With Christmas and New Year just around the corner, an environmental health organization is urging families to celebrate safely and sustainably as the entire planet grapples with the unprecedented climate, plastic and COVID-19 woes.
In a bid to promote zero waste, toxin-free and COVID-safe celebrations, the EcoWaste Coalition have collated some zero waste tips from its 150+ strong advocacy network to prevent and reduce holiday trash, exposure to harmful chemicals, and the risk of coronavirus infection during the joyful season.
In a press statement, the organization said, “These tips, we hope, can help us to revert to the true spirit of Christmas and New Year togetherness and thanksgiving, which has been altered to become a purely consumerist’s raucous revelry, and be a responsible steward of Mother Earth.
“The COVID-19 health crisis necessitates that we celebrate differently and keep safety top of mind. We can’t let our guard down against this dreadful virus.”
Preventing and reducing Holiday Trash
1. Bring a stash of reusable bags and containers when you shop and refuse paper and plastic carry bags at the checkout counter.
2. Select ecological, healthy and safe products with minimal packaging and buy local as much as possible.
3. Support plastic-free enterprises and patronize eco-stores or zero-waste stores for gifts and decorations.
4. Cut down on food waste by preparing and serving only what is needed, store extra food properly so as to reduce waste, and turn kitchen waste into compost.
5. Turn your kitchen into a “conscious kitchen” where nourishing and healing food are planned and prepared, and take steps to minimize, if not eliminate, food waste.
6. Keep household waste sorted properly by providing clear recycling and composting instructions to avoid landfilling recyclables.
7. Go for more austere holiday decorations in keeping with the difficult times by reusing Christmas ornaments and decorative items. When the yuletide season is over, clean and store used decorations properly for reuse next Christmas.
8. Stick to LED Christmas lights as these are more energy efficient.
9. As for holiday presents, consider the following gift ideas: gift experience not material things, give plants or seedlings, give environmental books, give children’s books tackling the themes such as kindness, peace, environmental awareness, respect for diversity, give restaurant gift coupons or charity gift cards, donate to disaster relief and resilience efforts, including tree growing or rainforestation initiatives.
10. Skip traditional holiday cards and opt for digital or electronic cards to reduce waste.
11. Ditch gift wrappers. If wrapping is unavoidable, wrap gifts with repurposed magazines, newspapers, shoe boxes, bandannas, hankies or fabric scraps. Include a note not to throw away, but reuse the wrapper. Also, avoid foil and colored gift wrappers as some of them may contain lead and other chemicals of concern that can harm the environment after being thrown away.
Related Post: 3 Eco-Conscious Ways To Wrap Gifts This Christmas
12. Save wrappers, ribbons, boxes, hampers, envelopes and cards from gifts received for use in the next gift-giving season or repurpose them for school art and craft projects.
13. Junk disposables. Use reusable and washable tableware.
14. Do not release balloons into the sky or burst firecrackers, fireworks and similar explosives to welcome the New Year as this leaves particles of non-biodegradable waste and can harm wildlife.
15. Quit smoking or help someone else to quit smoking or vaping to reduce overall trash contributed by these harmful and non-essential products.
Preventing and reducing exposure to toxic chemicals
16. Choose duly registered and labeled age-appropriate toys and childcare articles that are safe from harmful substances like cadmium, lead, mercury, phthalates and other chemicals of concern.
17. Carefully check the labeling information of a product before buying it. When there are chemical ingredients that you don’t understand and when in doubt, don’t buy it; beware of brands and products engaged in greenwashing and pinkwashing.
18. Break free from smoking and vaping as a Christmas gift to yourself and to the people you care about, and a resolution to a healthier 2021.
19. Go for non-toxic cleaning agents like baking soda and vinegar whenever possible.
20. Use certified lead-safe paints and avoid spreading lead-containing paint chips and dust from improper renovation and repainting activities.
21. Never burn discards from pre- and post-holiday cleanup as open burning yields a variety of toxic pollutants, including dioxins and furans, into the environment.
Preventing and reducing risk of COVID-19 infection
22. Shop online rather than in person whenever feasible to avoid packed malls that are teeming with holiday shoppers.
23. If you need to get out of your home to shop, go to less crowded places that are well-ventilated and where basic health protocols are enforced such as physical distancing and the wearing of face masks.
24. Avoid buying Christmas gifts or groceries at the last minute to avoid large crowds in malls and markets. Beat the holiday rush by buying what you need ahead of the Christmas week.
25. Refrain from engaging in activities that pose higher risk of spreading COVID-19 such as big gatherings, parties, binge drinking and karaoke singing with persons who do not live in your household.
26. Plan for a Christmas or New Year family gathering in which tree growing or garden growing is included in the activity.
27. Opt for virtual celebrations if you or if some family members are at risk. Instead of the traditional physical gathering, switch to Zoom, Google Meet, Messenger (online) video call parties to practice legitimate social distancing while still being able to celebrate the holidays together.
28. Eat right by cooking and serving hot meals derived from indigenous food that heal and nourishes, strengthens immunity, and eliminates chemical toxins in the body.
29. When receiving guests during the holidays, stick to essential COVID-19 protective measures: wear a face mask, clean your hands often, disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, and observe non-contact greetings in lieu of handshakes, hugging and kissing.
30. Limit duration of gatherings as longer gatherings pose greater risks for any COVID-19 exposure.
This article was submitted by EcoWaste Coalition and edited for editorial purposes. These tips were contributed by the following organizations: Action on Smoking and Health, Aksyon Kalikasan, Arugaan, Consumer Rights for Safe Food, Environmental Resources Management Center-DLSUD, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability-Davao, Institute for the Development of Educational and Ecological Alternatives-Cavite, Krusada sa Kalikasan-Nueva Ecija, Mother Earth Foundation, Oceana Philippines, Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Philippine Earth Justice Center-Cebu, Plastic Free Bohol, and War on Waste-Negros Oriental.
Cover image by Karolina Grabowska.