It’s the most wonderful time of the year once again as the entire world celebrates Christmas and New Year with family, friends and loved ones.
Unfortunately, the outlook is not so wonderful for Mother Earth as the holidays are expected to bring in more waste from all the celebrations.
In the United States alone, Stanford University reports that Americans generate at least 25 percent more waste from Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year as compared to the rest of the year. This amounts to an extra million ton of refuse per week. For a more dramatic presentation, imagine this: by not using at least 2 feet of Christmas ribbon per family, we can save about 38,000 miles long of ribbons – enough to tie a bow around the Earth; by reducing the use of a card per family, 50,000 cubic yards of paper will be saved.1
Hence, it is important to practice a zero-waste Christmas. This technically means rethinking our holiday consumption to ensure zero to minimal waste. We don’t want to burden Mother Earth with all the wrapping paper, ribbons, Christmas cards and food waste that we always put out after the holidays.
Of course this can be a big challenge and may prove to be very difficult. However, with a strong resolve, it can definitely be done. Here are six practical suggestions:
1. Give gifts of experiences.
Instead of giving out material gifts, why not splurge on experiential ones? These can be as simple as giving out hugs, washing those oh-so-many dishes after a smashing Christmas dinner, a special massage, trips to the spa, weekends away, holiday vacations or yoga sessions.
Trust us when we say that these are even more precious and appreciated as experiential gifts foster bonding and stronger relationships between the gift giver and the receiver.
2. Re-use those knick-knacks.
Do you keep gift wrappers, gift bags, ribbons and other knick-knacks that you’ve received over the year? It’s now time to bring them back to life as you reuse them to wrap and decorate your gifts and giveaways to loved ones. Remember, you can also use old magazines or newspapers. Just a note though, avoid using sticky tape. Just use twine or old ribbons to add that character to your gifts. Used folders or old papers make for great gift tags.
3. Recycle those bottles and glass containers.
Instead of buying material stuff, another great idea is to give out homemade gifts. Why not share the family’s jam recipe by giving out jams in the bottles that you have collected over the year? You can also use those bottles for sharing candies, bottle cakes, sauces and other stuff that you can make with your hands. It will definitely be more personal and special.
4. Avoid the use of plastics.
When you go grocery shopping for that ultimate Christmas meal or if you are out for some last-minute gift shopping, always bring your own reusable bag. That way, you do not have to reach for that plastic shopping bag which will ultimately end up in a landfill and will contribute to more pollution. Also, don’t put your gifts in plastic bags. If you don’t have leftover wrappers, you can even choose not to wrap it entirely.
5. Practice responsible shopping.
When you shop, always think about buying stuff that will not harm the environment. As much as possible, choose ethical and renewable products. For example, instead of a leather bag, why not choose bags made of recycled cloth or leather alternatives such as microfibers, jute, hemp, among others?
Also, choose products that are of high quality and will last for a long time. These might be pricier but will definitely be lovingly used and will not end up in trash bins for a while. It might even be passed on to other people.
Go for items that will not have adverse effects on health. Do not go for toxic products. Always check the labels for PVC free, BPA free, lead free, phthalate-free products.
6. Avoid food wastage.
It is a usual tendency during the holidays to buy as much food as possible, without much thought as to its consumption. This then leads to a lot of wastage. Hence, it is important to:
- Plan what to buy and stick to it. Get your Christmas and New Year’s menus ready and buy only the food that is needed. Do not give in to the impulse of stocking up on food that you don’t need.
- Consider only the number of people who will be joining your holiday feast. If there’s only three of you, don’t buy and prepare meals for six people.
- Share the food with your neighbors and friends. If you have a lot of food left, share the love with your neighbors and the community in general.
- Be creative in re-using leftovers. These can be used for pasta, omelets, fillings etc.
When preparing your holiday feast, avoid using disposables. Instead, invest on reusable tablecloths and napkins. This may result to more work in terms of the cleaning up but Mother Earth will be thanking you for it.
Indeed, there are lots of ways to ensure that the holidays are wonderful not just for you and your loved ones but also for the environment. With climate change issues, it is important to re-think how we can all celebrate Christmas and New Year in the most sustainable way possible.
So with that said, have a merry and zero-waste holiday season! Cheers!
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- Stanford University. No date. Frequently Asked Questions: Holiday Waste Prevention. http://bgm.stanford.edu/pssi_faq_holiday_waste. ↩