It’s the most wasteful time of the year! The holiday season is full of cheer but also full oh so much waste. From buying gifts, to packaging, to traveling, to food waste, it can seem difficult to try and be sustainable throughout the holiday season. There is no doubt that this holiday season is going to look drastically different than in years past. However, that does not mean that we still can’t take steps to try and lessen our environmental impact over the weeks ahead. BUY LESS Perhaps the most impactful thing we can do is to buy less of everything; less gifts, less treats, less decorations, less everything. It may sound pretty obvious, but even those who live a low waste lifestyle may find themselves purchasing random items during the holidays. Remind yourself that you don’t need to have new decorations every year and you don’t need to buy cute festive trinkets from Target or Amazon. Focus on getting items you actually need that way you’re less likely to purchase in excess. THRIFT IF YOU CAN
This goes for décor as well as gift giving. It’s time we normalize buying items that aren’t brand new. This year I found my Christmas tree and other holiday decorations at a thrift store and couldn’t be happier about it. When it comes to gifts encourage your family and friends to try and thrift as well. Get creative, see who can find the best item at a thrift store and turn it into a unique gift they are sure to remember. MAKE GIFTS/DECOR
Throughout college I used to knit my family gifts. One reason was because I was pretty broke on a college budget but the other reason was because I wanted to give them something that I took the time to make. Making a gift doesn’t have to be something that takes you 40 hours to do. It can be as simple as baking someone a treat, painting a picture, or giving them a handwritten note along with your gift. When you put the time into making something specifically for another individual, the gift is that much sweeter. The same goes for decorating your house. There are plenty of DIY décor ideas on YouTube and Pinterest that can help you decorate while creating as little waste as possible.
GIVE PEOPLE WHAT THEY ACTUALLY WANT
Have you ever gotten a random gift that you just didn’t know what to do with? Maybe you donated it or maybe you just threw it away. This happens all too often and mostly because we feel the need to buy everyone a gift. If you don’t know what to get someone, ask them what they want or what they like. A small and thoughtful gift will always be more appreciated and less wasteful than buying something random just because you feel like it.
EXPERIENCES OVER THINGS
Rather than buying everyone a random item, focus on gifting experiences. Obviously during this pandemic, many “experiences” may be limited but that doesn’t mean you can’t still do something. Gift a massage, a weekend away, a fancy dinner, or better yet, offer to cook a nice meal for someone. Whether you can safely do these experiences now, or you have to wait another few months, experiences are often more memorable, and environmentally friendly that just buying “things”.
Once you have your gifts, it then becomes a matter of how to wrap/package them sustainably. Constantly buying new bags or wrapping paper (which is also wrapped in plastic), is definitely not the most sustainable option. Instead opt for wrapping your packages in items you already have. If you have old bags, use them! If you don’t have a big enough bag, try buying a reusable grocery bag to package the gift in. When it comes to wrapping paper, save any paper bags you may have from the store and use them. If you want your gifts to look a bit more festive, save old chip bags, clean the inside and then cut them open for a festive way to use up what would otherwise be trash.
While many of us will not be meeting up in large groups for the holidays, it is likely that some people will still attend a small family gathering. One of the most wasteful parts of the holidays, comes in the form of food waste. We feel the need to make copious amounts of 15 different dishes, only for a majority of the food to go untouched and end up in the trashcan. This year focus on buying just what you need. If you do have some leftovers, encourage others to bring Tupperware so they can take some leftovers home. If you’re used to spending more money on food during the holidays, think about putting that towards buying food for your local food banks or non-profits.
The holidays are often a time to rejoice but as we know they can also be extremely wasteful. Take time to be mindful about how you approach this season, perhaps starting planning out your gifts, food, and décor so you don’t end up buying items you truly don’t need. Invite your friends and family to join you on your sustainability journey this season, and together we can work to create a little less waste.