11 Ways to Spend the Holidays Sustainably
Tis the season to be sustainable!
The holiday season is filled with joy and cheer — from gift giving to home decorating to baking yummy treats! However, many consumers do not stop and think about how much they are consuming, what they do with this consumption, and how all of these activities impact the environment.
For instance, 2.3 million pounds of gift wrapping paper goes to waste every year because consumers either toss it in the trash or the materials were never recyclable to begin with (Earth911). In the U.S. alone, over 15 million Christmas trees are cut every year (WSJ). In Europe, approximately 88 million tons of food waste is produced each Christmas (Euronews).
As habitants and consumers of this planet, we must adapt to the much needed eco-friendly ways of living throughout the course of the calendar year, most especially during the holiday season. The following are 11 sustainable holiday celebration tips:
Recycle and compost everything: Although this should already be a part of your daily habits, during the holidays, recycling and composting must be top priority. Do your research and preparation ahead of time to make sure you know: (1) how to properly recycle and compost, (2) have three seperate bins labeled ‘trash’, ‘recycle’, and ‘compost’, and (3) where to drop off these three seperate bins.
Use recycled holiday cards and gift wrap: Instead of opting for traditional paper cards and plastic wrap, try using 100% recycled cards and gift wrap. In doing so, you can support the movement towards consuming recycled products and move away from producing paper and plastic goods.
Eco-friendly decor: One of the traditionally “fun” parts of the holiday season is to decorate our homes to create a festive setting. It is totally understandable why one would want to indulge in these treats but just keep in mind that these decorations will only be used one time per year! During the main bulk of the year, these decorations will either be given to somebody else, put into storage or thrown away. Therefore, try to practice minimalism and shop eco-friendly products, such as, LED lights, DIY decor, and second-hand tableware (EWP).
Prioritize reusables versus disposables: This tip applies for all products you purchase and consume. Here are some ways to prioritize reusing over disposing: using only glass or ceramic table sets, select 1–2 decor schemes, and wrapping gifts in a way that the materials can be either reused or recycled. By sticking to reusable products, you reduce the amount of disposable goods you consume which, in the long run, saves you more money and reduces your carbon footprint.
Practice minimalism: Minimalism is a lifestyle choice in which you use and consume only goods that are necessary and essential to survival. In many ways, a purely minimalistic lifestyle is the exact opposite of what the traditional idea of a “Christmas celebration” practices. It is understandable why you may not be ready to commit to a purely minimalist life, however, you can be inspired by the fundamental idea behind it. Here are some examples of practicing minimalism: (1) gifting only products that you know for sure your loved ones will use and appreciate, (2) only purchasing one set of decor and tableware that can be used each year, and (3) cooking the adequate amount of food in order to reduce the possibility of food waste.
Zero-waste cooking: When somebody practices zero-waste cooking, they ensure that all edible products are used in some capacity rather than dumping it into trash/landfills. Here are some ways to do this: (1) calculate and predict exactly how much food will be needed, (2) recycle and compost all packaging materials, (3) package and share any leftovers with your local community (neighbors, the homeless, friends, etcetera), and (4) use leftovers for future recipes/meals.
Embrace vegan dishes: Similar to practicing minimalism, one can be inspired by veganism when cooking and baking this holiday season. Be open minded and try out classic Christmas dishes with vegan ingredients, for example, vegan eggnog, hot chocolate, ice cream, or soup.
Energy efficient lights: Instead of using traditional light bulbs, try investing in LED, solar-powered, or timed lights. LED lights use up to 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. Solar-powered outdoor lights absorbs natural, renewable energy from the sun. Finally, timed lights are great because you can set a timer or control the lights from an app. In addition to these energy efficient light options, try to keep them on only at night when you are awake to enjoy their festive colors. Keeping these lights on during the daytime, when your in bed, or when your not home is unnecessary and a waste of energy. (Green Matters)
Gift a tree planted in the outdoors: An eco-friendly gift idea that positively impacts the environment and helps to reach carbon neutrality is to gift a tree which will be planted outdoors. One Tree Planted is an example of a global nonprofit organization, which focuses on reforestation by working with individuals, businesses, and academic institutions. For every $1 donated, 1 tree is planted. Thus, for example, 20 trees will be planted with this eco-friendly gift.
Donate to an environmental charity: Be mindful of how you spend your money this holiday season. Of course, it is to our benefit if we aim to be intentional and conscious about what we spend our money on, however, now more than ever this is truly necessary. Understanding that there is still so much work to be done in order to solve the climate crisis the world is facing, one can choose to donate (or even volunteer) to an accredited environmental charity of your choice. This is one way of positively giving back to the planet and reducing your carbon footprint as most accredited organizations are diligently working towards carbon neutrality, reforestation, healthy oceans, etcetera.
Reuse or recycle your Christmas tree: Although purchasing a real Christmas tree from a local sustainable farm is the ideal option for an eco-friendly Christmas tree, if you plan on using a fake tree make sure to research and plan out how you will either (1) store it for next year or (2) recycle it. With almost every household around the world celebrating Christmas and, thus, buying a tree, Christmas tree consumption accounts for one of the highest rates of waste and consumerism during the holiday season. It is essential that everybody celebrating Christmas be mindful of what Christmas tree they use and what they do with it after the holidays.
As we continue to celebrate the holidays and get closer and closer to the new year, we must aim to have a united global effort towards being intentional on what we consume and how we consume it. This holiday season is a great way to start this. Happy holidays to you all and I hope you found these tips helpful!