Guest post by Faith Blackall

The holidays are a magical time of year to connect with distant family and friends, share special moments with close loved ones, and scatter serotonin with every decoration.  The last pages on the calendar are notorious for bringing winds of change and ending the year on a cheerful note. We put up wreaths on the front door to create a wave of warmth and welcoming to everyone who passes through the door. Upon crossing the threshold, the air is doused in the decadent aroma of spices and sweets. A tree in the corner, illuminating the room with vibrant, soaring colors. A table overflowing with a savory entrée, encircled by various complimenting sides, paired with the perfect, cozy drink, and concluded with irresistible sweets. As merry as this atmosphere is, it is only temporary. This feeling last mere weeks, though the damage could be permanent and deadly. Unfortunately, many holiday decorations and habits have the potential to be damaging to our environment. Luckily, there are easy and creative ways to keep your homes festive and the oceans clean.

 

Gift Wrapping

Wrapping gifts can stay playful or sophisticated while still being eco-friendly!  For example, consider using outdated maps! A rustic chic and antique feel can be delivered with old maps folded the same way as wrapping paper. Fabrics can create a sensory experience, and reusable bags come in hundreds of colors and patterns! 

 

Newspapers are a very cost effective and simple substitute for wrapping/tissue paper, delivering a modern NYC feel.

 

For a memorable alternative, try elephant dung paper. Yes, it is a thing! A natural, odor free, tree free, upcycled and unique alternative to traditional papers.

 

A disposable industry is not a sustainable industry!

 

Recycling

There are so many ways to recycle, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. Start small. Create little habits and slowly add more. The holidays are a crucial time for these behaviors to come into play.

 

If we look at some of the staggering statistics, we learn that, wrapping paper and shopping bags alone are responsible for 4M tons of trash annually in the U.S alone! During the holiday season, enough wrapping paper is discarded to wrap around the globe 9 times over! According to Stanford University, if every American family wrapped three presents in reusable materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

 

To avoid contributing to these statistics, use recyclable wrappings, make sure all waste goes into the proper bins, and save what you can reuse next year. The most important thing, gwet creative with it!

 

Gifting

How can we redirect our gifts to something more ecofriendly? This is the question of the season, and there is no wrong answer! Some examples to get the ball rolling include:

  • Recycle: Buy presents made with recycled materials
  • Virtual gifts: Many companies now offer virtual gift cards or vouchers
  • Materials: Stay away from single use plastics, glitters, and confetti
  • Reusable: Gift reusable straws or water bottles
  • Activities: Substitute products with experience-based interactions
  • Start from scratch: Handmake gifts from unused/ old supplies at home
  • Donate: Consider making a donation in honor of a friend or family member to support a conservation cause

 

More personal ideas include…

  • For the spa lover on your list, Craft the perfect at home spa basket with a colorful array of all natural, sustainable, and ethical products that are NEVER tested on animals 
  • For the animal lover on your list, Give an unforgettable and timeless gift of a symbolic adoption! A more personalized route, local animal shelters often offer symbolic adoptions for specific animals.  
  • For the star gazing celestial lover, you can now adopt and name stars! The possibilities are endless.  

 

Holiday Treats

Serving food can be quite the challenge. Finding incredible recipes to please all the members of the family and their restrictions on what they can and cannot eat. Try some of these recipes to make healthy, simple, and delicious sweets:

 

Food Waste: Eat sustainably

An estimated 30-40% of food supplies go to waste each year. Americans waste over 25% more food between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s alone.  All this food ends up in landfills. Ways to avoid this include only buying what you need for your group, enjoying leftovers after your holiday meals, and considering composting!                 

 

Decorations

Decorations are the time to go all out, create a comfortable atmosphere and mold memories with the loved ones you decorate with. Keep in mind, we want to keep our homes festively decorated, not our ecosystem.

 

Modern technology has allowed us to create greeting cards that can be planted. The paper is fully made with biodegradable materials and seeds. Once shredded and placed into soil, watch your card grow into your favorite flower or tree!

 

Advent calendars are a fun countdown to take part in but are single use. Consider investing in reusable advent calendars made of wood.

Wreaths are one of the most overlooked harmful decorations. Loads of plastic, glitter and glass go into some wreaths. Making one from pinecones can be a fun activity and decoration! You can customize it to your household and interests, painting it or adorning it in biodegradable or plant-based glitters and snow.

 

For more ideas try visiting this website: https://giant.sg/10-easy-eco-friendly-christmas-decorations-that-look-awesome

 

Trees: Real or Fake?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

Real tree pros:

  • Generate less greenhouse gas for a single tree
  • Warm winter aroma fills the room
  • Less overall waste, no plastic pine needles /no cardboard box
  • All-natural option, can be donated/composted

Real tree cons:

On the other hand:

Fake tree pros:

  • Can last up to 10 years, if taken care of properly
  • Does come in a cardboard box, but can be recycled/ used for gifts and crafts
  • Less of a fire hazard, pine needle cleanup and less care required

Fake tree cons:

  • Require loads of carbon emissions to make and ship
  • Made with plastics (pine needles) and other harmful chemicals
  • Tends to be more expensive but doesn’t need to be replaced often

In conclusion artificial trees often present a higher initial cost but end up being more economical in the long run since they do not require annual replacement. While real trees drastically reduce carbon emissions and are biodegradable, as well as recyclable. Additionally, tree farms offer an abundance of jobs, oxygen production, and habitat for animals. Artificial trees offer convenience but generate an enormous amount of plastic pollution and eventually end up in landfills. Real trees require regular maintenance once cut, can be messy, and present both allergy and household fire hazards. Which will you be picking next year?

 

Social Media

Finally, an easy to learn more and to share what you have learned with online friends, distant loved ones, and any classmates/co-workers is to make a quick post on social media sharing your eco-friendly holiday tips. Be sure to tag organizations, like EarthEcho to help spread your message!  Use this modern revelation as leverage to discuss relevant topics of conversation. Share pictures of your creative pieces, send messages to people about what good they have done or a place to get started. Spread ideas like holiday cheer!

 

The possibilities are endless and not as impossible as they may seem. Create new family traditions, make new favorite recipes, form a new habit, and decorate just as you have before, all while protecting the planet!  

 

Happy Holidays!

 

Editor's Note: Faith Blackall is an EarthEcho Water Challenge Ambassador from Trinity, FL. She recently joined fellow Water Challenge Ambassador Harper Campbell to present to local students about sustainability at the holidays! 

 

   

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