In the rush and bustle of the holiday season, eco-friendly living is not usually at the forefront of our minds. Let this be your guide to celebrating the holidays in a green, sustainable way.
1. Ditch the gift wrap
Instead of wrapping presents for your family and friends in store-bought gift wrap, consider a more sustainable alternative. Gather your junk mail–there’s often a surplus of it this time of year–or newspapers and use them as wrapping paper before tossing them in the recycling bin. You could even wrap a present in a piece of clothing or a favorite blanket, hiding the surprise inside with something 100% reusable. Not ready to part completely with holiday-themed wrappings for your presents? Instead of wrapping them in paper, consider placing gifts into festive gift bags that can be reused year after year.
2. Send greeting cards via email
If you’re the type to spread holiday cheer by sending cards to your loved ones, why not go green this year and send a festive email instead of paper greetings? You can include photos and customize the fonts and colors for the same effect but without all the paper waste. As a bonus, you won’t need to pay for printing or postage!
3. Shop sustainably
During this time of frequent and heavy shopping, bring your own bags to shop for gifts and food to eliminate your need for paper or plastic bags. Consider the impact and longevity of the gifts you buy for your friends and family. Products that are locally made have not undergone fuel-guzzling transportation, and items with minimal packaging are certainly better alternatives to those that create lots of paper and plastic waste. Try to avoid gifts that require constantly changing and disposing of batteries.
4. Be mindful of your food choices….
As you prepare your menus for gatherings, consider buying local, organic food as the basis for your meals. Remember that meat has a much higher carbon footprint than plant-based dishes, so if you insist on featuring meat, opt for a lower-impact one like chicken instead of beef. When serving coffee and dessert, steer clear of individually-wrapped products (sugar packets, foil-wrapped candies) and instead buy in bulk where possible.
5. …and the way you serve that food.
Think twice about serving food with disposable plates and utensils; cleanup is never fun, but do you really want the dishes from your holiday gatherings ending up in a landfill?
6. Carpool to holiday gatherings
If you’re making the drive to visit friends or relatives, take as few cars as possible. Carpool from the same starting point or find a convenient place along the way to meet up with others making the trip. It’s unlikely that you’ll need multiple cars once you arrive and the festivities start, plus you’ll get to spend extra time together in the car and make parking easier at your final destination. Better yet, use public transportation if that’s an option in your area.
7. Shrink your shopping list
A personal, well-thought-out gift is a lovely gesture, but too often trinkets and useless products are purchased simply to have more tangible items to give. While the concept of giving to your loved ones is admirable, this can create a great deal of waste. Try to avoid falling into the trap of purchasing little gifts to “round out” a present and make it look more substantial, and instead focus on making a single purchase more worthwhile and sustainable. Maybe your closest friends or your family members can arrange a “pick-a-name” gift exchange in which each person only buys one gift for the person whose name they draw. Waste is reduced, but the spirit of giving is still there.
8. Experiences as gifts
Consider substituting unique shared experiences for physical gifts. Take your friend to a concert he’ll always remember instead of scrambling to buy him something he may not use. Suggest to your grandmother that instead of buying you a gift this year, she teach you how to make one of her favorite recipes. The bonding and memories will long outlast whatever objects you would have purchased.
9. Decorate wisely
If you decorate your home and tree with string lights, switch to LED bulbs instead of traditional bulb. LEDs use 95% less energy, so besides lowering your impact on the Earth, you’ll also find that your electric bill will be substantially less costly. Instead of plastic decorations, try decorating your home with natural elements like naturally fallen branches. Seasonal produce can also give a festive feeling; fill a bowl with pomegranates and enjoy their vivid coloring as a centerpiece, and then feel free to eat them after the entertaining is over!
10. Rethink your tree
If you traditionally celebrate Christmas with a pine tree in your home, now’s a good time to think outside the box for alternatives. Artificial trees aren’t the ideal eco-conscious solution that some people might expect, since their creation takes a high toll on the planet and they eventually contribute to landfills. Why not decorate a large houseplant or purchase a live, potted tree for decorating instead? Other creative, abstract “tree” options to consider include hanging wall decor in the shape of a tree or “building” a tree by stacking gifts in the correct shape. Browse the internet for ideas that fit with your decorating style. And if you miss the smell of a pine tree, recreate the sensation by diluting pine essential oil with water and spraying it into the air at home.