Like most people, I love the holidays! I love the fun and the festivities.
However, it’s no secret that the holidays are also a time of… well… consumerism. Unfortunately, with all the festivities can come the excessive generation of waste and the consumption of natural resources.
Yes, the holiday’s are about spending time with loved ones and making memories. It’s about embracing community and culture; but sadly, a lot of these intentions have been hijacked by the industry. I’m not saying we have to forgo all of our most favorite festivities, but I think you’ll see that with a little foresight, you can make this season less environmentally impactful without compromising the enjoyment of the holidays. (As is the case with most things in life!)
Consider these revealing stats from Vanderbilt University:
Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
About 35% of Americans have an unused Christmas present collecting dust in their closets.
Our actions and decisions during this season really do make a difference! This is just a short list to inspire you and to get your wheels to turning.
Tip #1: Think Small Business Saturday, Instead of Black Friday
Buy gifts that support your local community and entrepreneurs! Instead of going to TJ Maxx or Macy’s, consider your local makers and locally owned businesses! Not only is this practice supporting your local economy and merchants, but chances are, you’ll also be able to find something more unique and meaningful for your special someone!
Some of my favorite Tampa Bay merchants are:
Antique and thrift stores: Shop at these places and you’re SURE to find something unique! Not to mention, it encompasses the word “reuse” in reduce, reuse, recycle. The very nature of it is sustainable. We are repurposing an already made item and therefore, not consuming additional resources. I particularly love finding jewelry and old hand held mirrors at antique stores. Victoria loves finding old tea cups.
Purchase gifts that are hand made/fair-trade, or organically grown or produced, such as coffee, chocolate, scarfs, jewelry, totes etc. Several great places to shop for these items include:
Tip #2: Carry a reusable necessities kit!
This is something I always encourage, but during the holidays it is even more important! We constantly find ourselves at parties, meetings, and other festivities that provide food and drink. Chances are, they’ll have single use utensils and glasses. But you can reduce your waste by carrying your own glass or mason jar (for drinks!), metal straw, and bamboo utilizes. Will you get weird looks? …. maybe… but being sustainable is cool! I carry a large purse and my items fit nicely inside.
Tip #3: Keep it Fancy
Going along with the previous, if you are hosting a party, use real flatware and dish wear!
Tip #4: Gift Wrapping
Wrap presents in reusable packaging such as baskets or reusable bags/totes! Instead of ribbons, look for raffia, twine, or yarn made from recycled materials.
Tip #5: Find antique ornaments instead of buying new ones!
This is a tradition of mine that I have so much fun with! I frequent antique and thrift stores and finding old glass ornaments is such a treat! They are unique, beautiful, and timeless.
Tip #6: Consider the Tree!
I LOVE decorating a Christmas tree- as most of us do! However, there are a few different things to consider to ensure it is as sustainable possible!
The lowest impact choice is to use a tree that is already in your yard or that you cut down yourself. This reduces travel miles. Using a evergreen trees/foliage from your local area to decorate is the most eco conscious choice.
Consider decorating an indoor plant (or even a rosemary bush!) instead of an actual tree.
Always recycle your tree after the holidays! Organic matter in landfills is a huge contribution to methane/greenhouse gases! With recycling, they are utilized again to produce beneficial things such as soil, mulch, etc. Here is a resource on recycling your tree.
Go with real over fake: Contrary to what you may think, fake tree are not necessarily a sustainable alternative. The growth of Christmas trees contribute to green space and carbon sequestration. Remember, all plants trap CO2 to reduce greenhouse gasses and therefore global warming. The production of artificial trees (typically from China) use non renewable resources and are made out of plastics and petroleum based products. At the end of their life, they are then dumped into landfills and will likely never degrade.
Tip #7: LED holiday lights!
Growing up, my dad was ALL about energy conservation! And he certainly is still today now that he and my mom live “off the grid”! I remember when we got our first LED lights for the Christmas tree and for our house. We was so proud of them but I was sad because we didn’t get colored ones. However, we had those white LED lights for MANY years and they utilize tremendously less energy.
Here are some other decorating tips:
Instead of decoding with lights or plastic garlands, consider using stringed popcorn or cranberries!
Don’t leave your lights on all night! (use a timer to make things easier!)
Candles are a HUGE part of the holiday season. Instead of buying toxic, mass made candles, consider buying a soy candle from a local craftsman.