It’s December and that means the winter holidays are upon us. With it comes a flurry of shopping, consumption, and giving. For many of us, that means receiving gifts that we don’t need, opening tons of packaging that gets thrown away, and spending lots of money of things that we aren’t sure will get much use.
This is not to say that gift giving, shopping, and enjoying the holidays is inherently bad, but for those who are concerned with reducing waste it can present a bit of a challenge. There are simple things we can do to maximize our seasonal enjoyment and minimize our environmental impact.
- Shop local as much as possible, in particular from small businesses.
- Consider shopping second hand at thrift stores, consignment shops, or online marketplaces like Mercari. You can often find items that are new with tags or in like-new condition.
- Give gifts that encourage less waste, like reusable shopping bags or glass storage containers.
- Make your own gifts using recycled or up-cycled materials, such as bath salts and hand scrubs in old jars. Anything handmaid is a more sustainable option.
- Give experiences instead of things with gift cards or vouchers to local attractions or nearby destinations.
- Save and reuse boxes and gift bags year after year if you must have seasonal gift wrapping.
- Use postcards instead of traditional holiday cards, eliminating the need for envelopes and therefore reducing waste.
- Give gifts in baskets or reusable cloth bags, which will come in handy at the grocery store.
- Wrap gifts in reusable cloth. The cloth can even double as a scarf or tapestry.
- Reuse materials for gift wrap, like newspaper or paper grocery bags.
- Use solar-powered lights for decorating outside, which can even be connected to a timer.
- Decorate with items found in nature, such as pine cones, evergreen branches, twigs, berries, flowers, etc.
- Cut Christmas trees are a more sustainable option that artificial trees, but potted trees can be planted outside after the holidays.
- Use second-hand or vintage decorations. Some of the best holiday decorations are the ones that conjure fond childhood memories.
- Serve and enjoy locally-grown food as much as possible. Nothing tastes better than food that is fresh, in-season, and grown locally.
- Send electronic invitations instead of paper ones for holiday events and gatherings.
- Walk your neighborhood to view light displays instead of driving around to other areas. If your neighbors don’t decorate much, drive somewhere close, park, and walk around instead of staying in the car.
- Donate leftover food to food banks and compost what can’t be donated.
What are your favorite holiday traditions, and how can you make them more sustainable? Let me know in the comments below. Happy Holidays!