Friday, December 18, 2015

Ten Ways to Have a Greener Christmas

Our fabric gift bags have been in circulation for years!
Let's face it, this holiday season is a time of excess: eating too much, drinking too much, & buying a lot of stuff. Sadly, that means a lot of garbage heading to the landfill afterwards. Even if you recycle all your packaging, it's still a lot of wasted resources in the process of making & then making something else of the cardboard or plastic or whatever material it is. But hey--we can do something about this--Christmas doesn't have to be one giant consumption fest!

Here are my top ten ways to make Christmas greener this year:

  1. BYOB. By this I mean bring your own bag. It's a simple way to reduce the amount of plastic coming into your house. I carry a set of reusable cloth shopping bags that fold up into tiny pouches. They are much stronger than grocery bags & BONUS: they're opaque, so easier to hide gifts in too.
  2. Buy fun for your friends & family. Get them experience based gifts like museum or gallery memberships (here's a list of experience gift ideas under $25 for little kids) or tickets to something like the Goh Ballet's Nutcracker. Even buying fewer larger gifts instead of dozens of inexpensive stocking stuffers is a lot less packaging & trips to the store.
  3. Buy nothing. To simplify Christmas, my sisters & brothers-in-law & cousins started doing a Secret Santa gift exchange. We'd get a friend to assign a random name to each person & email them their giftee. One gift to shop for instead of ten. Simple! Eventually, we dispensed with that & kept the gifting to just the children in the family, donating money to charity in lieu of presents for the adults.
  4. Buy quality. Spending the same amount of money on fewer things means you can get better quality items that will last longer & that means less waste. For example, robes & other apparel from Christine Lingerie is high quality, made locally (by well treated & fairly paid staff, I might add) & really beautiful. Here's a little bit more about Christine.
  5. Make it yourself. If you're crafty or like to cook or bake, try to set aside some time--I know this is the kicker--to make some gifts this year. They don't have to be huge or complicated--a homemade jar of jam or hand-painted Christmas ornament will likely delight your family & friends more than something from a store. For some beautiful DIY ideas, check out this YouTuber for tutorials.
  6. Bundle your errands, especially if you're driving. There's a lot to do at this time of year, from shopping for gifts, to groceries for baking or all the social gatherings. But if you can plan in advance & combine trips you'll burn less fossil fuels & probably have more time to do the fun stuff. Win win, right?
  7. Reusable gift wrap. Make or buy fabric gift bags or boxes for your presents this year instead of sacrificing a whole tree worth of paper. We have a set of Christmas print cotton flannel zippered or snap closed pouches in various sizes that I made years ago & we just keep recycling them in our household. When I give gifts to other people, I sometimes make bags or reuse paper gift bags we received in previous years. If you're not into sewing, you can usually find inexpensive tins, boxes, & bags at your local dollar store this time of year. 
  8. Get a live tree! We bought a gorgeous potted spruce from Treekeepers last year. After Christmas, it lived on our sundeck for the rest of the year. We're going to bring it back in soon. We'll probably plant it in the spring, as it will likely be too big to fit in the house next year.
  9. Make or buy a reusable Advent calendar. The store-bought chocolate version of these create a lot of waste with a sheet of plastic moulds & cardboard wrapping, probably shrink-wrapped as well. It's really easy to make one out of felt--you don't necessarily even need to sew, glue guns are a great way to stick felt together too--& you can customize it to go with your decor or suit however many family members are going to use it. I made ours a few Christmases ago--a simple felt tree with numbers that stick onto it. No candies or gifts.
  10. Buy used. Most people would balk at giving a used item as a gift, & I get that. But a lot of things that are bought around this time of year aren't actually gifts--decor items, goofy sweaters or hats, containers for food, tools for baking. If you buy these things from somewhere like Value Village, you can save money, packaging & keep a few more things out of the landfill. Check out the Christmassy decor items I bought & DIYed a bit last year.
There you have it--if you try one or more of these tips, let me know how it went. Do you have any ideas to add to the list? How do you make your holidays more green?

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