The days are getting shorter. The weather is getting colder. Christmas music is permeating every available speaker and Silk Nog is for sale at the store. That’s right- the holiday season is here. According to recycleworks.org, household waste increases by more than 25% during the holiday season: gift wrap, shopping bags, Christmas trees, cards, and food. 70% of people surveyed would like less emphasis on giving and spending. Here are some quick ways to reduce the waste this season.
1. You’ve Got Mail. Send electronic cards instead of those paper ones. An estimated 2.6 billion (BILLION!) Christmas cards are sold in the United States each year. Plus we reduce the energy it takes for the post office to deliver them across the country. American Greetings is one of many companies that does e-cards.
2. Wrap It Up. This year for all our holiday wrapping we used newspaper instead of wrapping paper. Someone had given me a newspaper from Israel, and the newspaper was interesting to look at in a different language, and no one was sad that the glossy, expensive wrapping paper was missing. Reusing gift bags is another way to waste less. We had the same gift bag traded back and forth for years in our family: it was as part of the tradition as anything else.
3. Donate. What do you get for the person who has everything? Donate to a charity in their name. This is a thoughtful gift that helps rather than wastes. Many charities send beautiful emails or letters letting the person know that money was donated in their name. Perfect for seniors, those in the family you are stumped on what to buy, and for that person who has everything.
4. Cloth over paper. Use cloth napkins instead of paper, and real utensils, plates, and cups instead of their tossable, plastic counterparts. Your parties and special meals will be classier and you will help to keep things out of the landfill.
5. Decorate Green. Use reusable decorations and an artificial tree. If you must use a live tree, take it to a recycling center where it can be mulched. LED lights use a fraction of traditional Christmas lights and places like CVS, Lowes and Home Depot have a light recycling policy- take your old, non working lights in to be recycled and receive a discount on your LED lights. Make sure to put them on a timer.
6. To Go. Package up food for guests to take home and reduce the incident of leftovers that you won’t eat.
7. Cloth shopping Bags. My mother’s favorite. Take them when you go out shopping and if you feel crafty, they are one of the simplest things to sew- use them in lieu of wrapping paper for your gifts, and you are spreading the green to your loved ones.
8. Think first, buy second. Just because something is on sale does not mean you have to buy it. If you are a compulsive shopper (like me), and purchase something without a giver in mind just because it is a good price, re-evaluate the meaning behind the holidays and put that credit card away. The average amount spent is $800-1000 on holiday gifts. Debt isn’t mindful, it isn’t green, and it isn’t worth it.
Remember, the best memories of the holidays are usually those things that do not have price tags and do not get tossed in the trash instantly. At The Mindful Consumer we wish everyone a safe, restful, and joyful holiday season.