Give the Earth the Gift of Greener Holidays
We’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving, we’re in the midst of Hanukkah, and Christmas, Kwanzaa and other winter holidays are soon to follow. For many people these days, the holiday cheer can be somewhat overshadowed by the commercialization and excess that are part of our modern holiday celebrations. Did you know that people in the U.S. throw away 25% more trash during the holidays? And that the National Center for Environment Health (NCEH) reports that 35% of us have unused holiday gifts stashed away in the closet? What a waste!
Maybe this is the year to give a gift to the environment, as well. Here are ideas for a more sustainable holiday season:
- Wrap presents in reused or reusable materials. According to the NCEH, if every family in the U.S. wrapped just three of their gifts in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields! Alternative wrapping materials can be so creative—how about using fabric, old road maps, reusable tins, or the color comics?
- Here’s another creative gift wrap idea: decorate a grocery bag with your own artwork or cutouts from last year’s wrapping paper and holiday cards. Or use purchased gift bags over and over—that can become a beloved holiday tradition.
- If you do purchase single-use wrapping materials, select paper, ribbons and packaging that are recyclable or compostable. Save shipping materials for reuse.
- Consider buying a reusable artificial holiday tree and greenery. Or buy a tree that was harvested responsibly and, if possible, locally. When the holidays are over, compost the tree or dispose of it in an ecologically friendly way.
- Replace old holiday lights with more energy-efficient LED strings. The U.S. Department of Energy says these lights consume 80% less energy than traditional lights, and last 25 times longer. And don’t just dump the old ones in the garbage—see if a local recycler will take them.
- Use a timer so lights aren’t on during the day. Better yet, unplug them—even when they are off, they are using energy.
- Get handy! Homemade ornaments can be so special. Find ideas online. Set up a crafts project for the kids. And make your own gifts. You can sew, bake or make an art project—how about a custom calendar with family photos?
- Give gifts that you know the recipient will want—don’t just buy a random item so you’ll have something to wrap. Plan early so you won’t feel desperate and purchase something that will end up in the aforementioned closet.
- Support your local economy by buying local when you can. This supports merchants in the community and requires less fuel for your gifts to reach the store and your home.
- Give experiences—perhaps museum memberships, theater tickets, a coupon for yard services or an online event. Or make a donation to a charity your loved one supports.
- Shop second hand. Those holiday gifts that ended up in someone else’s closet could find a new, happy home with someone you’re shopping for. Maybe someone donated a set of dangly earrings to the resale shop that would be the perfect gift for Aunt Betty!
- For the family feast, cut down on packaging, purchase in bulk, use washable rather than disposable utensils, and buy locally if possible. Choose foods that do not harm the environment, and which support local producers. If a nearby farmers market is operating, that can be a festive trip.
- Depending on the vaccine status of your family and the COVID cases in your area, consider substituting a group volunteer outing for the usual holiday gathering. Many organizations can use your help.
By now you’ve noticed that many of these suggestions can save you and your family money, as well! That is surely another welcome gift.