6 Ways to Stay Sustainable During the Holidays
This holiday season, take a moment to think about the impact you are having on the planet amidst the craze of cooking, shopping, and visiting with relatives. Since the holidays can easily get overrun by consumerism, we’ve put together these tips to help make your holiday more sustainable!
Shop Local & Small
Buying local goods from small businesses decreases the number of miles the item had to travel to get to you! This reduces CO2 emissions generated during shipping and transport. If you buy gifts made locally, the amount of CO2 emissions generated by that product are significantly reduced.
Okay, so now that you’re shopping local, you should also think about shopping small. Why should you care if you’re supporting a small business versus a large business?Shopping at small businesses makes a larger impact. Small businesses are run by family, neighbors, and friends. Investing in your local community ensures the money you earn and spend will stay within your community and will help it prosper and grow.
Give Low-Impact Gifts
The holidays are all about spending time with people you love. Although giving gifts a great way to show appreciation, the holidays are not about spending money. One international survey revealed that 70% of people feel that Christmas is too focused on spending money on gifts. A similar survey showed that 15% of people were unhappy with their gifts, 10% couldn’t remember what their gifts were a year later, 25% re-gifted their gifts, and 14% sold their gifts online. Ouch.
So instead of gifting something that may inevitably end up as a piece of clutter or a harsh statistic, why not give an experience gift? Instead of purchasing a product, purchase an opportunity for someone to experience something enjoyable.
Here are some examples of experience gifts:
- A massage appointment
- Movie tickets
- A season park pass (this could be a state park, entertainment park, a skiing/snowboarding pass, etc.)
- Tickets to see a concert
- Or any other experience that you know your gift-recipient would enjoy!
Another way to give a gift that won’t create clutter or need to be thrown away or donated is to give a gift that is consumable! What we mean by consumable is something that is either eaten or used until it is gone.
Here are some examples of consumable gifts:
- Homemade hot cocoa mix in a glass mason jar
- DIY bath bombs in reusable cloth bags
- Baked goods inside a reusable tupperware (glass tupperwares are awesome!)
- DIY body scrub in a glass jar
Try to give the gift inside a container that is also reusable, such as a mason jar or cloth bag.
Wrap Gifts Sustainably
Gift-wrapping is a crucial part of the gift-giving process! Imagine all those sparkly and colorful wrapped gifts of all different varieties—what a beautiful sight! Now, imagine all that wrapping paper in a landfill.
Conventional gift-wrapping is extremely wasteful. Americans use and throw away tons of holiday wrapping paper every year. Let’s try to change the status quo and go for some sustainable gift wrapping this year!
“If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.” –Stanford University
Here are some low-impact and zero waste gift wrapping ideas:
- “Wrap” your gift in a reusable shopping bag. Not only does this eliminate gift-wrapping waste, this also eliminates other shopping bag waste in the future!
- Re-use old gift bags and ribbons
- Repurpose single-use grocery bags to wrap a gift. A brown paper bag will look surprisingly elegant and minimal on its own!
- Use large fabric squares to wrap a gift. While several cultures around the world have been known to utilize fabric wrapping, this technique is often associated with traditional Japanese gift wrapping called furoshiki. Check out some super easy step-by-step furoshiki tutorials here.
Decorate with LED String lights
What is holiday decor without string lights? String lights cozy up any space and can even be incorporated into year-round decor. But depending on which type of bulb your string light decor uses, you could be investing in some non-sustainable and inefficient lighting.
Make sure that the bulbs on your string lights are LED light bulbs as opposed to incandescent. LED light bulbs are a superior choice for many reasons:
- More energy efficient. LEDs use up to 90% less electricity than their incandescent counterparts!
- Longer lifespan of the bulb. Incandescents burn out quickly and are more fragile.
- Lower risk of fire. Incandescent bulbs become extremely warm if they remain on for a while. Sometimes warm enough to burn your skin or pose the risk of a fire! LEDs don’t generate much heat at all—making them safer for kids and pets as well.
Environmentally Friendly Decor
Sustainable holiday decor goes beyond LED string lights. Instead of purchasing faux foliage from your local craft store (which are often made of plastic products) why not make or scavenge some decor of your own?
Go on a scavenger hunt on your next outdoor excursion to gather some natural decor materials which can just as easily be returned to the outdoors when they are no longer in use. Pine cones and spruce branches make wonderful winter decor items. Just make sure you are looking in a place where you are allowed to take natural materials and do so in a way that you do not kill or significantly maim any trees!
Here are some ideas for natural holiday decor:
- Pinecone ornaments
- Popcorn garland (which can be put outside to feed birds and squirrels)
- Twig and twine stars
- Pine or spruce branches for garlands and wreaths
Foraged items such as twigs and pinecones can be put back outside when they are no longer in use. Please be mindful of your natural areas and make sure you are not harboring invasive species!
Cook Plant-Based Meals
Did you know that the meat industry alone contributes up to 85% of all food and agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions? Holy. Cow. (Pun intended.) Meat dishes are often the centerpiece of holiday meals, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring a vibrant and delicious plant-based side dish to your next potluck!
Check out some of these plant-based recipes:
And as always, try to reduce food waste as much as possible and divert food waste from landfills by composting!
I hope you keep these sustainability tips in mind as you have a wonderful holiday season. Be safe and have fun! What are your favorite ways to be sustainable over the holidays? Let us know in the comments.