The holidays are upon us, the economy is in an upswing, as is consumer spending. The National Retail Federation forecasts holiday sales this year to increase 3.7 percent to $630.5 billion and online sales to increase between 6-8 percent to as much as $105 billion.
Every sweater, hover board, and Xbox takes a journey that includes shipping trucks, packing materials, shopping traffic, cards, and wrapping paper. And those superfluous gag gifts have just as much environmental impact as the gifts that were actually wished for.
We are excited about the many business and retail leaders who committed to doing their part during the Climate talks in Paris. It’s also a reminder to all of us that we as individuals have the power to give each other a better world through our shared commitment to the planet. The good news is that there is no reason that a sustainable holiday can’t also be a wonderfully fun one as well.
The holidays don’t have to take a toll on your carbon footprint. Here is the first of a series of our favorite tips to help you have a green holiday.
According to Stanford University, Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Years holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of waste – enough to circle the planet nine times!
If your garbage bag resembles Santa’s toy sack after a gift opening frenzy, start thinking about ways to recycle, reduce, reuse.
Wrap presents using recycled magazines, catalogs, newspapers or paper bags. Instead of relying on pre-printed holiday paper, you can decorate the packages with personal messages, doodles, or art.
Learn how to wrap without using tape. Reuse (or skip) ribbons and bows – if every family reused just 2 feet of ribbon, 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. Save and re-use gift bags, tissue paper, bows, and wrapping paper from others to reuse throughout the season.
If you must buy wrapping paper, choose recycled products, such as the beautiful prints of Wrappily. The company offers stylish holiday prints on 100% recyclable newspaper sourced from neighborhood presses, as well as recycled paper ribbon, bows and tags. No matter what, avoid glossy paper, ribbons and bows, which clog recycling machinery.
Gifts with Meaning
Get creative and craft a handmade gift with items you already own – it’s personal and meaningful to the recipient (especially if it’s your mother). This is also the perfect time of year to give people delicious treats, which you can give in reusable tins or mason jars. Grist has a list of five unpredictable homemade food gifts if you are looking for inspiration.
If you care to go one step further, talk to your loved-ones about a gift-free holiday. Focus on shared experiences, start new traditions like an annual snowy hike, and make donations to a favorite charity. You can avoid the stress and frenzy of the shopping mall, and the financial strain that comes with holiday gift giving.
Keep it local
We understand the allure of same-day shipping and massive online retailers, but you can control which businesses you support. Choose your community and shop small, giving your business to locally sourced, sustainable vendors. These choices help the economic development of your community, and small businesses need our support.
Materials on the Naughty List
No matter what you give, you want to make sure that it is good for the recipient. There are many popular products made with harmful materials.
This holiday season, skip gifts that require batteries. While this may seem like a tall order for families with young kids, there are some really fun and wonderful battery-free alternatives. We particularly like this Wind Power Renewable Energy Kit, which we found on Earth Easy’s list of naturally powered-toys.
According to the EPA, about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season, which eventually find their way into our waste stream.
Holiday Giving: Do Your Part!
Imagine how much better off the planet will be if each of us makes just one change to our holiday habits. What if we did more than that? Can you make two changes? Three? Let us know in comments what you plan to do this holiday season to celebrate green.
Thanks for doing your part!