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Celebrating the Holidays Sustainably

December 6, 2023

By Jolene Weick, Park Interpreter

Every year there is a hot new toy that hits the shelves just in time for holiday shopping. Parents race out and try their hardest to score whatever it may be, a stuffed animal, a doll, a ride on toy. The problem with this is, there will always be a new toy. When the old toy breaks or the child gets sick of it, it goes to a landfill. This may seem innocent, but when thousands of families are doing the same thing, it creates a lot of waste. There are ways to minimize and cut back on holiday waste. Making conscious choices on gifts, decorations, even your holiday dinner, can have big impacts on the environment.

  • Wrapping paper: Wrapping gifts in colorful paper is a holiday tradition that most families follow. There are several options to be more sustainable, yet still give the element of surprise. A reusable tote, recyclable paper, newspaper, or a basket are just a few great alternatives to one time use wrapping paper. Reusing paper, bags, or items that can be repurposed is also an option. Try to avoid holiday printed or themed items in order to encourage the next person to reuse it.
A scrap piece of fabric or a flour sack towel makes great wrapping paper. Add some natural elements to dress it up instead of using a bow.
  • Lights: You can’t leave your house during the holiday season without seeing twinkling lights. Going light free would be the most ecofriendly option, but it’s understandable that most people would rather not give up their holiday lights. Switching to LED lights, which are more efficient than your typical string lights, will not only last longer but also use less electricity. Turning your lights off during the day or just before bed time can also greatly reduce energy usage.
  • Decorations: Reusing the same decorations from year to year instead of buying new will help reduce not only waste in landfills, but space taken up in your home. There are also tons of decorations you can make from items you find right outside your door. Wreaths made from grape vines, birds made out of pinecones, or ornaments made from walnuts! Check out the programs at your local Metroparks for holiday ornament making!
Dried fruit makes for great décor! Use different colors of citrus for a garland, ornaments, or suncatchers.
  • Seasonal foods: Eating locally sourced and seasonal food is better for the environment no matter what time of year it is. Purchasing locally sourced foods is also a great way to help out your community. Many communities have farmers markets or farm co-ops where you can source foods harvested or raised near you. Consider finding a farm to purchase your holiday turkey or ham, and a local bakery for your baked goods such as rolls, pies, and bread.
  • Gifts: Gift giving is one of the biggest holiday traditions. Gifts are wonderful, but some are wasteful. Skip the “greatest dad” mug, or the prepackaged baskets and give something that can be used many times and won’t end up in the landfill in a year. Homemade gifts are not only thoughtful, they’re sustainable too. Make homemade vanilla extract for the bakers in your life, a witty tee shirt for a teenager, or a photo collage for a parents or grandparent. Gifting experiences such as concert tickets, museum or zoo memberships, or movie tickets provide long lasting memories.

The holidays can still be enjoyable while making eco-conscious choices. Even by changing just a few of your holiday habits, you can make an impact. Celebrate the holidays sustainably this year.

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