I think we can all agree that December is one of the most consumption driven months of the year. We buy and share gifts, travel far and wide to see family and friends, and eat *all the special things*. All of these beautiful celebrations of the season are special and important, and unfortunately they all have the potential to combine into a really tragic waste of resources if we don’t go about them with some intentionality and thought. It’s with that mindset and an appreciation for how much power each one of us has to change our world, that I’m sharing:
10 Ways to add a Little More Green to Your Christmas:
- Give a few seconds extra thought to your purchases.
This time of year can bring out the strangest shopping habits in even the most spendthrift of people. This year I’m committed to thinking again before I purchase. Does that person really need this? Will they use it and appreciate it? Could I make these myself in an easy and cost efficient way? How much will this food/drink/extra thing add to our enjoyment of the holiday?
- Inventory your stock before you head to the store.
I’m guilty of walking past something in the store, thinking that we could probably use it, then realizing that I already have 10 at home, or even one that’s just as good. With non-perishable consumables this isn’t a problem. You’ll probably get to that tube of toothpaste, bottle of shampoo, and pack of toilet paper. However, what happens with the 15th strand of lights, the third pie pan, another little black dress, or those cheap shoes that are uncomfortable but cute? If we have our collections in mind when we head to the store we’ll save money, space and guilt, while allowing ourselves to get even more enjoyment from the things we already have. Creativity and variety are born from the decision to reinvent what we have instead of buying something else.
- Gift reusable versions of common disposable items.
You know your friend loves cosmetics and skin care? She’d probably love some cotton makeup pads, a refillable container of body scrub, or a zero waste skincare kit. The coffee drinker in your life would enjoy an insulated travel mug with his coffee shop gift card, and everyone needs some tote bags in their life. If you’re afraid of coming across as the crazy granola cousin who’s ruining family Christmas, maybe you just make the wrapping of your gifts reusable this year by wrapping in cloth bags.
- Wrap your gifts in something that didn’t come off a shiny roll.
Sunday comics, patterned Chipotle bags, last year’s gift bag, there are a ton of ways to wrap that gift that don’t involve buying more paper designed to be torn apart. If reusing another paper good makes you feel like your gifts will be missing something, try buying plain brown paper and decorating it with ribbons or even your own stamps and designs. This kind of wrapping paper can be recycled and sometimes has been already.
- Up-cycle some thrift store finds.
I know some people are strictly against gifting used items. If so, that’s cool, this idea isn’t for you. If you aren’t one of those people you might find the process of “upcycling” a thrift store item to be even more fun than gift shopping. There are millions of items donated to thrift stores every day, many with lots of life left in them. Whether you are shopping for a handyman, a fashionista, or your mom, there are used treasures that will fit the bill. I find it hard to just wrap up something I bought at a thrift store, but adding my own touch and creativity or combining used items with new ones eliminates that feeling.
- Make gifts for others.
I’m sure we’ve all heard stories of DIY projects gone wrong, homemade things that cost more than store bought, and handcrafts that turned out so poorly the person was embarrassed to gift them. For every cautionary tale there are 3 hand painted wall hangings, two articles of clothing, and 6 baked goods and desserts that became favorite gifts. Stick to your strengths, stick to a budget and get creative. I have loved making gifts for my parents, in-laws and siblings over the years, and I’m always proud to hear the excitement and see the creations hanging out years later.
- Be conscious of single-use items.
Last time you were at a family potluck how many plates did you use? How many napkins, forks, and cups? Disposable dining materials somehow trick out brains into thinking that we need a new plate every time we want something to eat, a separate plate for dessert, a bowl for salad. We throw the plate and the cutlery away then in an hour decide to have something else and need a new plate and fork. I’m not suggesting that any of this is bad or that large functions need china. I’m encouraging you to be aware of the single use items that you use on a weekly basis. Pay attention to the straws, napkins, paper towels, cups and cutlery, and think before you grab another one.
- Shop local.
Small town, mom and pop shops are more expensive than Amazon. The candy store on the corner won’t offer free next day shipping. The hours might be funny and the selection small, but if there are independently owned small businesses in your town, take a look. You might be surprised. Last December I discovered a little store in the city where I worked that sold items made from local seaweed. A bit strange, maybe, but the “shower bombs” were a hit! Everyone appreciated the handmade biscotti more than the usual chain chocolatier truffles, and tee shirts screen printed in town are so much cooler than ones printed in a sweatshop in a developing country.
- Seek out sustainable, environmentally conscious or ethical gift options.
There are tons of products, beautiful, high-quality ones, that were designed with the environment in mind. Bracelets made of plastic found in the ocean, clothing and accessories that share their profits with animal rehabilitation companies, minimally processed, responsibly created things. Thankfully products like this are becoming more and more common and thus easier to find! If you’re interested in making your purchases count for something, check them out!
I realize that these ideas might be foreign, silly, off-putting or even frustrating to some of you, and I understand. No one wants to think that their purchases and consumption might have negative effects on other people and creatures. I’m sure some would rather enjoy their holiday without feeling guilty about it, or like there is “more you could be doing”. I get that too. I find it impossible to relax with thoughts like that hovering over my head.
I’m not sharing any of these ideas to judge, condemn, instruct, or criticize. I’ve been thinking about how to add a little extra something to my holiday celebration this year, and thinking about the planet and the impact my behaviors can have on it helps me to enjoy this season even more! Whatever you do, buy and enjoy, may this season be one of connection, warmth, love and sharing.