This time of year is centered on the idea of celebration. From lighting the menorah or decorating the Christmas tree to relishing in the snowfall and gathering with family and friends, the winter months provide us with a lot to celebrate. So instead of focusing on a particular holiday this season, we wanted to shift our focus to how we celebrate one another.
For us, celebrating sustainability is part of our everyday lives. From choosing environmentally-friendly household staples to volunteering our time with organizations that work tirelessly to save the planet, living sustainably is part of who we are. In fact, here at Product of the North, our practice in sustainability runs so deep that we even donate 1% of our profits to the planet.
As a whole, how we celebrate matters to the planet. So, if nothing else, we hope that this is the sign you’ve been looking for to move to a more sustainable lifestyle.
How to Celebrate Sustainably During the Holidays
As parents, we recognize that more and more families are opting to go green, which is something to celebrate in itself. As you are going through the day-to-day planning for the upcoming holidays, no matter which one you celebrate, we couldn’t think of a better time to shed some light on the earthly gift of sustainability.
This season, whether you’re feeling extra jolly and giving or are simply just hoping to celebrate the holidays with a more sustainable mindset, we’ve got you covered.
Here are our top 6 ways to celebrate the holidays sustainably.
1. Eco-Friendly Decor & Decorations
In the serotonin boost that the holidays bring, you may not realize the impact that decorations have on the environment. We hate to say it, but most of the decor and decorations people put up during the holidays are bad for the planet.
While decorating your home for the holiday season may be fun, there are many ways to decorate more sustainably. Instead of buying new decorations, turn them into a DIY project for your kids. Make it a fun memory and festive decoration for your home all in one. Recycle old boxes, paper, and glass and decorate them with natural paint and accessories. What was once a simple paper towel roll could now be a beautiful Christmas centerpiece on your dining table.
Aside from the impactful decorations, the least green holiday decoration is the lights. According to Academe Blog, “American household Christmas lights, a favorite holiday tradition, use up more electricity than some poorer countries—such as El Salvador or Ethiopia—do in a year. Bright lights strung on American trees, rooftops, and lawns account for 6.63 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity consumption every year.”
Consider swapping your lights this season and recycling your old lights properly to avoid an added impact on landfills and the planet.
2. Use Recycled or Recyclable Wrapping Paper
One of the most exciting things for children on Christmas morning is ripping the wrapping paper off a brand new gift from Santa. Nothing brings more joy and excitement, except for maybe the gift itself. Although a Christmas staple, wrapping paper is a lot more than just paper and cannot be recycled.
Without a way to recycle it, wrapping paper accounts for more than 227,000 miles of waste each year. Often, wrapping paper is made up of a mixture of paper, fibers, dyes, and plastics that can not be adequately broken down in the recycling process.
A $7 billion dollar business is taking a toll on the environment. So we encourage you to quit wrapping paper this holiday season to live more sustainably.
Some of our favorite alternatives to wrapping paper include:
- Wrapping gifts in newspaper or old maps
- Using fabric to wrap a gift. For example, you could use a scarf, shirt, or other fun accessory to wrap a gift, instantly turning it into two gifts in one.
- Using at-home storage containers like jars, boxes, and dust bags.
- Covering the gift in children’s artwork on standard paper.
- Using an eco-friendly basket.
- Adding your gifts to a terracotta pot.
- Waiting until Christmas Eve to fill the tree skirt with unwrapped gifts as a loaded surprise on Christmas morning. We promise that the wrapping paper will not be missed if you choose this method.
The bottom line is that there are still plenty of ways to wrap gifts and share the joy of the first-look on Christmas morning without the added waste of traditional wrapping paper.
3. Get a Real Christmas Tree
Although many people live with the misconception that artificial trees are a way of saving the planet, the truth is, they actually harm it.
Most artificial Christmas trees are manufactured in China and are made of unnatural, un-recyclable, potentially harmful chemicals like PVC. Conversely, real Christmas trees are planted like an agricultural crop, providing a habitat for wildlife as they grow, and when harvested, are replaced by another tree, causing no environmental harm.
According to Huffington Post, “On average, artificial trees last seven to 10 years and cannot be recycled, so they must be landfilled or incinerated. In landfills, the non-biodegradable materials take an extremely long period to break down while incineration can cause plastics, such as PVC, to release dioxins and other carcinogens into the air.”
If you have an artificial tree now and are hoping to replace it with a real tree, we encourage you to visit a local tree farm to find the perfect tree for your home. To get rid of your artificial tree in the most sustainable way possible, consider donating it to a family in need of a tree or consider repurposing it into a wreath, garland, or other flora-style home decor to hang in your home.
4. Avoid Single-Use Plastics & Disposable Place Settings
One of the easiest ways to join the sustainability movement is to avoid single-use plastics. From water bottles to single-use plasticware, single-use plastics are one of the primary sources of waste on the planet.
With 50% of all plastic used only one time before being tossed, we encourage you to avoid single-use plastics at all costs this holiday season. Although it’s easy to default to serving holiday meals with disposable place settings, most of this ends up in landfills after use. So instead, stick with reusable plates, utensils, and containers for serving and storing food.
5. Shop Local & Buy Local
We love the idea of shopping and buying locally all year long. This holiday season is the perfect time to peruse your local shops and purchase items from your local area. Shopping local supports your local community and is a sustainable way to save the environment.
Some of the most significant ways shopping local is optimal for all include:
- Reducing transportation costs to bring goods from one location to another.
- Opting for local food for your holiday spread helps area farms and farmers while keeping the ecosystem and wildlife in your area protected.
- A local workforce is great for your local economy.
- Local businesses support community development and land sustainability in your area.
- Food miles are reduced.
6. Give Sustainable Gifts
There may be nothing better than a gift that keeps on giving. So this holiday season, while you’re diligently reducing your carbon footprint, we think it’s a perfect time to share the gift of sustainability with others.
From packaging to products, often, many holiday gifts are wasteful and bad for the environment.
As you’re writing out and checking off your holiday gift list this year, make sure to include some sustainable gifts that meet the recipient’s needs while also keeping our planet a little bit cleaner.
As a brand that continually puts eco-consciousness at the forefront of what we do, we believe that our Elkin and Avalon diaper bag backpacks make the perfect gift for eco-friendly parents at all stages in the parenting journey.
Other great eco-friendly gift options include:
- Spice plants
- Reclaimed wood shelving
- Organic cotton blankets, clothing, and accessories.
- Reusable shopping bags
- Bamboo bowls and utensils
- Pure beeswax crayons
- Wooden toy sets
Final Thoughts on Celebrating Holidays Sustainably
Minimizing our environmental impact during the holidays won’t just help reduce our individual carbon footprint but will also help to reduce our collective impact. So this holiday season, as you enjoy gift-giving, extra time with family and friends, delicious meals, and invaluable memories, we ask that you remain true to the environment. Choose gifts, accessories, and lifestyle changes that positively impact the way we treat our planet. Celebrate your heart out, but do it sustainably. From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!