This holiday season is full of joy, but it can also put a lot of stress on you, your wallet and the environment. This may be the year to consider having a holiday season that concentrates more on celebrating the people and the season that makes this time of year so important.
It’s easy to go overboard, but Jody Sackett, of the Rumson Environmental Commission, has some suggestions that may help you share a different kind of holiday season.
“Household waste increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, contributing over a million tons of packaging, gift wrap, food waste and more to our landfills,” Sackett said. “However, there are some simple ways to reduce the holiday impact on our environment.”
We have all bought lots of gifts just for the sake of buying them. This year, why not check that list carefully and maybe call a “gifting truce” that will save you and your recipients time and money? You might be surprised at how eagerly folks agree to this. Studies show half of recipients get gifts they don’t even want. Consider sustainable presents instead of ordering physical items online that require fuel and plastic packaging for delivery. Millennials often prefer experiences over stuff, so consider environmentally sound e-gift cards for intangibles like restaurants, movies, travel, stores, coffee houses, theatres and museums. If you prefer physical gifts, consider giving the popular new Zero Waste Gift Kits to help fellow earthlings get sustainably started. And don’t forget donations to favorite charities. Make a donation to the local SPCA/Humane Society for animal lovers, choose KIVA cards that promote women-owned businesses across the globe, donate to Lunch Break to feed those in need, or give to environmental groups like the Littoral Society for marine enthusiasts.
We all love our holiday traditions, but they can become excessive. A little tweaking can help them become a bit more sustainable. Perhaps instead of giving individual gifts, create a new tradition for your whole group, such as a restaurant dinner, a zoo trip, an Airbnb excursion, a local cooking class or tarot card readings. Carpooling to the event reduces your carbon footprint and gives you more yakking time together. Or maybe throw a sustainable decorating party where everyone brings natural or recyclable elements like pine boughs, holly sprigs, pinecones, old ribbons and fabric scraps, or used holiday cards to make beautiful new centerpieces, door designs, and mantle decorations. Make it a potluck for easy fun and a cookie swap too so there’s a sweet treat at the end.
Though it’s paper, gift wrap can’t always be recycled. Laminated, metallic, glittered or textured paper is probably landfill-bound. Why not take the ecological route and put the gifts in brown or white paper bags with handles (ideally recycled from previous deliveries)? Write the recipient’s name on the bag and you don’t even need gift tags anymore. Feeling artistic? Decorate the paper bags with various colored Sharpies, and maybe glue on designs cut from recycled holiday cards or old photos. Try lavishly embellishing brown butcher’s paper with paint or markers to use as gift wrap too. Kids love arts and crafts, so let them work marvelous projects that also helps them they’re a feel part of the holiday preparations. Just avoid glitter, which is made of extremely long-lasting microplastics that can end up contaminating precious waterways.
Make It Sustainable
Choose LED instead of incandescent holiday lights and you’ll use 95 percent less energy and save money too. Connecting your lights to timers also saves money and helps nocturnal wildlife navigate better. Shredded documents make great packing material for shipping. Start saving takeout containers and provide them to guests at your delectable feasts; your guests can take tasty leftovers back and you’ll be reducing food waste and greenhouse gases. And don’t forget to make eco-friendly New Year’s Resolutions – reduce your use of plastics and pesticides, cultivate native plants to help local wildlife, compost leftover organics, and schedule immersive nature walks for you and your family to fully appreciate our magical peninsula environment that you are protecting.