It’s that time of year again! The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a lot of eating, a lot of giving, and unfortunately, a lot of waste. I’ve never been a fan of the consumerism and over-indulgence of the holiday season, but I am getting into the Christmas spirit this year. I’ve inherited all of my grandmother’s Christmas belongings, and as I unload boxes of decorations, wrapping paper, and festive miscellaneous, it’s got me thinking of all the ways we can celebrate an eco-friendly Christmas.
Skip the Gift Exchange
So much stuff!!! Do we really need all of this junk? My family and I breathed a sigh of relief after my grandparent’s estate sale was finished. It’s insane how much a person can accumulate over the years. And of those items we painstakingly unpacked, priced, and sold, many of them were Christmas gifts from years before. Do we really need to be having a big gift exchange every holiday? It’s just too much. This is the first year my family has agreed to forgo the gift-giving tradition. It took a little convincing from my siblings and I, but it’s just too much. We struggle to come up with ideas. Instead of big gifts, we’re opting for baked goods or small, simple items. Another great alternative is gifting experiences like a nice meal at a restaurant or tickets to some event.
If you love the gift exchange around the holidays, you can support your community by shopping local. Look up the shops in your area and consider supporting a small business instead of a major chain. This puts money back into the community and can also cut down on shipping and packaging. Local products are often made more sustainably and have more character, too! I’d like to accumulate a list of local restaurants and shops in my community to make this easier in the future!
Secondhand gifts might have been taboo at one point, but they’re the best option for the environment. When you shop at a flea market or resale shop, you’re cutting down production costs, shipping costs, and excess packaging. New items must be produced, often overseas, and then shipped in packaging. The whole process requires a lot of resources and choosing to skip it altogether can cut carbon emissions significantly. Not to mention, flea markets and antique stores often have unique items with much more character than newer ones. Shopping resale can also save you a lot of money!
Skip the Wrapping Paper
I took all of my grandmother’s spare wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, bows, and ribbons, and the pile filled my basement. I’m going to offer it up for free to my friends because this year, I’m avoiding wrapping paper altogether. I want to provide a small gift for my family, so I’ve decided to use the spare Christmas mugs I found in my grandmother’s house and fill them with chocolates, cocoa, scratcher’s tickets, and other small items. This way there’s no wrapping paper or boxes to mess with. I can’t wait to pass these out! If you must wrap a gift, consider the following: wrapping paper will get thrown away, so why not use newspaper or magazine pages? Gift bags, on the other hand, can be reused multiple times. And even better than a gift bag: a reusable shopping bag. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Skip the Tree
I know it’s hard to skip traditions, especially if they’re important to your family, but I love it. I enjoy any opportunity to do things differently which is why my ornaments are being hung on a houseplant this year. You can choose to decorate however you want. There are plenty of ways to decorate sustainably without having to buy a bunch of décor items or contribute to the plastic waste. All of my Christmas decorations were acquired secondhand, mostly from my grandmother’s house. It’s not my typical aesthetic, but I do love how sentimental the items are. And there are other fun options for hanging ornaments without a tree which may come in handy for those of you with curious cats.
Choose a Sustainable Tree
Now, if you must have a tree, which is more environmentally-friendly: artificial or real? After doing some reading, it would seem real trees are the better option! That being said, if you’ve already got an artificial one, don’t change it up. The greenest product is the one you didn’t buy. Use those items you have already. But why are real trees better for the environment? In a nutshell, there’s no production process other than growing the trees. And of those not harvested, they stay planted and continue to absorb carbon. That being said, why not plant the trees and not cut them down at all? Maybe we can start a new Christmas tradition that involves reforestation. If you want an artificial tree, consider buying a used one at a flea market or yard sale. If you want a real one, make sure you’re shopping at a sustainable farm and that you dispose of it properly.
Skip the Cards
The day I stopped love greeting cards was the day I had to dig through a box of them to figure out which ones I should keep. They accumulate and take up space. If I do give a greeting card, I try to make sure it’s made of recycled materials or something handmade that can be used as decoration. Again, giving up on traditions is not for everyone, so if you love sending greeting cards, consider handmade sentimental options, compostable cards, or those made from recycled materials.
Skip the Disposables
Those Christmas-themed paper plates and plastic ware may be cute, but single-use, disposable items are terrible for the planet. They don’t break down and decompose and usually end up sitting in a landfill. Don’t be afraid to break out the nice dinnerware, cloth napkins, and reusable items for holidays parties and get togethers. It may require more clean up, but at least it results in less trash. Reusable kitchen items such as bamboo straws, reusable food wraps, and grocery totes.
Avoid Food Waste
I’ve already blogged a lot about avoiding food waste, but it’s more important than ever around the holidays with so many parties, catering, and feasts. It’s easy to buy too much around Christmas, but there are little things you can do to avoid food waste. Consider sharing party leftovers with coworkers or other friends. Commit to eating the meal. Use smaller plates to avoid over piling. And compost what can’t be eaten.
Support Eco-Friendly Businesses!
Finally, you can support eco-friendly businesses by buying sustainable items and green products. When shopping for gifts, decorations, and Christmas lights, always check the company for their sustainability practices and eco-certifications. Choose LED or solar lighting when decorating your home. And check out all the cool environmentally friendly gift ideas out there! Though we may not get a white Christmas this year, we can still make it green! Happy Holidays!