Let’s Enjoy a More Sustainable Holiday Season
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is all about connections, intentions, family, friendship, gratitude, sharing, caring and joy, but it does not need to be so wasteful!
Did you know that American families create 25% more waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s?
Going green and minimizing waste during this time of the year is the greatest gift we can give to our family, our community, and our planet.
These tips will help you get started with a creative and meaningful holiday season that your family will never forget.
We might even take a lesson from the “Green Guy” himself: “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!” (from “The Grinch,” by Dr. Seuss).
Rethink your “buyerarchy” of needs when you give this holiday season
Do you have a strategy when it comes to holiday gift ideas and gift shopping? Do you order online months in advance or spend too much time making shopping plans? Have you ever bought the same gift twice for the same person? Most of the time, whatever our strategy, it’s a lot of preparation and stress.
Let’s try something a bit different this year! Think of usable and functional gifts, or traditional objects that have been in your family for decades that you want to pass along to the next generation.
Let’s look at what truly brings us joy.
“Buyerarchy of Needs” concept adapted from Sarah Lazarovic.
Give what you have
It might be the right time to go through all the stuff we have and don’t use or want anymore, then consider offering those items as presents to others. Maybe you have a nice scarf that happens to be Auntie Mary’s favorite colors, or a jewelry box that you had when you were little that might become a treasure box for your little niece. Whatever the item, make sure it’s not broken and has all the pieces.
Swap & thrift
If you are thinking about giving wearable gifts, how about organizing a "virtual" clothing swap night with your friends? You can also consider local secondhand shops in your area.
Consider making do-it-yourself pampering gifts. The internet is full of DIY homemade beauty gift ideas, like skin care lotions, facials masks and bath balls. Or think about homemade edible gifts. Did you know researchers found that baking for others increases happiness and reduces stress? It’s a form of mindfulness and altruism that brings self-satisfaction and confidence. I am certain your friends would appreciate a homemade batch of cookies or yummy jams presented in a nice tin or jar.
Buy gifts that will be used and reduce the chances of them becoming waste too soon. To find unique presents, there is nothing better than strolling through local holiday markets and shops, where you will find handcrafted functional treasures while supporting small businesses.
Or, you can become a “genie” who fulfills dreams. Create memories for others by offering experiences – cooking or art classes, creative box subscriptions, event tickets, gym memberships, family experiences, or trips. The advantage is that you do not need extra packaging to wrap them!
Be creative in term of wrapping gifts
Did you know that most of the wrapping paper we buy are not recyclable?
A common mistake many people make around the holidays is loading their recycling bins with wrapping paper, tissue, ribbons, and more. Unfortunately, the shiny, laminated paper is, in fact, not recyclable in most circumstances. Including it in the bin with other paper products can make an entire load unrecyclable. If wrapping paper is metallic, has glitter on it, or has a texture to it, it is not recyclable. (Source: Earth911.com)
It only takes a few seconds to unwrap a gift, and all that shredded paper heads off to the landfill.
Here are some wrapping gifts alternatives – some are recyclable some are reusable.
Clay flowerpots that come in different sizes and that you can paint and decorate to make them unique. These make fantastic gift boxes, that can be reused in Spring to plant a flower in.
Shopping paper bags, old maps, newspaper, magazines, or brown Kraft paper. When you think about it, there are a lot of paper types available in our everyday lives. Trim them and decorate them to wrap your bigger presents.
Furoshiki (Japanese fabric wrapping) is a beautiful and ingenious way to wrap your gift by folding and tying the cloth in a different way. You can upcycle an old t-shirt or dress. According to your tradition, use different colors.
To these wrapping gifts, you can add handmade cards and tags. Seek for 100% recyclable cards or upcycle old ones.
"Green” Your Christmas Tree
I grant you, it’s hard to picture a Christmas without a tree, but I have some ideas about this, too.
Tree What a great family time we have every year when we go to a local tree farm! We get to choose and cut our very own tree and grab some delicious peppermint cocoa. Some farms have a replant initiative program: you buy a tree, they replant one. You also might find some “re-plantable” trees at local gardening stores. When the holidays are over, find a great spot in your backyard to replant your tree. my sister used to make her own tree with recycled pallets. I personally love the cardboard Tree too!
Tree recycling After the holidays are over, don’t trash your browning Christmas tree. Contact your Boy scout program, they might have a tree curb-side initiative.
Garlands and decorations You might want to innovate this year and try to make some dried fruits, cinnamon sticks, decorated twigs, crocheted ornaments or paper snowflakes to decorate your tree and home.
Be playful and creative!
“Green” Your Holiday Home Décor
Borrow and swap vs. buy Take a minute to review what you already have at home before buying new décor. Participate in the decorations swaps or borrow decorations from your family, friends or neighbors. What looks used and old to us might appear new and usable to others.
“Less is more” It’s so trendy! Decorating less also means storing less, dusting less, and packing/unpacking less each year. Hygge (Pronounced “hyoo-guh”) is a Danish and Norwegian word that means simplicity, coziness and warmth – all the ingredients for an unforgettable holiday season, right? The best way to live in a more hygge way is to focus on simple pleasures and take the time to cultivate them in your life.
Use family heirlooms Your family’s menorah will be kept for a lifetime, and it’s often handed down through generations. You might look into buying an antique or secondhand menorah, one with its own history, or even make one yourself.
“Green” lights Decorative lights are a source of joy and beauty this time of the year. A great way to lighten your carbon footprint is to switch to LED lights and consider timers to limit overuse of electricity and enjoy some money saving on your bill.
DIY Tutorial - How to: Make a Wall Hanging for Holiday Cards & Photos
A “Green” Holiday Feast
Holiday meals Whether your traditional feast is meat or veggies, or seven courses long, the holiday dinner often comes with a lot of preparation, money spent, and a pinch of stress. To avoid food waste, it is recommended using a dinner party calculator to help you plan realistic food quantities and minimize food waste (SaveTheFood.com).
Put leftovers in the freezer or donate to your local food pantry.
Look for organic, grass-fed and wild fish ingredients at your local farmers markets and grocery stores.
And compost, compost, compost!
“Green” table décor Bring nature onto your table. Gather mason jars, branches, pinecones, tree trimmings, twigs, paper snowflakes, various sized wood slices, and tealights to create arrangements, wreaths, or natural bouquets for your buffet or table centerpiece.
Here are 2 DIY table décor tutorials
• How to Make a Rosemary Mini Wreath: Scented and compostable décor for candles or place cards.
• How to Make Golden Leaf Place Cards: Add some sparkle to your holiday table.
Don’t forget the dishes! My father has 11 siblings and my mom has six. Can you imagine the size of our holiday feasts! We were at least 20-25 people around the table sharing a holiday meal. Imagine the accumulation of plates and silverware on the counter! Some of my favorite holiday memories are being in the kitchen after dinner, with my cousins, uncles and aunties, washing and drying the dishes, sharing stories and laughing at memorable moments. Even if using disposable dishes seems attractive and time saving, consider using real dishes and avoid individually-packaged beverages in order to limit waste and plastic use.
Stay safe and healthy!
“This story was first published in Issaquah Highlands’ Connections news, December 2019”
Hi, I am Aline.
Cardboard Designer & Eco-lifestyle Coach
Creative and eco-minded French-native mom of 3, you can find me sipping a cup of tea, eating French pastries, hiking around with my border collie, designing a new piece of art or advocating for a greener lifestyle. Everywhere I go, I always have some dust of joy and creativity in my back pocket.