives may be more sustainable. For starters, opting for a real Christmas tree over artificial trees is incredibly helpful to the environment. Faux trees are made up of a bunch of plastics and chemicals, making them incredibly wasteful in production alone. Beyond that, over 85% of artificial trees are manufactured oversees, making your local tree farm that much more attractive of an option. Besides your tree, lights are a great way to save energy as well. If you aren’t using LED lights for all of your holiday decor, do so. They emit fewer greenhouse gasses and take far less energy to operate; a win win. Last tip here is to set all of your decorations on a schedule, making the usage more efficient, effective, and eco-friendly!
Perhaps not surprisingly, holiday shopping can be a huge pain point for wasteful practices. Think about the amount of bags, receipts, tissue paper, and gas used to run all of those seasonal errands. We’ll clue you in – it’s a lot. Don’t fret! There are some great alternatives that can limit our wastefulness and promote a green holiday. To begin, get in the practice of bringing reusable bags with you to shop. This is a super easy and effective way to immediately eliminate stacks of unwanted bags. Secondly, consider shopping online. Depending on how much running around you plan on doing, this can greatly eliminate your gas emissions during the season. Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, shop intentionally. You may want to jump on the hottest gift trends, but the best way to be sustainable when shopping is to look for local, recycled, fair trade, or consigned goods. Another idea? Give the gift of an experience, like a hiking or cycling tour. Point being, there are so many beautifully crafted gifts that will actually hold more meaning knowing they are thoughtfully sourced. Money Crashers curated a great list of sustainable gifts, which you can read here.
Bonus tip: do some cleaning and refreshing before shopping. Donating items around the holiday season is the perfect way to give back to your community and promote up-cycling.
Doing some last minute wrapping and scavenging for wrapping paper? Hold that thought. Sadly, a good majority of wrapping paper used around the holidays is unable to be recycled. If you’re planning on purchasing wrapping paper, look for ones that are un-printed, un-glittered, non shiny, and preferably made with recycled materials. An even better option is to look around your own home for things that could double as wrapping paper. Old calendars, newspapers, sheet music, or even tin foil can be great alternatives to manufactured papers. It may not be as dazzling up front, but you’ll feel loads better cleaning up the scraps after the day is done.
4. Travel & Prep
The gifts are wrapped and the decorations are in full force. Now it’s time to host! If you’ve found yourself at the center of this year’s festivities, you’re probably neck deep in some deep cleaning. You may be surprised to find out this is another great opportunity to shift towards a green holiday. When preparing for your guests, consider using natural, non toxic cleaning supplies. It’s easy to look over how harmful these chemicals can be for how convenient they are to find at the store. If you’re able, substitute your cleaning supplies this season to feel cleaner at every angle. On the other hand, you may be getting ready to head off to a marathon of celebrations. If that’s the case, be sure to carpool as far and as often as possible. It may be more convenient to drive separately, but the amount of waste produced in taking 2-3 vehicles to the same location can add up quickly. Sync up with family and friends to thoughtfully coordinate your holiday travel.
Perhaps the most obvious step is the clean up. We’ve all been there, sitting among piles and piles of torn apart paper with no idea where to begin. Truth be told, American’s throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Years. Recycling those pieces is a great first solution. If you’ve followed the steps above, this will be easier than ever. When it comes to your tree things can get a little trickier. There are actually ways to either recycle your live tree or preserve it for future use. If you bought a small tree in a larger pot, you may be able to reuse the tree for a couple of years without any repotting necessary. If you’re ready for it to be out of the house, have it chipped and mulched. Most communities will provide this service for free, so definitely look into your resources.
No matter which changes you’re able to incorporate, remember that a little really does go a long way. The smallest adjustments are a great jumping off point, providing an opportunity to grow in awareness during your holiday season. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, enjoy savoring the most meaningful resource; time spent with loved ones. Wishing everyone a happy, green holiday!