It’s easy to get wrapped up in festive fun during the holidays, but it’s also important to remember the environmental impacts of our decisions. Household waste increases by more than 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year's. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week! So, if you’re looking for tips and tricks that are as green as the Grinch, you’ve come to the right place! Here are six ways to celebrate sustainably this holiday season.
1. Resist novelty items when shopping for loved ones.
They’ll likely end up in the trash anyway. Instead, choose items of value, purpose, and meaning. Give your loved ones gifts they’ll actually use, like gift cards, memberships, or experiences—dinner at their favorite restaurant, movie or concert tickets. Consider buying second hand, regifting something you already have, or make something yourself. I mean, really, who doesn’t love baked goods?
2. Consider a gift that gives back.
Look for companies that donate a percentage of their profits, like 1% for the Planet businesses. And if you’re looking for a gift for the people that already seem to have it all, consider making a donation in their name. It’s a gift that could help a nonprofit achieve their mission, and you can get a tax-deduction.
3. Skip the wrapping paper and opt for reusable alternatives instead.
Wrapping paper is, more often than not, used just once before being thrown away. Approximately 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper are used during the holidays every year, which is equivalent to roughly 50,000 trees. On top of that, most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable since it’s so thin and covered in ink and other additives. If you must use wrapping paper, choose recycled paper, non-glossy, glitter and foil free. Or, better yet, wrap your gifts in upcycled pages from old magazines or the comics section of the newspaper. Other options include: reusing gift bags and boxes, gifting your present in a reusable bag, or wrapping it up in a scarf or handkerchief. You can also simply choose gifts that don’t need to be wrapped, like FinalStraw’s holiday collection that is already packaged in recycled paper and is cute as can be… after all there’s no need to put more paper under the tree.
4. Stop sending cards to everyone you’ve ever met.
Yes, you read that right. In the US, an estimated 2.65 billion holiday cards are sold every year, which could fill a football field 10 stories high. If you send cards, make sure they’re made from recycled paper and avoid those with glossy, sparkly, or foil coatings as they can’t be recycled. Save the cards you receive, cut off the front, and reuse them like a postcard next year. And remember, e-cards, phone calls, and in person visits are all sustainable options, too!
5. Decorate sustainably.
Many holiday decorations are made from plastic. Try to avoid buying anything that will likely only last one season.
If you’re feeling crafty, consider making your own decorations. Pinterest is a great resource for DIY decorating ideas. Creating your own decorations might even get you feeling nostalgic for the old days when you’d cut snowflakes out of paper and string popcorn.
Avoid artificial trees, which are made of plastic and often last only a few years before needing to be replaced. Instead, consider a living potted tree that can be used for years to come and planted when it gets too big to fit inside. Decorate with energy efficient LED lights both inside and out.
6. Host an eco-friendly holiday party.
When hosting at your house, ditch the disposables and opt for real plates, glasses, and cutlery that can be washed and reused. Make it easy for your guests to recycle by placing the recycling bin next to the trash. Instead of wasting food, send leftovers home with your guests. And when you’re attending a holiday party, be prepared with your own reusable cup, cutlery, and to go container for leftovers. Instead of shaming your friends or family for using single-use items, take the opportunity to strike up a conversation and offer tips about how they could host more sustainably in the future. Maybe even share this blog!