By Dr. Kailey Fargo, D.C.
For many, the time spanning between Thanksgiving and New Years holds grand meals, large gatherings, excessive gift-giving, and over-the-top decorating. During this time, Americans throw away a million extra tons of trash per week including holiday wrapping paper and packaging. Electricity needs also increase due to holiday light use and decorations. In an attempt to reduce overall waste and turn ourselves into more conscious consumers, here is a list of things to consider for yourself and your family that can be done to enjoy the holidays in a way that causes minimal harm to the environment:
- Make your own wrapping paper or go without: approximately 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away over the holidays. Most wrapping paper is not recyclable because of the foil coating. Try choosing recyclable paper like newspapers, old maps, comics, or children’s artwork for a fun and eco-friendly flare this year. Better yet, go without and hide unwrapped presents around the house and find them with a scavenger hunt!
- Buy LED holiday lights: Choose energy-saving LED bulbs for outdoor lights and your tree to greatly reduce your energy bill. They also last much longer and don’t compromise the entire strand when one bulb burns out.
- Add local food to your holiday meals: support local family farmers who sustainably source meat and vegetables. Being in Minnesota, farm fruit and vegetables are hard to come by in winter but not impossible! Local, sustainably raised meat is far better for the environment than factory farm meat from far away.
- Chemical-free trees: live trees are a much greener choice than artificial trees because they provide wildlife habitats, protect soil, and moderate flooding. The most eco-friendly is a potted, native tree that can be replanted after the holiday season. Some states even allow you to rent a tree and return after the holidays! If repotting your tree is not possible, purchase a locally-grown cut tree and make sure it gets mulched and recycled.
- Recycle old devices when new ones are gifted: many cell phones are simply thrown away which puts hazardous materials into landfills. Try choosing a recycling center like Staples where they assist in the process.
- Donate time or money to environmental causes: get into the holiday spirit by volunteering for your community. Organizations around the globe need your time and money to make a difference so you can have a great impact for a small amount of effort
- Gift experiences, not things: in a world where many of us have more things than we could ever need, try gifting tickets, memberships, or trips that will create meaningful memories without taking up physical space.
- Make handcrafts and DIY gifts: there are so many ways to reduce consumption from big retailers. Try hand making ornaments, crafty picture frames, soaps, and beeswax candles. In the day and age of Google, the options really are endless.
- Stuff stockings with natural treats: stocking stuffers tend to be small, plastic trinkets that often end up in the trash. Instead fill with dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, or holiday cookies. Remember that the majority of the fun comes from opening something as a surprise, not necessarily the gift itself.
- Purchase locally made gifts: if you choose to purchase retail gifts, aim for products that have minimal packaging and that are made from sustainable materials. Shop locally to help boost the local job market