The holidays are just around the corner and that means lots of excess and waste. It’s that time of year when many folks will spend entirely too much on stuff they don’t need and they will pay little if any attention to how their purchases will impact the environment. It is not just the products themselves either, with their cheap plastic and toxic materials. It is also packaging…the boxes, the plastic, and the paper. It’s the holiday cards (2.6 billion sold annually) and the store gifts cards that we send and receive. All of it will end up in the landfill after the merriment is over. Most people will probably not even give all that garbage much thought as they take it to the curb. Yet according to the Clean Air Council, 5 million tons of additional waste is generated during the holidays, just in the US. How can we not see that this is a huge problem??
Well, some of us do see. There is definitely a small movement seeking to be bring simplicity and minimalism back to the holidays instead of rampant consumerism and mindless waste. We can be more conscious consumers by making a few small changes. I list three below…
Reusable Gift Bags
There are fabric gift bags on the market that take the place of wrapping paper. They can be reused again and again so if you have a nice supply you can simply reuse the bags for your family each year. Buy unique prints specific to each family member and you don’t even need to label or otherwise identify the gifts. Everyone will know what gifts are theirs. Instead of filling a black garbage bag with wrapping paper and disposable gifts bags you can gather up your fabric bags and put them away with the holiday decorations, until the following year. VZ Wraps has a great selection of fabric gifts bags all made with an eye on sustainability. They have standard, medium, large, and wine sizes. I love how you can click on each size (in the right sidebar of their web site) to see what kinds of gifts will fit in each bag. Great feature! The large will fit gifts such as blenders and gaming consoles. They also have a large selection of holiday prints…everything from ornaments, to poinsettias and snowflakes.
I love how EASY wrapping is when you use fabric bags. Booyah!
Ditch the Party Disposables
If you are hosting any parties this holiday season, make it a goal to ditch all disposable plates, glasses, and utensils. Use your own tableware and simply ask guests for a hand in cleaning up afterwards. If you don’t have enough you can get some at thrift stores. I think mismatched table settings can be made to look quite fetching. Seriously, just look up ‘mismatched table settings’ on Pinterest. You will be amazed. Alternatively you can ask guests to bring their own. This is done in Europe often so why not here?
Change Up Your Traditions
Evaluate meaningful traditions to see if they are wasteful. An advent calendar may be one example. Do you buy new ones each year that need to be thrown away or do you have a reusable one? I love an idea I heard from Isabelle of VZ Wraps (mentioned above). She told me about her advent calendar tradition awhile back and I thought it would be lovely to share here:
Our advent calendar hangs on the door and has a little pouch for each day. Instead of giving candy or a treat each day, we decided to do a little something for each other instead. We would fill out little slips of paper that said “Today for ____________, I will _____________.” Since there are four of us in our family and 24 days of advent, we would each fill out two slips for each other – I’d do two slips for my husband and two each for my two kids – mix them up in a bowl, and put one into each pouch. The idea was to keep it simple with a fun little way to spend time together or make life a little easier for each other. For instance, I’d often put on my husband’s slips that I’d give him a back rub or take out the trash. For the kids, it might be reading them an extra book at bedtime or letting them choose what to have for dinner. The key was something that you could do any day. My husband used to get a little too enthusiastic and offer the kids a trip to the bowling alley or bookstore, but he couldn’t always come through with that activity the day the slip was picked, especially if it was on a school night with a lot of homework! We would all look forward to picking a slip each morning before school, and it was a fun way to ensure spending time with each other during a super-busy time of year.
I love how she reuses the same calendar each year and how she has made the season about spending time with each other and doing things for each other rather than eating candy or getting gifts.
A few small changes and a little planning can have a big impact this time of year. What ways have you lowered your family’s impact during the holidays??