‘Tis the season for holiday cheer, gift-giving, and quality time with family and friends. Even with 2020 not being the year we could have ever planned for, we will do our best to make this holiday season a celebration. As you move forward with your holiday preparations, your gift buying, and holiday decorations, keep in mind that you can do all of these things while helping the environment with these sustainable ideas:
1. Buy a real tree
You might think, a fake tree would be better but studies have shown that the same artificial tree would have to be used for more than 20 years to be more sustainable than a fresh-cut Christmas tree once a year.
2. Recycled holiday cards
Holiday cards are one of our oldest traditions dating back to the 1800s. Holiday cards we buy or receive and then toss out in the United States would fill a football field 10 stories high. If you cannot send all your cards electronically; sending just one less card each year could save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.
In addition, choose greeting cards that can make an impact. Green Cause Greetings are a great cause that you can raise awareness about a number of various charities.
3. Recycled gift wrap
There are a few ways you can get creative and still wrap your holiday gifts! You could use the comics section in the Sunday newspaper, recyclable wrapping paper, reuse gift bags from gifts you receive, or even wrap them up using parts of the gift like scarves, towels, etc.
4. Plastic-free packaging
When you shop online be aware there are some companies that will use wasteful amounts of plastic and non-recyclable packaging peanuts when they send you orders but there are companies out there that have started to offer “minimal plastic packings” for your orders. Most companies who offer this option will let you know as you choose your shipping method but you can also utilize companies like www.earthhero.com or others like it for your holiday shopping.
5. DIY gifts and battery-free toys
DIY gifts don’t have to be hokey or cheesy (of course you can do that too). You can cook/bake gifts for family and friends, get creative, write a poem or a story (you can even perform it as part of the gift). If you cannot make a homemade gift, make sure you know where they come from – shop local from companies that are conscious of their carbon footprint. When you buy gifts, try not to purchase gifts that require batteries. 40% of battery sales happen during the holidays and when they run out they will be thrown away and sit in our landfills. There are plenty of gifts that do not require batteries but if you find yourself purchasing one, we would recommend purchasing rechargeable batteries instead.
6. Give an experience not a gift
An experience might sound crazy because of what we have all experienced during 2020. As we know, many of the experience gifts have been canceled in 2020 but events and businesses will open again and when they do the recipient of your gift will be excited to experience your gift. Think about what concerts, movies, restaurants, visits to zoos or museums will make your family or friend smile and look forward to attending. If an experience isn’t for you, think about purchasing an electronic gift card. Some people think this is an impersonal gift but we say you can get them exactly what they want without any waste!
Another idea for a sustainable 2020 holiday season is giving a socially conscious gift. Donating to a charitable cause or program is a great gift idea for a sustainable gift.
7. Holiday lights with LED and timers
If you are buying new holiday lights, purchase LED lights. They use a tenth as much energy and last longer than non LED lights. In the same regard, utilize a timer for your lights to ensure they are not running 24/7.
8. Make ornaments from recycled materials
As you are decorating your tree or around the house, make your ornaments out of environmentally friendly or reusable materials. Get creative to make your holiday season a sustainable one – you can even DIY an ornament or decoration to give as a gift!
9. Don’t use paper and plastic and environmentally friendly entertaining
Even with 2020 restrictions, you might be safely hosting family over the holidays. In addition to being safe, we want to help you be environmentally friendly at the same time. We know it is convenient to use paper plates and plastic utensils but resist the temptation as you will be putting less into a landfill if you use real plates and silverware. In addition, not all food is created equal when it comes to sustainability. Vegetarian options are more environmentally friendly but they may not be your ideal meal to eat or serve so meats like chicken that will have less of a carbon footprint impact. Food waste is a real problem in the United States and it soars even higher during the holiday season. Take the extra step, be realistic about how many people you are hosting and how much they will eat.
Lastly, when it comes time to clean (both before your guests arrive and after), choose natural, non-toxic cleaning products.
10. Donate unwanted gifts
We all receive gifts that we do not need or want during the holiday season. If you receive any unwanted gifts or if you are replacing old possessions with new ones this season, donate or even regift them, instead of throwing them away.
When it comes down to it, 2020 has not been what any of us could have predicted. As this year comes to a close, it is important to look forward to your future, your family, and our environment. These 10 simple but meaningful tips will help make your holiday season a little more “green”.