It is the time of year that we splurge, whether it is food, decorations, or gifts. And that’s the way it should be, but why not splurge sustainably? No, I am not saying be a Grinch and don’t eat, decorate or gift, but there are alternatives that add a whole lot of holiday cheer without emptying your pockets or negatively impacting the environment.
Here are some tips and tricks that I use to keep my over-the-top holiday spirit and at the same time feel great about being sustainable throughout these festive months.
The Highlight of the Holidays – Food
Ah, food. Here’s where it gets tough. How do you stay sustainable when the holidays are the epitome of food leftovers? I mean, there are tons of recipes dedicated to all the leftovers from a very classic turkey sandwich to a very mysteriously filled shepherd’s pie. However, this is also where you can make your biggest mark on how “green” your holidays will be.
- First off, do your best to purchase locally sourced organic produce, poultry and meat. By buying local and sustainable food you can help create jobs and grow our rural and urban economies. Use the United States Department of Agriculture search tool (link to: https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets ) to find farmers markets near you.
- Minimize the amount of meat and poultry you include in your menu. Produce and grains provide the same, if not healthier, nutrients. The meat industry is the number one source of methane gas – a major contributor to climate change and to the depletion of natural resources.
- Eat with moderation. Enjoying your food by eating slowly and with purpose will result in your eating less and preventing bloating.
- Compost your kitchen scraps. Composting reduces the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills. Moreover, composting reduces greenhouse gas emissions (namely methane), which are caused by the decomposition of this organic waste. You will also have great fertilizer for your spring plantings.
Ditch the Disposables
Who really enjoys cutting turkey with a plastic knife? By using reusable dinnerware, flatware, glasses and napkins you can save the environment and your dinner! Disposable plates will be soaked with gravy or cranberry sauce before you finish your dinner.
If reusable plates are not available, choose disposable dinnerware and flatware that is made from 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled paper, sugarcane, and corn, which are also compostable.
Be Mindful of Your Energy Use
- Try to avoid extra energy use by cooking several dishes that require the same temperature at the same time. Oven safe racks with multiple tiers will be your best friend this holiday season. This way you can simultaneously reduce prep time and energy use.
- Another great tip is to thaw ingredients, such as butter and cream, to room temperature to reduce stove-top melting time.
- Turn down the thermostat when you have guests. The extra bodies in the house will generate warmth that will allow you to reduce energy usage for heating.
Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, walking around your neighborhood is always a pleasant endeavor during the holidays. Strolling outside can improve your mood and health by connecting you with nature.
Simplify Your Holiday Shopping
Another highlight of the holiday season is gift giving. All the wrapping, buying and celebrating increase the amount of waste and electricity we generate. But there are great ways to make your holiday shopping greener.
- Choose local stores and locations where there are a variety of shops close together. This will reduce your carbon footprint and minimize the time spent traveling. Another great option is to carpool with a friend or take public transportation.
- Give an eco-friendly gift. Handcrafted presents are always a great way to show the effort you put into a gift. Using recyclable supplies, organic, or fair trade items to create your gifts will reduce the environmental impact.
- Bring your own reusable tote bag when shopping to avoid undesirable, flimsy, disposable plastic bags as much as possible.
Gift wrapping and packaging
The evil twin of gift giving is a plethora of wrapping paper, paper bags, plastic bags, and decorations. These can have a negative impact on the environment because most materials may not be easily recycled or reused. Here are some greener alternatives to the traditional packaging:
- Use soft wrapping items to package your presents. These could include scarves, blankets, or towels that can also be used as part of your gift.
- Opt for tree-less sources of wrapping paper and holiday cards. These are much friendlier options on the environment than traditional wrapping paper.
- Baskets and tote bags are great packaging options that can be reused and upcycled.
Last but not least are the decorations. This is an area where many of us go overboard, and why not? It is a way of expressing your holiday joy. You can ask my neighbors, I am one of those crazy people who like to decorate as early as possible, and don’t take down the decorations until everyone, everywhere, has taken them down as well. Since being energy conscious and environmentally friendly is very important to me, I have tried to find the best ways to combine my extreme love for decorating and being green.
- Using ENERGY STAR qualified LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights reduces energy use by 90 percent compared to traditional Christmas lights. They also are more durable and last longer.
- Decorate with nature and forget the petroleum-based plastic and synthetic decorations. Some nice Do-It-Yourself ideas include filling your vases with pinecones, acorns or colorful leaves, or using the cork of a wine bottle you will be serving to create unique upcycled place settings.
- If it is difficult to be full-nature inspired, include some locally handcrafted decorations and avoid any decorations created with plastic or non-recyclable materials. The goal is to have durable decorations you can reuse year after year.
- Put all your indoor and outdoor decorative lighting on a timer. Wait until dark to turn on the decorations and then set your timer for specific amount of time after that. Six hours or less of daily use is a good goal.
- If indoor decorations are illuminated, such as a Christmas tree, you can turn off the rest of the lights in the room. Usually, the amount of lumens provided by these decorations is enough to navigate easily through the room.
- Use candles, preferably soy and non-toxic, to create a beautiful holiday glow without adding to the electric bill.
Christmas lights: http://www.christmaslightsetc.com/led-christmas-lights.htm
Candles, dinner plates, ovens & decor: www.Pinterest.com
Disposable plates: http://rethinksurvival.com/fired-and-frugal-fridays-say-goodbye-to-paper-goods-heres-how/
Dinner photo: http://ohmyveggies.com/a-vegetarian-thanksgiving-menu/
LED lights with timer: http://www.noveltylights.com/50-led-battery-operated-lights-warm-white-on-white-wire
Photo of nature walk: http://experiencethepresent.com/?m=201410
Christmas photo (with tree): https://sophias-children.com/category/seasonal-celebrations/
Reusable tote: http://chakirlinen.com/reusable-tote-bag.html
DIY photo: http://www.theidearoom.net/2014/10/diy-gift-ideas.html