We know, we know. The holidays are a time to kick back and treat your friends, family, and yourself. Yet as shared by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, did you know that “the volume of household waste in the United States generally increases [by] 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day”?
Minimizing waste is one effort to be mindful about but beyond buying less, we can also buy better. In approaching smarter, sustainable holidays, here are some little ways you can help:
The Huffington Post reports that gift wrappers “create about 4 million tons of waste annually.” The Use-Less-Stuff Report suggests “If every American family wrapped just three presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.” Consider wrapping gifts in old newspapers and magazines—match the visual to the personality of the receiver (eg: sensational headlines for those with a penchant for words, film section for the visually-inclined, comic book section for kids, car ad for dad). Store gifts in reusable containers such as an old tin can, jar, box, or shopping bag. Make the wrapper a gift in itself by using a scarf, linen cloth, or basket. Opt for recycled twine versus ribbons.
Vintage and antiques offer character, less chances of that “she/he’s wearing the same outfit as me” scenario, and eliminate the mindset of always having to buy brand new.
Package it for a family activity (city tours, pottery classes, or passes to a sports match), a couple (concert tickets, a spa treatment, or Netflix subscription), or something practical for everyone (a gym membership, gift certificates for haircuts). These show you really put thought into the present and you may even catch some early bird prices.
What will positively impact the environment? A membership to a city bike rental. An e-reader or digital magazine subscription. Bamboo or glass straws. Items that run on rechargeable energy. Search online for where you can shop plastic-free products, such as Life Without Plastic, upcycled items from the likes of Hip Cycle, or a wide range of eco-conscious options from The Ultimate Green Store. Support products from bamboo hiking poles to aquaponics home kits before they hit the big market through Kickstarter. Instead of buying trendy gadgets, consider renewable tech products. Kopernik has solar powered gear and emergency water filters useful for happy campers and frequent travelers.
Buy produce from local farms, gifts from your neighborhood boutiques, and attend your city’s weekend fairs and markets—these not only contribute to your local economy, but will cut back on carbon emissions used when exporting goods.
Sustainability extends beyond caring for the environment, but also the people behind the products. Brands that are certified fair trade secure sustainable livelihoods by promising fair wages and work conditions. In the cacao industry, many developing countries from which cacao is sourced don’t reap the full rewards of their labor due to non-transparency in cacao prices. Big Tree Farms is among those that pledge fair trade products. When shopping for food on websites like Thrive Market and iHerb, you can refine search results by typing in “fair trade.” For artisan goods from Nepal, India to Bangladesh, check out Ten Thousand Villages. Even big names such as ASOS have created fair trade collections like ASOS Made in Kenya while cult fashion label Everlane spearheads “radical transparency.”