In this conscious-minded environment, there are ways of creating greener, more sustainable holidays. Let’s be honest – it is so easy to get caught up in the holiday season. As consumers we are bombarded with the “best sales” of the year while cheery upbeat seasonal music is playing in the background, we develop this image from an early age that there is a correlation between the volume of gifts given and our happiness. Here are some tips on how to have a more “greener” holiday.
Sustainable Holidays | A Greener Way To Celebrate
Many people take on a huge amount of stress to provide their loved one with the “perfect” holiday. In the process, credit card bills skyrocket, our lives become even more cluttered with material things, and many begin the new year with new debt. In addition to fills our lives with new things and memories, we add a significant amount of trash to our landfills from gift wrap to the packaging of the newly purchased items.
The Traditional Christmas Tree
There is nothing quite like the nostalgia of opening the door during the month of December and being greeted with the fresh scent of the pine tree. Our sense of smell creates strong synapses in our brain that deeply embeds certain memories. Unfortunately, these beautiful trees are cut down annually at an alarming rate, only to be kept alive in homes for three to four weeks before being dragged out to the curbside leaving a trail of pine needles.
It takes eight to nine years for those trees to mature. News reports this season have identified a shortage in Christmas trees this year, which in addition to the deforestation issue equates to higher prices for consumers.
As an alternative, artificial trees offer the more sustainable approach as they can be utilized year after year. The biggest drawback, however, is the loss of the pine smell. Scented candles and incense can supplement for the nostalgia. Depending on the size of the tree, potting an actual tree and tending to it year round is another possible solution. After Thanksgiving, the tree can be brought inside for the holiday season.
I had a friend once purchase a small rosemary bush, trimmed it in a triangle shape to resemble a pine tree. At Christmas time, she decorated it. It was actually quite lovely. The plant sat on her balcony during the year, which she tended to and enjoyed fresh rosemary regularly.
Holiday Happenings in Hawaii… Starting this Saturday!🌴🎁🎄 – https://t.co/J6KF3rnpI8
— Wrappily (@Wrappily) December 2, 2017
Every gift, big and small is wrapped up in a special seasonal print paper to encourage curiosity of the gift-receiver. Tons of wrapping paper, tissue paper, gift bags, ribbon, and bows are thrown away during the holiday season. Generally speaking, gift bags are a more sustainable approach to gift giving as the bag can be used over and over again. My grandma instilled in our family the value of saving and reusing the bows. Bags were diligently accessible throughout the living room during the gift opening ceremony for keeping the bows safe from being thrown away after a gift was opened.
To this day, throwing away a bow is sacrilegious in my family. In terms of actual wrapping paper, I am personally a fan of reusing the larger pieces for future giving wrapping needs. However, this is challenging to accomplish if the gift opener was an excited toddler (or an adult for that matter) opening the gift with no regard for the lifecycle of the paper. Not that I blame them, of course, but at some point growing up I was expected to open a gift carefully so the wrapping paper could be reused.
Recycling wrapping paper is often a challenge. The dyes, lamination, and non-paper additives in some wrapping paper cannot be recycled. Wrapping paper is not always labeled for recycled, adding to the confusion and general assumption that if it is paper it can be recycled. There are several companies providing eco-friendly gift-wrapping options. Wrappily, for example, is a Hawaii-based company that offers beautiful wrapping paper created from recycled newspaper. According to their website, wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about four million tons of trash annually in the U.S. alone.
Presence Vs. Presents
Consumers are constantly pressured to purchase the newest and “greatest” as told to us through strong marketing campaigns and the “best sales” of the year. However, those sales tend to influence purchasing habits that favor overconsumption and unnecessary spending. They also add value to material items equating ‘having’ with ‘happiness’. The holiday season, however, is about spending time with your loved ones. Children, especially, innately want your attention versus your gifts. Society instills their desire for more – more toys, more video games, etc.
One Christmas, the first gift my then two-year-old daughter opened was from my brother and his wife. It was a tea set. She immediately wanted to open it and wanted to play. She was no longer interested in opening any other gifts. Within myself, I noticed that my initial response was to take the tea set away and give her another gift to open. Then I stopped and examined why would I take away the joy she had just so she could continue receiving and opening more gifts. I decided to rebel. I let her happily play with the tea set and told my family she would open up gifts at her leisure.
It took several days for her to open all the presents and it was worth it. I also use the commonly known parenting practice by storing toys and bringing them out on occasion to keep things seemingly new and different.
Give More Experiences, Fewer Things
Instead of books, give a library card. Instead of toys, give tickets to a children’s museum. Give activities. Give your time and attention to your loved ones. Donating your time together to charity is another way to give back to your community. Sharing experiences together rather than buying each other gifts develops your relationship while offsetting impractical possibly unwanted and unneeded gifts. It may also bring a lot more joy in your life and those around you.
Sustainable UF shows just how to have a sustainable holiday:
The saying “it is the thought that counts” is cliché for a reason because it is true! More than receiving a gift, I think we all would prefer spending time with our loved one. Sharing our memories and making new ones. Let’s rebel together! Let’s enjoy the holiday season with sustainable, healthy values and practices – a gift that keeps on giving!
What are the ways you and your family contribute to celebrate greener sustainable holidays? Let us know in the comments section below.