Image via The Good Trade
What is the most wonderful time of the year also tends to be the most wasteful. From throwing away wrapping paper to one-time-wear Christmas jumpers, it’s easy to overspend and waste more than usual throughout the holidays. Unfortunately, the realities of climate change mean that we all really need to think about the little things that we can do to be more eco-friendly. You don’t have to throw all your traditions out the window or succumb to being a grinch this year; you simply have to commit to making a few small, sustainable decisions that can result in a significant reduction waste. Read on for the eight simple steps that I am going to follow this year for a more eco-friendly holiday season, in the hopes that it inspires you to do the same:
1. Use real dishware and silverware.
Whether you are hosting a brunch for friends or the whole holiday dinner, the temptation to use disposable dishes and cutlery that you don’t have to wash after is strong. But, the environmental impact of this kind of wastefulness is just as strong – especially when you consider the fact that Americans throw away enough plastic cutlery each year to circle the earth 300 times! Shudder.
This holiday season, instead of adding to that figure, opt to use real dishware and utensils. If you don’t have enough dishware or cutlery, you can ask to borrow from a friend or neighbor, or stop by your local thrift store to pick up some secondhand items. Often you can find really funky pieces that are unique and make for a creative statement on your table. When it comes time to clean, turn up your favorite holiday playlist, ask a couple of family members or friends to help, and be proud of yourself for avoiding the giant, unnecessary waste that comes with single-use items.
2. Switch to cloth napkins.
Similarly, ditch the paper napkins and paper towels and set out cloth napkins for guests. One quick run through the wash has cloth napkins looking as good as new, which means you can use them over and over again instead of filling up a landfill with single-use napkins. If you don’t own cloth napkins, this is the perfect time to buy some! You can opt for a festive print for the holidays or a solid color for all-year use. Keep a set of dishcloths under your sink for spills or messes, and you will be good to go!
3. Plan ahead before shopping.
A significant part of being more eco-friendly and reducing your waste this holiday season is to avoid excess as much as possible. Therefore, whether you are heading out to buy food or gifts, you want to plan ahead so that you only return home with what you set out for. Stores and marketing companies are smart – the holiday tunes, samples & sales, and over-the-top displays are all strategically designed to get you to give in to your impulses and purchase more. Having a list will help you stay on track and not veer away from what you actually need or truly want. When you are shopping, choose to support local businesses rather than spending your hard-earned cash at chain stores or fast fashion brands.
4. Shop sustainable, low-waste gifts for everyone on your list.
When it comes to purchasing gifts for your loved ones, consider giving them experiential gifts such as a reading subscription box (like Book of the Month or The Boxwalla), fitness or meditation classes, a museum membership, or online education opportunities (such as Skillshare). You could also gift tickets to a concert, a conference, something travel-related, or a donation to a charitable organization in their name. Other ideas for low-waste gifts include plants as they don’t need to be gift-wrapped (plus they purify the air!) and homemade food items, which are always much appreciated and can be gifted in reusable tins or jars. It is also entirely possible to find second-hand gifts for everyone on your list. Check out antique shops, flea markets, thrift stores, and (of course) eBay or Etsy to find one-of-a-kind, cost-effective, and sustainable alternatives to buying new things for the holidays.
5. Ask for text or e-mail receipts.
No matter what you choose to gift your loved ones, when you make a purchase, always opt for an email or text receipt rather than a printed out one. If you are uncomfortable about giving your information to stores (or don’t want to be bombarded with e-mails), opt to make a special email address just for shopping. That way, you can have all your receipts in one place, and your regular inbox won’t be spammed with too many emails. Plus, you won’t always have a handbag lined with crumpled up receipts. Win all around!
6. Get creative with your wrapping.
Take a moment to think about all the wrapping paper you have thrown away over the years. If you are anything like me, it is probably quite a lot – half of the paper consumed in the United States annually is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. EEK. This year, look to make your own gift wrap from fabric or newspaper you already have around the house. Tie them nicely with some string, and you will have stunning-looking gifts without the waste. If you receive any gifts wrapped in wrapping paper, refrain from ripping it off and instead remove it carefully so that you can save it and re-use it next year. If you do need to purchase some new bits, stay away from wrapping paper, envelopes, and cards that are metallic or glittery as these can not be recycled.
7. Remember your reusable items.
Reusable bags are your best friend all year-round, but it can be easy to forget about them when things are hectic during the holiday season! To ensure you don’t have to use plastic or paper bags while shopping, keep a pile of reusable totes in your car or by your front door so that you don’t forget them when you are heading out to shop or run errands. On that note, you don’t want to leave home without your reusable water bottle and coffee cup! After all, you have to say hydrated while shopping!
8. Re-wear last year’s Christmas sweater.
The Christmas sweater is a “classic” holiday piece but also one of the worst examples of fast fashion, as almost half of them are only ever worn once before ending up in the trash (and then landfill). This year why not celebrate what you already have in your closet and re-wear last year’s Christmas sweater? If you don’t have one, head to your local thrift store where they are *guaranteed* to have a Christmas sweater rack set-up. Choose your fave and then take care of it so you can wear it again next year!
Speaking of clothes, the holidays can bring extra pressure to buy more new things. However, you may be surprised by what you find in the back of your closet. I know that I have a couple of dresses that I only seem to wear during the holidays, so instead of adding more to that pile, I am going to wear those again. Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration to wear an item in multiple ways (check out my 10 ways to style a black turtleneck video!). If you still feel like you want a couple of extra pieces, consider swapping a few items with your friends, renting from a site like Rent The Runway, or shopping second-hand. I recently thrifted a few holiday party outfits, and it is incredible what high-quality pieces you can find!
What steps are you taking to be a little more eco-friendly this holiday season?
Let me know in the comments below! We are all in this together!