The end-of-year holiday season is a time for joy, celebration, and spending time with our loved ones after a long and busy year. While beautiful decorations, decadent feasts, and small mountains of gifts make for an excellent occasion, the holiday season can also be a time of excess consumption and waste.
“But we’ve always done it this way.”
Did you know that the production of gifts, decorations, and holiday cards generates about 2.65 billion pounds of waste each year in the United States alone? Or that the additional energy used for holiday lighting is equivalent to the annual energy use of about 2 million homes in the United States?
Holiday traditions carry the weight of generational habits and unspoken expectations of “bigger and better than last year” that are hard to break. Spending the occasion with the people we love, it’s a natural inclination to use material things to demonstrate our love and affection.
But it is possible to maintain our holiday traditions and dote on our loved ones while making a few conscious tweaks to be more mindful of our planet.
As citizens of the earth, what can we do to minimise the environmental impact of our annual merry-making and share the gift of a longer-living planet for all?
Here are some practices you can embrace for greener, guilt-free festivities!
1. Eco-friendly gifting
Consider purchasing gifts that have a low environmental impact. Items made from sustainable materials or that can be reused or recycled after they’ve served their purpose, or products from environmentally-conscious businesses. Experiences like concerts or gym memberships also make for great non-physical gifts.
2. Single-use Gift Wrap Alternatives
Single-use wrapping paper is a significant contributor to holiday waste. Consider reusable options like fabric gift bags, reusable gift boxes or wrapping paper made from recycled materials, such as newspaper or fabric scraps.
3. Conscious Decorating
Instead of buying plastic ornaments and other decorations, consider using natural materials like pine cones, branches, and berries to add holiday touches to your home. If lighting is a must, set a schedule and choose energy-efficient LED holiday lights that use up to 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than traditional bulbs.
4. Shop Locally
Whether you are buying handcrafted gifts or fresh produce for your festive menus, shopping locally helps to support local businesses. This not only benefits the economy but helps to reduce the carbon footprint for the transportation of these goods.
5. Reducing Food Waste
You can reduce food waste by planning ahead, buying only what you anticipate to need, and preparing as much food as you expect to be eaten. Use locally-sourced, in-season, and organic produce and ingredients, or incorporate plant-based dishes into your festive menus. Consider composting your food scraps or donating excess food to a local food bank or shelter.
The impact of our small and well-intentioned actions during this time of year can add up to the staggering numbers at the beginning of the article. Or it can culminate in a massive wave of positive impact on the sustainability of our home, the planet.
By incorporating these sustainability practices into your celebrations, you can enjoy the holiday season while actively playing a part in protecting it.
The gift of sustainability is shared. The thought counts, and remember, every little bit goes a long way!