It’s time to do a little cheer because the holidays are here! The smell of pine trees and hot cocoa wafting through the air and the sound of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” playing everywhere you go mark the start of the holiday season. Unfortunately, this also means seeing a drastic increase in the consumption of products.
However, the holidays don’t need to be all about wasteful consumerism. There are plenty of other ways to show the special people in your life that you care in more sustainably-minded ways.
From DIY presents to gift wrapping tips to zero waste kits, we are serving up some major inspo’ to make your holiday season a little greener!
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Landfills
Before we dive into our tips for a sustainable holiday season, here are some reasons why reducing your impact, especially during this time of year, is important to sustaining our environment (and your wallet).
- We waste more food during the holidays. About 40% of food in the U.S. goes to waste every year, but during the holidays an additional 5 million pounds of food waste are landfilled
- Household waste increases. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, household waste increases by 25%. Household waste, also known as domestic waste or residential waste, is disposable materials generated by households.
- We use more paper during the holidays. Six billion cards are sold each year in the U.S. during the holidays, that’s enough to fill a football field ten stories high!
- More packaging material is placed in the landfill. In the U.S., we discard about $11 billion worth of packaging material including 38,000 miles of ribbon (that’s enough to wrap once around the planet).
In the landfill, these items undergo bacterial decomposition and produce “landfill gas”: a mixture of greenhouse gasses including methane, carbon dioxide and water vapor that contribute to climate change.
We are not trying to be a Scrooge and bah-humbug your holiday celebration. You can celebrate the season with simple changes to reduce your holiday waste.
Jingle Bells, Environmentalists Do Swell
Dring the holidays, gift-giving is commonly considered an important part of the celebration. We give gifts to show people that we care for them and value their role in our lives. However, giving physical gifts, is not the only way to show your appreciation. Gifting an experience allows you to create memories with the special people in your life. After all, our relationships with each other create meaning and joy in our lives.
Here are some experiential gift ideas that won’t break the bank or hurt our environment:
- Plan a day hike to a national, state, or local park you know they would enjoy
- Book a cooking class to learn to prepare dishes using local, seasonal ingredients
- Host an outdoor movie night (bonus points if you screen an environmental film!)
- Consider taking your loved one to a live game, concert or theatrical performance (make it an adventure and take public transportation there!)
- Plan a staycation or trip and incorporate some sustainable travel habits
- Connect with nature by going to a beach or plan a picnic
- Gift a gym membership or yoga classes for a health-focused gift option
- Book a spa day or massage session
- Donate to an organization on behalf of your loved one that aligns with their values
All I Want for Christmas is... Healthy Planet
If you do choose to purchase items to gift, consider shopping on the greener side.When shopping for gifts, think quality over quantity of the items. Buying gifts that are not made sustainably or those that have a short product life cycle may end up in the landfill sooner than you think.
Another consideration is share your holiday wish list with friends and families so that nothing goes to waste, and encourage your friends and family to do the same!
Check out these shopping ideas for more sustainable gift inspiration:
- Give the gift of a zero waste kit! Your loved one will feel great knowing that he/she/they are contributing to a healthier planet and living a low-impact lifestyle. Your zero waste kit can include items like: travel/collapsible metal straws, reusable market bags, shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes, and travel utensil sets.
- Reduce e-waste by choosing refurbished technology that can be recharged instead of relying on batteries
- Thrifted gifts are unique and great opportunities to give items another life. Look for items like vintage glasses, cameras, home decor, records, and books.
- Choose cruelty-free makeup! There are a few ways to know an item is cruelty-free: look for the cruelty-free bunny logo on the packaging, refer to the certified list of cruelty-free brands, or email the company.
- Local artisanal food products are great gifts for all food lovers and can be found at farmers markets. Long Beach Fresh provides schedules and links to different farmers markets in Long Beach.
- Consider shopping with Green Business certified vendors. Businesses who have implemented actions that reduce environmental impact, increase efficiency and promote conservation are recognized by the City of Long Beach Green Business Recognition Program.
Deck the Halls with Decreased Carbon Footprints
We’re going to wrap up this article with tips on how to reduce your packaging waste.
Wrapping paper is colorful, festive and decorated with beautiful designs. Unfortunately, used wrapping paper is not the best gift to the recycling market. When you purchase paper that claims to be made of recycled material, that paper has most likely been made from cardboard. About 70% of recycled paper comes from cardboard. Wrapping paper only makes up a small fraction of recycled paper because it is also often too thin and inky to be properly recycled post-consumer.
Because gift wrap is one of the most wasteful holiday traditions, it’s important to keep in mind alternatives to common gift wrap to lower your carbon footprint.
Here are some creative ways to wrap your presents more sustainably:
- Save as much gift wrap, gift bags, and ribbon that comes your way and reuse it for next year.
- Try fresh greenery instead of store-bought plastic bows
- Use newspapers, magazines, or paper bags to wrap gifts
- Use a reusable shopping bag as a gift bag (that’s like 2 gifts in one!)Place the gift into a sturdy box that can be used to store items
- No wrap! Try giving gifts without wrapping them at all. You’ll save time and money while reducing your waste. If the receiver isn’t thrilled about it, kindly explain your reasoning. Or send them this article!
And that’s a wrap! We know you will sleigh this holiday season with sustainable habits and show your appreciation for our natural environment and resources.