When the holidays roll around, most of us are wracking our brains to try and get the best gifts for our loved ones. Unfortunately, the holidays also tend to be the most wasteful time of the year, with piles of discarded wrapping paper, decorations and party supplies heading for the nearest landfill.
This year, how about a gift for the planet, as well? These 7 tips will help you make the holidays greener, so put them into action and spread the joy!
1.Use Eco-Friendly Décor – Festive home décor is a feast for the eyes, but it can turn into an ecological nightmare if it’s tossed into the trash a few weeks down the line.
- Create green décor with recycled materials, use branches, leaves, pine cones and other natural elements and store non-recyclable ornaments, and decorations for annual re-use.
- Look for trees grown in sustainable forests, which can be recycled after the holidays, buy a live tree that spends the rest of the year as a houseplant, or an artificial tree that can be reused every year.
- If candles are part of your décor, opt for natural soy candles that won’t release toxins when they burn (unlike paraffin candles, which affect indoor air quality).
- Replace decorative lighting with energy-efficient LED or solar lights, which are available in a huge variety of designs, colors and sizes. Put them on a timer to save even more energy!
2. Speaking of Email… – Skip the printed holiday invitations and cards, and send out email greetings or invites instead. Design one yourself or select from thousands available online, as an affordable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional greetings. Paper cards and mailers tend to be thrown away after the holidays, especially if they have embellishments that cannot be recycled.
3. Cook Healthy Meals – Over the holidays, we tend to throw healthy eating out of the window, which hurts us as well as the planet. Think of all the processed sugars, oils and fats you’re shoveling into your body (especially if you order in). Start a new holiday resolution instead – one where you and your loved ones are eating natural, organic, locally-grown, healthy foods!
4. Skip the Disposables – Disposable party products are a waste of money and resources, especially for a small gathering. Use cloth napkins instead of paper, serve snacks and meals on re-usable plates, and do the same with utensils, cups and glasses too. The less you use, the less goes into the trash at the end of the day. For a large party, use compostable products to reduce landfill waste.
5. Green Gifting – Instead of metallic paper, use recycled paper, cloth bags, baskets or other green wrapping alternatives. Select gifts with thought too; opting for locally-crafted items in place of mass-produced ones offers a boost to local businesses and artisans in addition to being unique. If you aren’t sure of someone’s tastes, give them email gift cards that they can redeem for something they’d love!
6. Minimize Party Waste – Other than disposable utensils, a lot of holiday party waste comes from food containers, packaging and party accessories. Look for reusable party kits online or create one for the holiday season by putting light but durable dishes, glasses, cloth napkins and table linen into a large container. Buy groceries and supplies from local markets and avoid extra packaging where you can.
7. Recycle/Reuse Everything – Or, what you can. It may not be possible to recycle all the décor or party products you used over the holidays, but do your part to collect and dispose of recyclable waste properly. Set up clearly-marked recycling bins (for bottles, cans and compostable waste) and encourage party guests to use them. After the holidays, pack, label and store all reusable items for next year’s festivities!
With a bit of thought and preparation, you can easily reduce your “festive” carbon footprint and make a difference to the post-holiday impact on the environment. Remember, less is more. The spirit of the holidays lies in joy shared with friends, family and people we care about, so let’s include our beautiful planet in that list!
As the Director at Excella Worldwide, Shruti Agrawal is a strategist with an Electronics Engineering background and always on the lookout for ways to challenge and disrupt business models to make them better.