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  • Jenny Hill

Make the Holidays Merry and Sustainable

After Thanksgiving, time can feel like a steep downhill slide through the end of the year. We may feel pummeled by messages to buy and give, by elaborate traditions and by an overall vibe to “do it big”--whatever “it” is.

We are bringing you some suggestions that may help make the holidays merry and sustainable, whether you celebrate big, small or somewhere in between.

Many Kinds of Gifts

Many cultures have traditions that include gift giving. A little thought goes a long way when it comes to letting someone know you appreciate them or have insight into what might make them smile or, frankly, just give them a little relief from a hectic schedule.

Giving experiences can be a great way to introduce something new into someone’s life. Consider that, since the pandemic, arts organizations and community education centers have gotten creative and offer virtual classes in everything from writing to painting to knitting. There are museum or nature center memberships, coupons for yoga or fitness classes, event tickets, restaurant gift cards, or coupons to a movie theater. Here’s a useful chart from the More Fun, Less Stuff Catalog:

Speaking of coupons, they might be ideal for the person you know who is so stretched for time, or energy, or both. And in some cases, the more personal the coupons, the better. Check out out this take on “shop local” when “local” means your own household.

Maybe you have a crafty streak or the “eye” for finding treasures in second-hand stores. These types of gifts from the heart are often treasured, as an HDT staffer noted in this past blog post. And, of course, there are times when stuff--new stuff--is just the right gift. Technology might be one area where re-used won’t meet the need. But there ARE sustainable options out there. One example came to us recently from Terracycle, makers of a Zero Waste Box. The company launched a line of products made from the items they collect for recycling, including a wireless charger.

Many Kinds of Wrapping

So let’s say you’ve got a physical gift, or want to “pretty up” the envelope with the gift certificate. Here are some sustainable opportunities for wrapping: use paper you might otherwise recycle such as old maps, sheet music, pretty magazines, newspaper.

Using fabric for wrapping is not only sustainable--it can be an art form! Furoshiki is the Japanese art of wrapping in fabric and here is how it can be done:

Furoshiki Diagram courtesy of Japanese Department of Environment.

Sending holiday cards can be a lovely tradition. Reusing those cards to make tags for gifts, holiday decorations or even new cards introduces a sustainable tradition.

New and Old Decorations, Outdoors and Indoors

Outdoor lights brighten up our dark winter holiday nights. Did you know solar strings of lights are now available? Using “old-school” decorations such as stringing popcorn and cranberries can be used later as food for outdoor critters.

Shopping second-hand for “vintage” holiday decorations, cloth napkins, tablecloths and other other tableware in holiday colors are good steps toward sustainability. And speaking of “old school”--nothing matches the warmth of candlelight. Using renewable beeswax candles with cotton wicks make it more eco-friendly.

The choices we make every day, including holidays, add up! Being aware of alternatives is one way to start making different choices. If you would like more suggestions on simplifying the holidays, check out this guide from the Center for Biological Diversity.


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