But, why should I care about a sustainable holiday?
For a season sort of known for its excess, you might be wondering why you should even care about having a more sustainable holiday. Of course, I believe it matters for the environment – less excess, less waste, more planet to enjoy. However, it’s more than that. The excess of the holiday season is STRESSING us out. In fact, according to the Harvard Neuroscience Institute, 65% of us are very or somewhat stressed in December.
“Only 10 percent reported no stress during the season. Among the holiday stressors listed by respondents were the financial demands of the season, negotiating the interpersonal dynamics of family, and maintaining personal health habits such as an exercise regimen.”Harvard Neuroscience Institute, 2019
We are in debt or at least spending more than we are comfortable with. We are doing, getting, and giving too much. We need to slow down and find more joy in simpler, smaller things to have a more sustainable holiday season.
Sustainable Holiday, in what ways?
So many. Let us count them. Environment. Waste. Spending. Health. Time. Money. Food. Expectations. I could go on.
But let’s get more specific. There are lots of things you can do to decrease your consumption without losing the magic of the season, and without losing your mind. Being more sustainable during the holidays does NOT have to mean doing more work! If you think more creatively and are open-minded, you’ll find that convenience doesn’t have to be relegated to only wasteful habits.
- Reuse bags from last year, or reuse bows, boxes, and sustainable wrap like these.
- Don’t wrap at all!
- For the crafty, forethinking kinda people: use brown bags at the grocery store and save them to wrap and decorate with stamps.
- Decorate packages with scraps of greens, berries, and fabric.
- Shop second hand for toys and clothes. This is a big one. Americans will spend trillions on the holidays this year. <gulp>
- Trade with friends – the white elephant gift exchange idea came from somewhere, right? It can be so much fun, and you don’t have to waste a thing.
- Gift experiences. Memberships to places like the zoo, a trip to the movies, or the classic coupon book. Tap that link to get more ideas.
- Shop from ethical/sustainable places. This is a no-brainer for me – if I’m buying new, I’m conscious of where it comes from.
- Offset your carbon footprint. Many companies offset their shipping or you can donate to places like Cool Effect or Cloverly. Companies like Thrive Market, Grove, and Etsy already offer carbon-neutral shipping, many airlines offer an option to offset, and UPS offers it as an option for companies.
- Limit who you shop for. This can be a hard one, I get it. There’s a lot of family politics wrapped up in the holidays. Have open conversations with others and try to find a solution that works for everyone.
- Limit how much you buy. I love the: wear, read, want, need list for the kiddos. It’s simple for them and for me and eliminates a lot of waste.
- Adopt a family instead.
- Can you eliminate any? The answer is: yes.
- Send a digital card instead or limit who you send cards to.
- There are lots of free activities – ice skating, free Santa visits, caroling, driving to look at lights with some hot cocoa. Be creative, look to see what your town offers, and challenge yourself to not spend money on activities this year.
- Opt-out of Secret Santa, holiday sweater parties, and anything else that forces you to buy anything you don’t want/need. You’re not a Scrooge – holiday cheer doesn’t need to include waste.
- Outsource if you’re able: Can auntie make cookies with the kids? How about the bakery? #shoplocal
- If you have a fake tree, keep it and use it. Yes, you heard me. There is nothing more sustainable than using what you already have. Shop second hand for a tree. Buy a potted pine tree you can use every year or plant after you’re done. If you must chop a tree down, you can shop locally: look into tree farms that are more sustainable and don’t use chemicals or excess water, or grow your own. More fun ideas here.
- Shop for your decor second hand or trade with friends if you want to mix it up.
- Fix what is broken. Ya know all those light strands come with extra lights for a reason.
- Decorate with popcorn and orange peels, real pine trimmed from your tree or yard,
- Not all candles are made equal. You can find some sustainable ones for Hanukkah or Advent at MightyNest. Use code: INVITE7 for $7 off.
- Having a party? Assign people food so you don’t have duplicates and waste.
- If you gift people food like cookies or pies or cakes, can you give them in containers they can return? Perhaps for a refill? 😉
It doesn’t have to be impossible or even difficult to have a more sustainable holiday. Pick one or two things and start there. Gradually change more things every year until you feel confident in your sustainable practices. None of us are perfect, not even Santa, but if we all do a little bit better, it’ll make a significant difference!