Ways to Be More Sustainable This Season

During the holiday season, Americans throw away 25% more trash every single week. That's a lot. It's not hard to see why, what with all the gift giving and food overload and extra decor, those things naturally come with waste. But they don't have to. So if you want to change up your holiday habits to be more sustainable, I've got a few ideas for you.

  • Wrap gifts with what you have or biodegradable materials. Use those gift bags you've saved, or wrap items in a scarf the recipient can keep and wear. And instead of buying synthetic ribbons, foil wrapping paper, and tinsel, try craft paper, hemp twine, cotton ribbon, burlap, and foraged greens and berries. These things can be composted rather than trashed!
  • Decorate with what you have. This is another huge source of waste, since much of the store-bought home decor is plastic. Instead, use what you already have. You probably have a bin of beautiful decor. See if your family and friends are decluttering anything this year you might like. Or head outside to find holly, juniper, or magnolia to decorate with instead.
  • Gift experiences. Things have trash associated but many experiences do not, like a cooking class. Since we're in the era of covid, try at home experiences like virtual classes and gift the ingredients to go with.
  • Gift from your local community. One major issue with waste is upstream, in the creation and distribution of items. It costs a lot in fossil fuels to get things to your door, but not if you shop local. Every community has artisans who ethically and sustainably make candles or bath bombs or barbecue sauce. Or sell beautiful vintage items. So much less waste in getting it to your door, so shop small and local!
  • Don't send holiday cards. Yes they can be recycled (well, sometimes), but some people won't and there's still the issue of the waste associated with the delivery of cards due to the carbon emissions of delivery trucks and planes. How about a virtual card instead?
  • Exchange homemade goods. If your friend group normally exchanges gifts or cards, how about a cookie swap instead? You could make also make fudge, hot cocoa kits, movie night kits with popcorn and ice cream toppings, there's a lot of homemade options in the food department. But maybe you're a better crafter - how about a knit hat or scarf? A scrapbook page or hand painted wooden sign? A lot of love and time goes into homemade goods! Just because you aren't shelling out tons of cash, your recipient will know how much you care.
  • Ask for and gift reusable items. Buying these things all at once can be expensive, so use this gift giving season to ask for what you need and gift what you know your friends need - glass food storage, reusable straws, Yeti water bottles, produce bags, and more.
  • Focus on a low waste party. Hosting this year? Use the good stuff - real plates, cups, and silverware. Paper and plastic may make cleanup easier, but not on the environment. If you don't have enough of the real stuff, you can borrow from family and friends, or pick up a few extra pieces at a thrift store. No one will notice or care if things don't match, they're there to spend time with you.
  • Focus on a low waste kitchen. If you always find yourself tossing leftovers, decrease your recipe sizes or nix the dishes that just aren't as popular. Just because everyone else makes a certain dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas doesn't mean you have to. Make use of every item, using the leftovers in new meals and the vegetable scraps into homemade broth. To really decrease the environmental footprint of your meals, consider making more vegan and vegetarian!
  • Layer your clothes and get blankets. Turning the thermostat down doesn't just help your wallet, it helps the planet. So dress seasonally appropriate and use a blanket or two.
How will you be more sustainable this holiday season? What do you already do to add to this list?

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