With less than three weeks before break and the holiday season upon us, I’m sure people can’t wait for their finals to be over and for winter break to begin. The bright lights of Christmas and Hanukkah are quickly approaching and with them often come an extreme excess of waste and pollution as people buy more, travel more and use more energy.
EarthHero, a sustainable climate management guide, has found that in the time period from Thanksgiving to New Years, Americans produce 25 percent more trash than any other time of the year—this translates to about 25 million tons of trash that piles up in landfills. However, there are plenty of opportunities to help, and lots that people can do for a more sustainable holiday season that’s both simpler and more beneficial for the planet.
I’ll start off first with planning out what gifts to get people ahead of time. Instead of relying on Amazon’s two-day shipping for last minute gifts, or things you buy on a whim only to eventually return, try your best to plan gifts ahead of time. That way, you can choose standard over expedited shipping and avoid unnecessary returns as well as take less trips to the store by getting things all at once, saving both gas and money for you and whoever you're gifting to.
Expedited shipping often means more trips by less efficient means and definitely puts a strain on the workers as well. In addition, putting more thought into a gift before buying it is never a bad thing.
Your gift to someone doesn’t have to be a new item purchased from a store though. Can’t think of a gift to give? Consider donating money to a charity or non-profit organization on their behalf. Gifts that will last a long time and can be reused and eventually recycled, or otherwise eco-friendly gifts made of recycled content and sustainably-sourced materials are a wonderful way to do your part this holiday season. Best of all, edible gifts are always a treat and will often be used up completely thus avoiding more waste. And they're both cheaper and a lot more appreciated than tons of the consumeristic stuff we tend to give one another. Just think about it. What would you rather get for Christmas: a weird pair of socks or a delicious bar of sustainably-sourced chocolate?
Perhaps one of the best parts of the holiday season is the vast amount of food we all gorge on whenever December comes around. To reduce your food waste from feasting, plan the menu ahead of time so you know exactly how much food to get. If you’re having a party, avoid single-use items such as plastic utensils and paper or styrofoam plates and instead opt for re-usable options. Besides, you'll appreciate having some real plates and silverware when you don't have to buy them again the second they finish filling up your garbage!
Here’s some final, quick tips for a great, eco-friendly holiday season. If you’re looking to buy new lights, consider LEDs as they use one tenth of the energy of traditional Christmas lights and last longer. Recycle paper wrapping paper, or just ditch the wrapping paper altogether and repurpose Christmas lights, reuse gift bags, and stay away from plastic and metal packaging. Handcrafted packaging looks better, lasts longer and gives a handmade and heartfelt edge to whatever gift you're giving!