As concerns over climate change and an eco-conscious outlook begin to gain traction, we’re all looking to find ways to lower our impact on the earth this year. And for many of us that means adjusting our habits during the holiday season to scale back on any excess and be more mindful of our consumption of water, energy, and other limited resources. Choosing to create the most sustainable holiday experience possible is a great way to give back and show our gratitude to a planet and a society that offers up so much each day to help us live long, happy lives.
Make Mealtime Green
This year, make your holiday mealtime shine with locally-grown and harvested organic meats and produce. Not only will you be helping your community and your environment, but you’ll also be feeding your loved ones quality ingredients. Here are a few holiday food tips to help you feed your family sustainably this holiday season:
- Shop Organic – Organic growing processes support sustainability and biodiversity without the use of harsh pesticides that can harm the environment and your health.
- Shop Seasonally – Seasonal foods are produced close to home and require much less preserving, packaging, shipping, and processing before they reach your dining room table.
- Shop Free-Range and Hormone-Free – Free-range and hormone-free meat and dairy supports ethical raising practices and helps ensure that the animals you are eating were raised with better care and nourishment than those farmed in tight quarters and placed on a regimen of antibiotics and growth hormones.
- Be Sensitive about the Sea – Seafood can be a touchy subject when it comes to sustainability, and many fishing practices are currently causing great harm to our sensitive oceans. Although it can be difficult to differentiate fish products between those that are caught sustainably and those that are not, do your best to make no mistake by seeking out fisheries that boldly advertise their sustainable practices.
- Avoid Unnecessary Packaging – Look for food products that are as close to their original form as possible. Not only will you save packaging, but you’ll have a better idea of exactly what is going into your holiday fare. Shop with your own reusable grocery bags, and look for foods packaged using recyclable materials, or those that require no packaging at all.
- Grow Your Own – There’s nothing more sustainable and satisfying than growing your own food in a home vegetable garden or community plot. Complete the cycle of sustainability by making your own compost from food scraps as well.
- Get Cooking – Many items that are staples of the traditional holiday feasts such as cranberry sauce, pie crusts, cookies, and gravies can be created by hand right in your own kitchen. Making items yourself not only ensures that you know every ingredient contained in each dish and exactly where it came from, but it also cuts down on packaging materials.
Companies are growing ever more conscious of the way they operate their businesses and package their products. These efforts include everything from water-wise artificial foliage in the office to earth friendly alternative packaging made out of mushrooms. For the gifts you do purchase, look for those with sustainable packaging or those that are made from recycled materials. Choose solar-powered gifts or those that promote activities and spending time in nature, away from the pull of electronics and long hours in front of the television. After all, creating an eco-friendly holiday should be good for the soul as well as the planet. Or even better, shop less by splitting up the gift-giving with a round-robin or “Secret Santa” gift exchange. If you’re feeling resourceful, create your own unique and meaningful gifts for the holidays.
Leave Out The Lights
Holiday lights are a beautiful and exciting addition to the season’s decorative themes, but they are also quite an energy burden, bringing with them a utility bill that is nothing to scoff at. This year, take a break from holiday lighting, or reduce your display and use LED lights instead. For example, ENERGY STAR LED lights can use 75% less energy than traditional holiday lighting. In general, LED lights are known to be incredibly energy efficient, and can use up to 90% less energy than traditional lights. They are also cool to the touch and come with a much lower risk of causing a fire. Along with building smaller holiday lighting displays and switching to LEDs, make sure that all lights are turned off before bed to carry your energy savings through the night.
The U.S. generates several million tons of waste through the acts of gift wrapping and shopping during the holiday season. This year, get creative with your wrapping. Instead of opting for conventional wrapping paper, try using fabric, newspaper, paper bags, old maps, posters, and old magazines to keep your gift-giving eco-friendly and add a bit of character. When wrapping with traditional wrapping paper, avoid glossy and metallic gift wrap. Instead look for options made out of recyclable materials, as the glossy ones can be difficult to recycle and make into other products. Use yarn instead of tape wherever possible, and save wrapping paper, bows, and bags during the unwrapping process.
There are also many gifts that require no wrapping paper or environmentally impactful production or packaging. Consider giving the gift of your time towards a chore, provide a monetary donation to your friend or loved one’s favorite charity, or donate to a college or vacation fund.
Spending time with friends and family doesn’t have to revolve around overabundance and unnecessarily high consumption. With a little bit of conscious care and compassion for the world and those around us, we can do our best to create an eco-friendly and sustainable celebration during each festive holiday season.
Author bio: Miguel Bautista has been the owner of Ranka Lasting Greenery (Max Kaiser) for over 13 years. He is certified with both the AIA (American Institute of Architects) and ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects). Ranka is the next generation of decorative landscaping. This decorating solution is eco-friendly and practical, as it requires no water, no fertilizer, and no pruning. For more eco-friendly design tips, follow his blog.
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