When talking to a group of friends about this topic, the dominant thought was the best thing you can do for the environment is to reuse what you already have! Don’t throw out the things you have already just to start “new” with eco-friendly holiday decor. If you need a new vibe and want to part with your old things, consider donating them! If you are just starting out, furnishing a new residence or replacing things that are broken or dangerous here are some great options on how to keep your holidays environmental friendly!
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, the month of December can bring a lot of trash to landfills. We can help cut down on the amount of boxes and paper we throw away by giving consumable gifts. Homemade crafts, food items, experiences or lessons and making donations in someone’s name to a favorite non-profit are all great gift ideas that don’t get thrown away. Beth Kowalski, a local mom of three, says she used to always hand out homemade chocolate turtles as teacher gifts. Now she says she prefers gift cards (they can even be reloaded for future uses). “I am able to order gifts cards via a fundraiser for my son’s middle school band,” Kowalski said. “It’s a win-win for me. I’m not giving the teachers something to just sit around and I can support a cause at the same time!”
What the experts say
Amanda Waddle, a Policy Advisor for Zero Waste Gainesville and the Director of Zero Waste for the Repurpose Project, said to “Use what you have first.” “Reuse things and repair them if possible before buying new,” Waddle stressed. When shopping think of buying gently used as well. Thrift stores and estate sales are an excellent option when seeking out quality decorations. Look for sturdy, well-made items that are made with natural materials; ones that are classic and timeless you will use over and over. “Then if you still need to buy something new, shop local from a small business with locally sourced items.”
When it comes to Christmas trees, Waddle said there are a few trains of thought that will allow you to consider the environmental impact. The look and smell of a live tree can be very important for families. If you want to go live, consider the source of the trees. We even have local farms here in Gainesville you can buy from! “Just do your research and make sure you agree with the growing practices of the tree farmer you are buying from,” Waddle reminds us. Some people cannot tolerate live trees in their homes for a variety of reasons. When buying an artificial one, look for one that is a high quality item you can reuse for years to come. Don’t just buy the cheapest option with the thought that you can replace it the following year. Many of these come pre-lit and the lights can be repaired or added.
If you like to use lights, for either indoors or outdoors, try to purchase the most energy efficient LED lights you can. Some stores may even have light recycling programs where you can safely dispose of broken lights to be more eco-friendly.
Take it a step further
Beyond the decor, we can still consider the impact of our holidays. Wrapping gifts can be done in plain craft paper that you decorate with drawings and bows. Save and reuse gift bags, bows and paper to be eco-friendly. Who doesn’t have a bag of old gift bags in their closet? When having a party, use real plates, serving dishes and cutlery if at all possible. If that isn’t feasible, Waddle said to “Check what you are buying to see that it is real paper plates, napkins and cups. Paper can be recycled, but those with plastic can not. We want to avoid using single use plastic if at all possible.”
The holidays can be a time where we indulge and spend time with family and friends without having a huge environmental impact. Just planning to live more eco-friendly and utilize what is around us makes that easy. Who knew my crafty husband who always uses the trimmings from the tree lot to make our front door wreath each year was being so environmentally conscious?