Go sustainable when you’re shopping, traveling, sending cards, decorating, and choosing gifts. When you save energy and resources, you protect the environment and safeguard health for both today and tomorrow.
Are you one of those organized people who are already prepared for the end of the year parties? Or do you still need to plan or buy something? Either way, why not take a second look at some of your regular end-of-year activities to see if you can make them more sustainable?
Sustainability is the responsible use of environmental resources in the present so that future generations will have enough to meet their needs. It is a noble goal, but in what way can one person help achieves that goal? You may not realize that you are already promoting sustainability by reusing and recycling; produces compost; walk, bike, use public transportation, or drive a low-emission vehicle to get around; save water and electricity; joins community cleanup efforts; or if you save resources in another way.
The more people participate in these energy- and resource-saving activities, the greater effect they will have on our planet. And the result of a sustainable planet is better health and longer lives for the people and animals that inhabit it.
For many of us, the holidays are a time when we prioritize spending time with our families and friends. But they can also be a time when we spend too much and produce a lot of garbage.
Consider these statistics:
. In the United States, people throw out about 25% more trash between Thanks giving and New Year’s Eve than at any other time of the year.
. If each family wrapped just 3 gifts with reused materials, enough paper would be saved to cover 45,000 football fields.
. About 35% of people in the United States have an unused Christmas present in their closet that is gathering dust.
If you want to include sustainability in your year-end celebrations, we have a list of suggestions for you. Some of them may spark your creativity and even be entertaining!
Decorate with energy-efficient and durable items.
. Buy an artificial tree that you can use for many years; choose the one that consumes the least energy. Safety and low power consumption should always be considered first.
. Contact your state cooperative extension service External to find out which trees are grown in your area or which trees are grown in a way that keeps forests safe and sound.
. Buy a real tree that you can plant outside or that you can keep in a pot indoors after the holidays.
. Dispose of your tree in a crushing center or return it to the environment in another environmentally friendly way.
Use energy efficiently.
. Consider using few or no lights in your holiday decorations.
. Decorate with LED string lights that use less energy.
. Connect a timer to indoor and outdoor accent lights to save electricity.
. Decorate creatively and inexpensively with natural materials from your garden or items you already have.
. Save money and resources by making gifts with your own hands.
Use fewer resources when shopping, giving gifts, and wrapping.
. Buy online. Bring and use your own bags when shopping. Keep bags in the car so they are always available.
. When shopping, save energy by multitasking in one trip, using public transportation, or carpooling with someone else.
. Give gifts that are durable, low-energy, recyclable, or made with natural products. Buy gifts that are part of the “fair trade” initiative, made or grown locally, or grown organically.
. Support your local economy by shopping at local shops, fairs, or antique dealers.
. Make the gifts with your own hands: knit, sew, bake, build or create your own works of art; make calendars with your own photos or a book of your favorite recipes.
. Give gifts that also support your community: tickets to a local play, concert, sporting event, or other local attraction; museum memberships; gift certificates for a massage at a local spa , a horseback ride, or a rock-climbing class.
. Give away your time and talents: give coupons to the elderly that you can use to do housework, meals, yard work, cleaning, washing windows, cleaning the car, walking the dog to a certain time, give them computer classes or teach them to use a smartphone.
. Make donations to a charity or service organization on behalf of a friend or relative who supports that cause.
. Get creative with the materials you use to wrap the gifts
- Scarves, fabrics, scarves.
- Old maps, musical scores, advertisements.
- Reusable cans, baking sheets, or other home or garden items.
- Email cards or make your own.
- Buy cards made from recycled materials and printed with non-toxic ink.
- Use the front of cards from other years as postcards or gift tags.
- Give cards that are eco-friendly.
. Consider giving toys that don’t run on batteries. If you must include batteries with a gift, be sure to purchase rechargeable batteries. If you are giving away electronic gadgets, choose the ones that save energy.
Eat sustainable food and avoid using disposable packaging and buying products with extra packaging.
. Look for sustainable foods in your area and, if possible, buy locally produced ones.
. Buy snacks and drinks in bulk to avoid over-packaging.
. Serve food with washable silverware, plates, and glasses, rather than using disposable items.
. Make eggnog hot chocolate or tea and homemade ice cream in large quantities.
Why not choose some of these ideas that are easy for you to incorporate into your celebrations? Not only are you contributing to sustainability and health, but they may also make your life easier. And you may get more of what we all need at this time of year: time to enjoy family and friends, and to focus on the joys of this season.