Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Christmas time can be stressful, but you can always find ways to feel better about your activities while reducing your environmental impact. The Triple Bottom Line of sustainability is: ecological, social, and economical. Start by cutting down your own tree at an organic tree farm that is pesticide free. This will reduce toxins in your home and provide your family a fun activity to start your Christmas season.
An even greener option would be purchasing a live tree so that you can replant your tree in your backyard or in a local area. Remember that energy use can be reduced at Christmas time by making a few small changes. Incandescent lighting is hotter to the touch and uses more energy than LED lighting, and both can be reduced simply by having them turned on when you are enjoying it and then off the rest of the time, remember to add a timer if you find yourself too busy. Save additional energy by monitoring your thermostat, replace other incandescent lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs, this will reduce energy consumption dramatically.
The above picture shows a gift wrapped in a grocery paper bag adorned with 100% merino wool yarn, two cedar branches, and stars cut from recycled paper plates. The idea of reducing our carbon footprint at Christmas time comes with the ability to reuse much of what we already have at our disposal with recycled materials. Other forms of gift decor include red-twig dogwood, red berry branches, small pine cones, and/or fresh flowers as an alternative to bows. Christmas time will remind us with sensory overload of beautiful scents and add a stunning addition to your home.
The rustic or organic option is a fancy alternative to high amounts of waste. Start with reusing scrap boxes. A couple of weeks before Christmas, save boxes that you find will help for gift-giving. Grab small branches and paint them white, red, and gold and put them into rustic pottery for the Christmas dinner table. Bare branches will bring the beautiful outdoors into your home. Creative wreaths made from a variety of outdoor options provide a splendid addition to your Christmas decor, a high cost-saving option that will take less time to make then to drive, spend, and drive more for that perfect Christmas wreath.
Mini Christmas trees made with pine or spruce cut offs into multiple canisters around your house will add an extra layer of sustainable decor, just as a bouquet of flowers adorns your home, you can have a simple addition that makes for fun and creative outlets for children who want to participate in decorating. Digital Christmas cards (e-cards) are an alternative to the millions of Christmas cards purchased and sit in the bottom of your basement. You save on paper use while saving cost of purchasing cards and mailing expense.
Wrapping With Fabric
The pictures below show taking any sort of old fabric and re-purposing it into reusable gift wrap. The concept sprouts creative genius with a low-cost lens to shape a sustainable Christmas.
Get into nature. Gather in groups and go to the slopes. Tobogganing, skiing, snowboarding, or even gather around a fire pit and sing Christmas carols while drinking hot cocoa or hot apple cider. There is nothing better than positive Christmas spirits.
Sustainability Food Purchases and Food Waste
Remember that there are multiple ways to reduce your carbon footprint with your food purchases. Choose to opt-out of single use plastic. Bring in your reusable bags, containers, or hand grab your items. Food waste is particularly high at Christmas time and you can find new and fun ways to change your annual celebration. Food scraps go in the green bin but can also be added to a vermiculture. Watch this video to find out how you can start an ecosystem in your house.
Start by shopping online to reduce driving. Find a wide range of non-electronic toys. You will reduce the need for batteries and/or electricity usage. Buying or sharing used items at a time where money is not easy to come by is popular on Facebook. "Mommy" groups have tons of items for first-time families and growing families.
Remember that you may celebrate Christmas, but not everyone does. Although you might find that gifts are shared, decor is sprawled, and even a tree is up, a home that does not have the Christmas tradition may simply be respectful or participatory. Also remember that Christmas trees, gifts, and candy canes are novelty items that are not representative of religious beliefs. Be positive about your Christmas cheer, but when you hear "Happy Holidays", this is an inclusive and respectful term that helps recognize all of our differences.
Teach the next generation how to see through a sustainability lens. Energy saving items, green-living reading material, outdoor instead of indoor activities, participate in organic farming, and donating to community organizations or community gardens. Buy Fair Trade items that direct education, finances, and supply chain operations to the global south. Coffee, cotton, and food items are great ways to integrate sustainability through Fair Trade certified items. Also, find a food or gift drive that donates to families in need
Buy your family, friends, or coworkers and experience gift this Christmas. Reduce your environmental impact with a spa day, bungee jumping, sky diving, or scuba diving. In cold climates, you may need to wait for a summer day to experience your gift. Other popular options are hikes, picnics, skating, movie theatre, laser tag, camping, escape room, photo shoot, or a gym membership.
Find out what your carbon foot print is here, and find ways to reduce your impact.
Joshua David Joseph is our founder and site administrator at Sustainability: Through The Looking Glass open forum. Find more from him and other key topics here.