How to celebrate sustainably

holiday holidays

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Do you strive to be sustainable, but struggle with the enormity of waste that is generated during the hectic holiday season? You are not alone. The Sustainable Living team at WMNF have some tips to make your holidays and celebrations a little bit more sustainable. 

Why should we be concerned with lessening the impact of the holidays? 

A short documentary released in 2007, The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard focused on the impact of our addiction to stuff. Leonard ask the question “Guess what percentage of total material flow through this system is still in product or use 6 months after their sale in North America. Fifty percent? Twenty? NO. One percent. One! In other words, 99 percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport—99 percent of the stuff we run through this system is trashed within 6 months”  Why should we care? Leonard says “All of this garbage [stuff we bought] either gets dumped in a landfill, which is just a big hole in the ground, or if you’re really unlucky, first it’s burned in an incinerator and then dumped in a landfill. Either way, both pollute the air, land, water and, don’t forget, change the climate.”

So what can you do?

Shopping locally is a simple starting point to a big problem. Jenny Nazak, author of the book Deep Green says that “A big part of our holiday gift-giving footprint comes from driving around in cars, scouring the shops for “the right gift.” Nazak said if we get the focus off gift giving that “we get to focus on the pure joy of just being present with our families,” but if you are buying, to “buy something small and local.”  This helps to keep the money in the local community. 

One thoughtful gift is better than gifting more, less meaningful things. Giving the gift of a lesson or experience, such as cooking or music lessons, can make a great gift that can spark a passion.  A yearly pass to a state park, or theme park is something that they can enjoy for the entire year.

Another favorite sustainable gift is a CSA membership. This is a great way of supporting a local farmer and providing local healthy food to a community member. Community-supported agriculture or crop sharing is a system that connects the farmer and consumers by allowing the community to subscribe to a portion of the harvest of a certain farm or group of local farms. This season-long gift can help support the local farming community and also help provide fresh food to those you care about.

In a time where we are having to continue to celebrate separately – making small homemade edible treats as gifts is delicious option. Dried soup, tea, hot chocolate or cake ingredients in a mason jar is an adorable gift that can be made in bulk and everyone can enjoy. Other environmentally friendly and inexpensive bulk gifts that everyone can enjoy are seeds of native flowers, or vegetable seeds and a planting calendar. If you have time to prepare, planting the seeds and giving the gift of plants or a fruiting tree is a gift that will keep giving. 

Tampa Bay is known for its art scene, buying local art is a gift that will be cherished for years to come and will help to support your local community artist.

Gifts aside, there are also other things to keep in mind while celebrating, from packaging to decorations. Save high quality boxes throughout the year and with a quick coat of craft paint, it can be turned into a beautiful way of giving your gift.  When wrapping your gifts, use reusable cloth wrapping with ribbons as a lovely way to not waste paper products. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has some great tips for holiday waste reduction, including Don’t wrap gifts. Hide them and give the recipient clues. Make the search a treasure hunt.

Sparklers, instead of the ones that are ignited, there are safe crafts that can be made from supplies that you may already have at home. Using a stick and gluing or taping colorful ribbon and yarn to the end makes for a safe, upcycled alternative. Fun shaped cut up leaves is a more natural form of confetti. Make sure to choose a leaf that is safe to use, like oak.

Fireworks have been used for decades as a way to celebrate, but what does it say about us? Although these beautiful explosives are a tradition when celebrating here in the USA, there are major concerns. Unfortunately the 4th of July and new years are the 2 biggest days for pets to run away from home because of the booming sound they produce. Fireworks can be very triggering for people suffering from PTSD and are also an environmental nightmare. So what are the options? Stopping the noise pollution by buying soundless fireworks is a great 1st step. Noiseless fireworks offer all of the beauty, none of the noise. An even better option? A laser light show! The local migrating birds will thank you for this. 

Don’t forget to bring extra food and items that you will not use to local donation resource centers. 

Hope you enjoyed some useful sustainable tips.

Tanja Vidovic, Grace Behnke, Evan Greenfield

Sustainable Living WMNF 88.5FM

Reduce Your Holiday Waste (state.oh.us)

al_footnoted_script.indd (storyofstuff.org)