It’s that time of year when the sun low in the sky reminds us that we are just spinning and tilting around a red-hot star.
We begin lighting candles and thinking about end-of-year festivities, honoring the traditions of our forebearers.
Do we shower myriads of gifts wrapped in tree skin to display our love? Do we spend resources on meaningless stuff because Santa no longer bulges down some prophetic chimney?
Does the holiday feast, the decorations, the wrapping all need to scream of overconsumption? How much ends up in landfills?
Those of us concerned about resources, biodiversity, and Climate Change may want to turn into a Scrooge-like malcontent this year.
While we can’t make changes for everyone and how they celebrate the holiday season, we can start with our families and make new Eco-Friendly traditions.
Here are a few ways not to let Scrooge be your holiday guide:
Give meaningful and responsible gifts
You shouldn’t have to feel obligated to give anyone (especially me) a holiday gift.
With that said, if you’re feeling the pressure, consider things people can use.
Organic foods, gift coupons or subscriptions are great ideas that help the planet and feed your beloveds.
The folks at Only Organic recognize that this giving season may look different this year but understand still want to give the gift of organic. They’ve gathered some unique ideas for gift-giving this year to keep the holiday spirit alive and well within our Only Organic community
Or why not a live tropical plant that can bring a little rainforest into their home, introducing exotic flair and beautiful colors all year long?
Buy local and or Fair-Trade gifts that are useful to the recipient and helpful to whoever made them.
Ask your people what they want or need before buying anything. They may only want your time and friendship during the holidays.
Revisit wrapping paper
One of the most mass-produced and biggest wasted items during the holiday season is wrapping paper. We spend money on it, delicately tape it, just to be torn off and thrown away instantly.
This “paper” is often laden with foils and coatings that render it unrecyclable. Ribbons are included!
Most wrapping paper is produced in countries where the workers are underpaid and exposed to toxic chemicals from the manufacturing process.
This year if you’re going to wrap anything, use a towel or handkerchief (they can be gifts too). Enter “furoshiki” into your favorite search engine for inspiration. The word refers to a Japanese wrapping style and type of wrapping cloth. Even newspapers or old magazines will do.
Or you can reuse brown paper that comes with your previous purchases. This is packaging paper, you can buy some recycled packing paper or reuse the stuff that you receive in your packages. This paper is recyclable, and it can be dolled up with a few decorations like small pinecones to add some flair. You can also use brown paper shopping bags or kraft paper, which is recyclable.
Light your festivities efficiently
There’s something magical about decorative lights during the holiday season, but at the same time, those lights are consuming energy.
Switching to energy-saving LED lights can help save you a lot of money on your energy bill and still illuminate your holiday.
Something else that can help your home can include solar installation, as this is an eco-friendly method of getting more energy for your home too.
Imagine a novel Christmas tree
If your family tradition includes enshrining a dead tree with sparkly objects, you might want to think about alternatives.
Live trees are great because they can be decorated and then set outside, reused next year or planted.
Artificial trees can be used year after year and can last decades if taken care of. But what are the environmental impacts of their production?
If you’re set on purchasing a cut tree, then:
- Make sure to compost it or find a recycling option
- Give it a second life by using the branches and wood in your garden
I decorated a Christmas gourde one year, but that’s not for everyone. You can, however, decorate just about anything like a ladder or make your own tree out of stacked books, driftwood or even gin bottles!
I have seen a wall decorated with trinkets in the shape of a tree that looked pretty darn creative.
It’s so important to watch your carbon footprint and look into ways to reduce it. Sometimes, it takes getting a little creative in order to do so.
Don’t mail out greeting cards
Greeting cards are something that we open and look at for a moment; we may leave a few on the mantle for a couple of weeks, but inevitably they get landfilled.
Greeting cards require resources from paper and ink to the energy used for shipping them. Depending on the card, it may not even be recyclable.
If you must send a greeting, try sending e-greeting cards or make your own and give them in person instead.
What about holiday travel?
Understandably, you want to see family and friends during the holidays, but the expense and the new Omicron variant make travel seem a little less festive.
If you must travel, investigate the most eco-friendly ways to travel, such as a train. If you don’t have to travel, then it’s going to be far more eco-friendly to have an old-fashioned phone call or even a video call with friends and family.
Be mindful of all you do.
As the light wanes here in the north, it’s a good time to think about your intentions for this holiday. What do you want to nourish or foster?
Don’t let consumerism nor Scroogeism guide you.
As Bob Hope once said, “My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”
Isn’t it all just about love?