It’s December, the most wonderful time of the year. We are filled with cheer, happiness, and an innate need to give, and to give back. So why don’t we give Mother Nature the biggest gift of all this holiday season – a month with limiting our impact on the environment? Many of us have made resolutions to recycle more, buy less plastic, and take our reusable shopping bags to the grocery store. What else can we do to make good on this promise?
Here is a list of ways that you can make this holiday season cleaner and greener than an elf’s long johns:
SHOP LOCAL – Shopping local doesn’t mean heading out to your nearest big-box retailer; shopping local means buying items made locally from businesses that are locally owned. Think about the carbon footprint of an item you are about to buy and ask yourself, “Where was this manufactured? How far did this item travel to get here?” It is becoming more and more common to find stores that feature local products. At a minimum, try to find products made domestically (meaning MADE IN THE USA).
GIFT TAGS & ORNAMENTS FROM RECEIVED HOLIDAY CARDS – We love receiving cards in the mail, but what do we do with them after the cheer is gone? It’s time to get out your scissors and an X-acto knife and get crafty! Try cutting up a card to create a surprisingly elaborate gift tag. Another great option is turning a glittery card into a Christmas ornament. Both of these are great craft projects to do with your kids. If you aren’t ready to cut up your cards this year, save the good ones to use for next year’s holiday craft projects.
SEND RECYCLE-FRIENDLY CARDS – Many ecologically-minded people have shifted to electronic cards altogether, but if a posted holiday card is something you demand, try to be smart about the cards you choose. Some are fully biodegradable, others are recyclable, but be sure your cards are marked with FSC – the Forest Stewardship Council’s seal of approval, signifying that the paper and/or wood of the card is sourced from responsibly managed forests.
REUSABLE OR RECYCLED GIFT WRAPPING – Using reusable gift wrapping is super easy – think of it like cloth diapers; it takes a little more commitment and cost upfront, but in the long run, you save big bucks – as well as the lovely planet we call home. You crafty folks out there can turn recycled clothing or bedsheets into the cute wrapping. Try sewing two different patterns back to back. If you aren’t feeling creative, pop on over to Etsy and purchase someone else’s craftiness.
When it comes to recycled wrapping paper, an obvious choice is the funny pages from Sunday’s newspaper. However, most homes have a myriad of items that can be repurposed to disguise your surprise. Brown grocery bags can be decorated with paint, crayons and markers, and corrugated cardboard and cute shopping bags are also a few of the items you might consider.
LED CHRISTMAS LIGHTS- If Clark Griswold had used LEDs, he wouldn’t have blown his breakers! Many of us have been using LED lights for years, but it is a lesson that deserves repeating over and over: you will save noticeable amounts of money and energy by utilizing LED bulbs. We love the twinkling lights of the holidays – and the more lights, the absolute merrier! With LEDs, you don’t have to feel guilty (not to mention, you reduce the fire hazard to almost nil). These eco-friendly lights can now be found everywhere. The light from LED bulbs are much cooler looking than incandescent lights, so be sure to use 100% LEDs when decorating for Christmas to avoid clashing. A Christmas tree with incandescent lights uses 10x more wattage than one with the same amount of LED lights.
USE A POTTED TREE – Instead of buying a cut tree for your lights and decorations, consider using a potted tree. You can have the tree in your home all year round or transplant it into your yard in the new year. If a fresh cut tree is your thing, be sure to properly recycle it, there are services and guides available across the country. Last year I discovered a nearby farm withgoats that loved to eat used Christmas trees!
MAKE YOUR OWN GIFTS – Homemade baked goods are always appreciated! Try bottling homemade flavored simple syrups and gifting them with your favorite cocktail recipe (ginger syrup is mine!). Recycled salad dressing bottles are the perfect size for this. If you are a whiz at handicrafts, people can’t get enough hats or scarves. The time you spend making your own gift really lets a person know how much they mean to you.
NORMALIZE SECOND-HAND GIFTS – Regifting may be taboo, but gifting something that someone has already owned doesn’t have to be. Finding the perfect vintage vase, broach or other relic can be rewarding and amazing. Try visiting your local antique shop or an estate sale. By buying something that wasn’t manufactured new, you are joining the circular economy and helping to reduce unnecessary manufacturing. Recommerce is the way of the future!