‘Tis the season for cozy cups of cocoa, festive foods, and giving thoughtful gifts to loved ones—a beloved time to spend with family and friends.
During these end-of-year festivities, it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle, but with single-use wrapping filling up trash cans, post offices working overtime delivering gifts, and holiday shopping costs amounting to somewhere between $1.147 trillion and $1.152 trillion each year, it’s important to recognize that the holiday season (although joyous) can take an incredible toll on the environment.
A study by the University of Manchester researchers found that the British population consumed 80% more food during the holiday season than during the rest of the year. Add to that a consumerist mentality and an increased amount of travel, and it’s no wonder environmentalists tout the holidays as the greatest environmental disaster of the year.
While the ecological impacts are evident, there are still plenty of informed ways to enjoy the merriment while also keeping the planet in mind. Consider these five tips as ways to stay festive and green throughout this holiday season.
1. Get Crafty with Natural Decorations
Move aside HomeGoods—gone are the days of unnecessary holiday clutter. Opt, instead, for a greener, more sustainable approach to your decorations this year by getting crafty with natural decorations from outdoors and in the kitchen.
One of my favorite Christmas tree aesthetics is wrapping garlands of popcorn with dried oranges hanging from the tree. Other creative ornaments include pinecones, cinnamon sticks, threaded cranberries, and hand painted acorns and chestnuts.
Beyond Christmas, Jewish blogger Rebekah Lowin shares tips for making DIY menorahs (my favorite is the driftwood menorah) while the Chicago Botanic Garden encourages celebrants of Kwanzaa to use recycled materials by investing / creating the unity cup, woven mats, or kinara.
No matter your holiday of preference, a bit of glue and a flair for aesthetics are sure to amp up your decoration game in a way that cares for the environment as well.
2. Invest In A Potted Christmas Tree
Each year, the same old environmental debate resurfaces. What’s better: reusing an artificial tree or buying real trees each year? Both sides are heavily contested. While artificial trees are reusable, real trees are biodegradable and help keep acres of land focused on natural farming as opposed to condos or other forms of real estate.
There is, however, a third option that goes largely unrecognized and unused: purchasing a potted Christmas tree. While it may not have the heft and breadth of the quintessential White Christmas tree, purchasing a potted tree is a great way to ensure longevity after the season. Rather than tossing a felled tree into the garbage heap or the backyard, a potted tree can be replanted into the backyard as an annual way to give a bit back to Mother Nature. For tips and tricks on how to best take care of your potted Christmas tree, you can check out Brittany Goldwyn’s post here.
3. Wrap Your Gifts With Furoshiki
Given Japan’s longstanding focus on sustainability and sufficiency, it’s no wonder the culture that gave the world Marie Kondo would also give way to an eco-friendly gift wrapping technique that’s rising in international popularity.
According to KonMari.com, furoshiki are “squares of fabric used for carrying and storing things.” While furoshiki (deriving from the word furo for bath and shiki for ‘something to spread out’) may have originated from a time when people wrapped everything they needed to go to the public baths in a square cloth, it has since crept its way into an art for wrapping lunch boxes, protecting socks, and wrapping gifts as well.
As you wrap the gift, Kondo stresses the importance of meditating on the person for whom the gift is intended, the gift, and the wrapping process. This not only helps create a more meditative mindset, but it also helps practice gratitude and focus on the present.
4. Buy Sustainable Stocking Stuffers and Gifts
This may seem obvious, but it’s all too easy to opt for gifts that are cheap, accessible, and packaged beautifully. Don’t let that big, red bow fool you, however. For an eco-friendly holiday, less is more.
With sustainable shopping on the rise, some great eco-friendly starter gifts include beeswax wraps, reusable makeup removers, stainless steel straws, compost buckets, and bamboo toothbrushes. For more specific items, strive to opt for wooden or glass over plastic as well as gifts with minimal to no packaging.
Do the research on the brands you’re considering, and strive to support eco-friendly businesses as much as possible (especially small, local ones!).
5. Get Creative With Holiday Cards
Ah, the beloved season’s greeting card. Corporations, non-profits, friends and family alike all gather round in festive gear to shoot the perfect holiday picture to send out for the world to see.
The problem? According to one eco blogger, approximately 1.6 billion holiday invitations and cards are sent in the mail each year—all to be later discarded and fill the equivalent of one football field ten stories high.
Rather than opting for a disposable holiday card, get creative with an e-card or video greeting instead. For those who still prefer to mail out that handwritten card, TheHonestConsumer.com rounds up several places to buy recycled or seed paper (a.k.a. paper you can plant into a tree!) cards just in time for the holiday season.
Do you have a secret sustainable tip to make this season a bit greener this year?
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