Since World Ocean Day a few years ago I have worked hard to reduce my footprint both in my personal life and in business. The holiday season brings special challenges. Part has to do with memories, I was talking with a friend recently about gift wrapping. She said, "I love to wrap gifts, it's part of my Christmas season." But- how we choose to wrap makes a big difference. Elaborate, non biodegradable gift wrap leaves a lasting footprint. To help you have a trash free holiday I've listed 14 ways to hopefully get that holiday glow without the trash.
#1 Buy Well- Choose Less When shopping for gifts, resist the impulse to buy a cute but useless item that will not linger after the holiday. Check out how items are packaged. My daughter loves gummy bears- I can buy a cute plastic package of bears, a reusable bear mason jar filled with gummies or take a cloth bag to the candy shop on Main Street. What's important to remember is you have choices.
#2 Shop small, shop local. Supporting small, indies businesses lets your money continue to work long after you've spent it. You can find companies that support your values and are working hard to reduce their business footprint.
#3 Even if you have decided to limit your holiday purchases or to make donations to worthy causes help out indie business by supporting them in other ways- especially on social media. Our blog post Make Your Money Count and Use Less Plastic gives practical tips.
#4 Purchase lasting gifts that help reduce everyday waste. Reusable coffee mugs, bamboo straws, shopping bags, produce bags, shampoo bars and bamboo toothbrushes.
#5 Wrap your gifts in cloth, brown paper lunch bags, newspaper or tissue paper made from recycled paper. Easy to recycle or compost.
#6 Give the gifts of plants. Paperwhite bulbs are especially lovely during the winter months.
Amaryllis bulbs create a splash of color and I plant mine out in the garden every summer so many of my bulbs are 4 years old and going strong. A seed sprouting jar is a low waste way to have fresh tasty greens in salads and sandwiches all winter long.
#7 Gift certificates make in possible for folks to get just what they need or want and if they are from small, indie businesses the good keeps going.
#8 Donations are a great way to spread the love. Choose your favorite organizations and let them start the New Year ready to get important work done.
#9 Give the gift of an experience. Every year I treat my family to New Year's Day brunch at our local farm to table restaurant. I love starting the New Year in a bustling restaurant with a Passionfruit Margarita, a basket of home baked breads and the lively conversations of my loved ones.
#10 Look around the house for items to regift. Sometimes regifting has a tacky connotation but it's a perfect way to reduce and reuse. While cleaning recently I found a huge stash of yarn bits. Someone will be happily knitting all winter long.
#11 While you are rummaging for regifts, clean out the closets and pass useful used items to the appropriate charities.
#12 Give the gift of clean and get outside and pick up some trash. Believe me- it's everywhere. Check out the organization Just Grab Bits . I especially love their Instagram page- it's a bittersweet trashy tour around the world.
#13 Decorate with natural materials including evergreen, pine cones and berries. If you are buying decorations make sure they are well made and will be used and loved for many years. Completely avoid balloons, "they kill wildlife, pollute the earth and waste helium". Check out Balloons Blow- Don't Let Them Go for more information.
#14 Give a subscription. Fact checking is expensive and subscriptions show support and help attract advertisers.
My final tip is the one I've had the most fun with. I want to help people make the transition to plastic free as easy as possible. Two areas I struggle with are single use coffee cups and plastic free produce. I have started "Random Acts of Awareness". I purchase reusable mugs from my favorite coffee shops (helping to keep it local) and then leave them on the counter for someone ordering a take away coffee in a single use cup.
I'm almost ready to do the same thing with some homemade produce bags. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I cut up an old sheet and put together a bunch of cloth produce bags. They are almost ready to be donated to shoppers reaching for a plastic bag in the produce department. Learn more about the plastic free produce movement by visiting Australian Anita Horn's Facebook page.
Happy Trash Free Holidays!