The holidays are full of incredible energy. Our eyes light up watching our children and loved ones open those special gifts. Our homes smell like the outdoors and feel cozy and inviting. Our streets are filled with trees, twinkles, and good cheer.
However, I cringe every time I see the considerable amount of waste that comes paired with these holiday festivities. I adore gift-giving, but I dread the excess. If you, like me, want to give the earth a present this year, use these timely tips to give back to our precious planet.
1. Think before you buy.
Look out for responsible manufacturers that aim to reduce pollution and minimize their impact on natural resources. Once you decide where to go, bring your own bags for gift shopping. After all, plastic bags can take anywhere from 15 to 1,000 years to break down. When you're shopping, check labels; look out for gifts that use organic textiles, are locally sourced, and fair trade.
2. Give more meaningfully.
Homemade and experiential gifts tend to be easier on the environment than ones that you can buy in stores since they don't have the same high carbon footprint. So this year, consider giving a charitable donation in someone's name or making a homemade gift like soap, fragrance, candles, food, knitted wear, or another form of art. Tickets to spas, restaurants, or concerts are also great ways to go, and memberships to museums, theaters, gyms, or sporting events last all year long. Finally, remember that time is the greatest gift of all. Consider creating coupons that promise a home-cooked meal or baby-sitting session for your loved ones.
3. Get innovative with your wrapping.
On average, Americans create 25 percent more garbage during the holiday season, equating to 1 million extra tons a week. Take small steps to get your consumption down by purchasing wrapping paper that is made out of recycled materials and avoiding paper that is made out of foil or metallics. Or, you can go the old-fashioned but charming route and wrap your gifts in fabrics, scarves, old maps, calendars, magazines, or other materials you may have at home. For an artistic spin, consider using paint, color, or stamped recycled paper to personalize your gift. If you've saved ribbons and bows from last holiday season, consider reusing them to decorate your gifts this year (or save them this year and use them to decorate your gifts next year). Finally, you could always ditch the wrapping entirely and hide the gifts in your home, making a fun treasure-hunt game!
4. Be intentional with your tree.
Christmas trees are certainly beautiful, but they do take up a lot of valuable space in landfill. Consider buying a living tree that you can replant after the holidays. Or, if you have a nonliving tree that you don't want to keep, make sure to recycle it or find a new owner for it. As for the decorations, shop for ornaments at thrift stores and remember to set your LED string lights on a timer so they turn off automatically.
5. Make DIY decorations.
This is the fun part! You can easily cut your carbon footprint by crafting your own ornaments and decorations. Snowflakes, wreaths, greeting cards, garlands, or snowflakes make for especially fun homemade projects. It's nice to gather natural materials for these from your yard or a nearby park or beach. (Think driftwood, sand dollars, pine cones, fir, holly, eucalyptus, twigs, pine needles, berries, rosemary, lavender, etc.) You can also incorporate items lying around your house like magazines, newspaper, maps, old buttons, ribbon, toilet paper rolls, or wooden clothespins. Then, you can save and use these meaningful decorations year after year.
6. Send eCards.
Sending eCards saves on paper, but if you're set on sending cards in the mail, choose ones that are made of recycled materials and printed using vegetable-based inks.