The winter holidays are a great time for rest, relaxation, and spending more time with loved ones. However, gift giving can involve a lot of waste and forgetting what our priorities are as citizens. In the US, people throw 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day!
There are plenty of ways we can avoid adding to that waste. In this blog, we’ll talk about several ways you can practice sustainability over the Christmas holidays.
Reduce: Reduce the need to buy by using what you already have.
For Christmas trees, there are two ways to go. Real trees are better for the environment as they can be recycled and support tree farms, which help offset carbon emissions. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, for every tree purchased, farmers plant one to three seedlings in its place. On the other hand, artificial trees—even eco-friendly ones—are typically made abroad and increase carbon emissions from transportation. Additionally, artificial trees can’t be recycled.
Of course, if you don’t need a tree to celebrate the holidays, you’ll save the effort, budget, and environmental impact.
Greeting cards make great holiday decorations either for your tree, fireplace mantel, or other place where you might otherwise hang something.
Children love toys, but packaging means more waste. A great way to avoid gift giving and the need for wrapping paper is to give experiences as gifts. Indeed, a family outing to places in your city with the best light display, the local museum or art gallery, or taking a ski or snowboard trip to the local mountain are all great ways to create memories instead of waste.
Plan holiday meals well in advance, and get everyone to chip in with the cooking or baking. Subsequently, this will avoid the urge to order food for delivery, which will come in takeout containers.
Food makes a great gift! Some ideas include gingerbread or other traditional holiday cookies, chocolate truffles, sweet or salted popcorn or nuts, and dry soup ingredients. On top of that, it is also easy to package in a box, tin, or jar. More ideas follow in the next sections.
If you’re invited to a dinner party, bringing the ingredients for a simple cocktail, a cake, or charcuterie board with fixings are a few ideas on how you can thank the host.
Reduce the need for wrapping paper by using other materials, as mentioned in the recycle section.
Reuse: From decorations to materials, reuse what’s around the home.
Hopefully, you’ve got a set of holiday decorations you use from year to year to reduce the need to buy more. Start a holiday tradition of making homemade decorations using materials that are destined for trash or recycling bins. For example, transform plastic beverage bottles, aluminum cans and cardboard paper towel tubes into creative ornaments or other decorations.
Reuse greeting cards by cutting the written half and using the card cover as a gift tag. You’ll be surprised at how many decorating and gift wrapping ideas you can get from Pinterest or YouTube using what’s around the house.
Reusable takeout containers and plastic fruit or bulk food containers can also make great packaging for gifts with just a touch of decor.
Recycle: Use recyclable materials.
Did you know that wrapping paper that contains coating, glitter, or foil can’t be recycled? Same goes for plastic bows or ribbons. When you’re not sure, try the “Scrunch Test” advised by the American Forest and Paper Association as a guideline to determine whether you can recycle the wrapping paper: crinkle the paper up into a ball. If it stays that way when you let go, it’s fine to put in the recycle bin. If it tends to go back to its original shape, it’s destined for the landfill.
An estimated 2.3 million pounds of plastic wrapping paper gets sent to the landfill each year. Aside from recycling gift bags, boxes, and wrappers you may have received in previous years, be creative—use fabric, posters, flyers, maps, shipping paper, and even paper from your child’s notebooks or sketchbooks. You can also use baskets and tins.
Food or beverages can be gifted in jars or bottles, which can be reused.
If you must buy holiday decorations, try to buy sustainable materials like paper, wood, and eco-friendly candles. When you’re shopping for gifts, consider items made of recycled materials.
All of your choices, no matter how small, can lead to impact reductions on the environment. Do your best and have fun this holiday!