I am an absolute sucker for any holiday but my all time favorite has to be Christmas. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, or nothing at all there is still always something to celebrate even if it's just slowing down and spending some time with your family. For my family, Christmas was always a big deal with lots of family gatherings, lots of food, and gift giving. In more recent years though, my low waste journey has led me to re-examine many of these traditions to see if any tweaks need to be made to better align with my values. While decorating the house, gift giving and making our favorite holiday meals are some of the traditions I look forward to most each year, they also can be extremely wasteful. Celebrating more consciously and sustainably is important to me – it brings back in the mindfulness intended for this season and releases all of the overconsumption and fluff.
Today I’ll share some ideas that me and my family have started implementing for more sustainable, but no less fun and glamours holiday celebrations!
SEVEN IDEAS FOR A MORE ECO-FRIENDLY, SUSTAINABLE HOLIDAY SEASON:
Think outside of the box – rather than making the traditional menu, let your local produce lead the way and shop what's in season. I love going to my local farmers market to see what's in season and ask the growers what they're putting on their own dinner tables. They always have the best tips!
Shopping local not only supports your local growers but also reduces the carbon footprint of your meal and usually, the fresher the ingredients are, the more flavorful and delicious the meal will be. If you don't have a farmers market near you, get online and try looking for a local CSA (community supported agriculture – also known as a ‘farm share’) that does delivery instead.
Well, at least buy your produce naked ;)
By this I mean, forget the plastic produce bags and packaged food. Also try to make anything you can from scratch – pie crusts, oat milk, almond butter, broth, etc.
For produce, place the loose fruit and vegetables directly in your cart. The cashiers don’t care that they’re not in a bag. And if you’re worried about germs? Well, think about the journey those fruits or veggies took before getting on that shelf (on trucks, handled by many, etc) – and news flash, they weren’t in bags for that.
Just wash your veggies when you get home!
If you want a barrier for your produce, opt for a plastic free reusable option instead. In addition to my tote bags, I always bring some mesh produce bags to the shops with me as well if I want to separate any of my produce.
DON'T MAKE MEAT THE MAIN EVENT
Cutting back on your meat consumption is a great way to lower your carbon footprint. Raising lots of animals for food is destroying our planet. The United States alone has five times as many livestock animals as humans, and it takes a lot of land, water, and precious resources to raise these animals and grow feed for them just so that they can end up on our plates. According to an article published in The Guardian, researchers at Oxford University found that without meat and dairy consumption we could use around 75 percent less land for agriculture globally. That’s comparable to the size of the United States, China, Australia, and the whole European Union combined. So, in addition to destroying Earth’s water and air, raising animals for meat on a massive scale uses countless acres of land, destroying vital ecosystems, harming wildlife and biodiversity.
So, first I'd recommend going plant based for your holiday celebrations this year but I'm not here to be a joy-killer. So, if having meat on the dinner table is a must have for your holiday celebrations, try cutting it back to just one meat dish and don't make it the main event. Instead, focus on having lots of vegetable dishes with meat more as a side dish. When you're shopping for meat, definitely look for grass fed & free range or better yet, find a local butcher.
GET CREATIVE WITH EXCESS FOOD
Make sure you're composting anything that is going to get thrown away, but even better try to create less food waste in the first place. For instance, if you're having a small gathering this year with just 4-6 people, do you really need a whole turkey? Maybe do a few roasted turkey breasts instead. Make a list of what you actually need to purchase instead of buying excess. If there is any excess, don’t toss it. Use it or donate it. Any veggie scraps or bones going into the trash? Instead, save and freeze them so you can make a big pot of homemade broth.
Often times we throw away food out of habit, when we can be getting so much more out of what we have. Think proactively before tossing and see how much more you can do with extra food this season.
DECORATE WITH PERISHABLES
Lately I’m most inspired by creative people who forage their greenery and other natural elements to decorate their home this time of year. One of my favorites is Erin Gleeson of The Forest Feast. She puts together such beautiful tablescapes and meals all inspired by the nature around her. A typical 'forest feast' inspired table uses eclectic vintage dinnerware, colorful flower arrangements, in season fruits, pine branches, and pinecones to add color, texture, and interest to the table. And once the season is over, you can store your dinnerware for next year and compost the rest! Zero-waste and oh so chic.
GET CREATIVE WITH GIFT WRAPPING
Growing up, our family went hard on gift wrapping. My great grandfather would famously wrap each present individually, even if it was a stick of gum in your stocking, just because he loved giving and unwrapping presents so much. We've carried on that tradition and every Christmas morning we all sit in the living room and go around the room in turns unwrapping each gift. While I'll always love beautifully wrapped gifts, we're looking for new ways to do this that product less waste. One year we found a bunch of cool vintage wrapping paper in storage at my Nana's house and used that for gift wrapping. We also tend to save gift bags and boxes and end up swapping them to one another year after year which is a great way to reuse what gifting boxes you already have.
Another great tip is to save any brown paper filling that comes in online order shipments to wrap (this is free and really pretty!) but you can also use newspapers, old magazine pages, linen cloth and other tags or items you can up-cycle. To upgrade your wrapping, you could also get some festive stamps to decorate the paper. For string, you can use twine or ribbon that you’ve saved from packages and to add a bit of texture, try adding herbs or foraged greenery.
SHOP SMALL, SUSTAINABLE & ETHICAL FOR GIFTS
Gift an experience, gift something homemade or shop small / sustainable businesses for a less wasteful, more thoughtful gift this year. Ask your family and friends what they really want or need, check out local markets and shops, or try some online retailers like Etsy. Our friends at The Good Trade have a great list of ethical & sustainable online shops.