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November 13, 2021 4 min read

The holidays are coming up and a vegan never rests. Neither does anyone else who wants to celebrate the festivities of the winter months with family and friends while still remaining in a sustainable state of mind. This short guide is for you. 

American householdsthrow away 25% more waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s every year! Shopping bags, wrapping paper, plastic containers, shipping packages and more contribute to an additional 1 million tons a week entering landfills. We have put together a list of some simple ideas to help you prepare for more eco-friendly holidays.

Want to find out some ways to limit or recycle your holiday materials while also saving some money and feeling a little better about yourself? Read on to learn more.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

The first principle of any sustainable practice is to plan ahead. Given that we know such annual holiday celebrations are coming every year, you can prepare yourself to adhere to the classic sustainable mantra:reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Here are a collection of simple tips and tricks that anyone can implement: 

  • Donate old clothes, toys, books, antiques. 
  • Regift last year’s Christmas duds. (Remember, you didn’t ‘hate’ the gift, you just think it would be better in someone else’s home…)
  • Reuse old shipping boxes or packing materials to wrap your gifts in. Reduce the amount of wrapping paper you use - and even try to reuse wrapping paper if you can! 
  • Sell or recycle the outdated electronics you now may be upgrading away from. Use ane-steward to dispose of electronics properly. 
  • Utilize rechargeable batteries for appliances and devices. 
  • For big dinner party celebrations, use recyclable or compostable materials to serve your food in. The online recycling resource Recyclebank providessome tips and tricks on how to be sustainable with your cookware.
  • Try to serve organic or local food whenever you can! For example, provides readers with10 simple organic recipes for a more eco-friendly Thanksgiving. 
  • Recycle your Christmas tree. 
  • “Offset” your holiday travel through carbon offset organizations likeTerrapass,CarbonFund,Sustainable Travel.

When at all possible, with food and drink and decorations, try to continue to reuse the materials you already have. And when you buy, buydurable items! The problems of excess waste are not just that people buy too much - it is more so that people do not use their materials for long enough. 

This includes clothes as well. That means when you unwrap your grandma’s gift and it is socks again - be an adult, cherish them, and wear them for years to come! It’s that simple. 

Handcrafted Wrapping Paper, DIY Gifts, and LED Lights 

Unfortunately, much of the shiny-coated wrapping paper you find in stores for use in wrapping presentsis not recyclable. Fortunately, you can make your own! 

Plenty of online guides can show you the way to make your own wrapping, such as this article from The Spruce Crafts featuringsix unique styles. For the less enthusiastically crafty, you could simply use old newspapers. 

Alternatively, you can come up with other creative ways to hide your gifts. Small Footprint Familyprovides an article referencing one ingenious parent who simply hides all her children’s presents around the home and then on Christmas morning has the kids search for them like in a scavenger hunt. (That actually sounds pretty awesome.)

By the same token, DIY (“do it yourself”) gifts have become all the rage in recent years. DIY gifts can save you waste and money while also doubling as an intriguing creative project that your recipient is sure to appreciate. 

Search around your home for things you can combine or style and turn into gifts for loved ones. Check outEtsy for ideas (or just buy your gift from Etsy and support a small, eco-friendly online craftsman). Websites like The Idea Room havelong lists of DIY ideas that anyone can do, like photo coasters, homemade soap and bath bombs, and a terrarium kit, among many more. 

For the eco-friendly Christmas decorator, outdoor or indoor, energy-efficient LED lights are a must. They have a longer lifespan, expend less energy (saving you money), and work better than traditional lights in cold environments. These are justa few of the benefits that LED lights have over traditional holiday decoration bulbs. Though they may be more expensive to purchase than non-LEDs, these lights will save you money in the long-term and are better for the environment. 

With Gifts, Choose Meaningful Experiences Whenever You Can

In a more existential sense, the sustainable holiday shopper - and friend - should consider the reason for the season. Not to be cliche, but you should really consider what you are giving when you give a gift to someone. Your time, attention, love. That is the goal, anyway. 

Whether it is for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, or otherwise, what do you want your giftee tofeel

During these holidays, to serve your goal of sustainable living - and also providemoreimpact to the gift exchange ritual of the season - consider giving the gift of anexperience as opposed to a tangible object. Buy your spouse a membership to the museum rather than a slow cooker. Get your neighbor tickets to a ball game or a retreat rather than a new screen. Such things are more environmentally friendly and likely more memorable as well. 

In all, try to choose experiences or items of value, purpose, and meaning to you and them. For materials, that could be a book, a plant, or just a letter. Each of these items is more eco-friendly and could be more meaningful as well, depending on the recipient. Experiential gifts are “anti-matter” - and do not go into a landfill. Instead, they go into people’s hearts.

We hope these ideas get you and yours started on enjoying your own sustainable holidays this winter. For some more details on the perks of sustainable fashion, seeanother article on the topic.

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