A tremendous amount of waste is incurred during the holiday season. Garbage from festivities, unwanted or disposable gifts, packaging and wrapping, in addition to the vast over-consumption, threatens to reduce the enjoyment–and usurp the true intention and meaning–of the season. As we approach the holidays, many of us are keen to reduce our yuletide impact on the environmental. Many of the proposed changes won’t reduce the enjoyment of your festivities – or the pleasure of spending valuable time with those you cherish:
1. Send E-cards Rather Than Paper Cards. Sending online invitations (such as evites or MyPunchBowl’s swank new eCards) not only reduces waste but also makes it easier to plan and keep track of invitees and attendees. It may also be preferable to send greeting e-cards, rather than a physical cards which often promptly wind up as trash. (While, we all have that one parent/sibling/friend who actually saves every single card, they are the exception rather than the rule). If you think an e-card isn’t exciting, consider sending from a site that has amusing ones. One of my favourites is someecards (whose slogan is “when you care enough to press send”). They have an amazing selection of snarky messages sure to get a good laugh.
2. Choose a Virtual Gift Registry. One of someecards cards reads, “Thanks for getting me a gift I don’t actually have to return”. I understand that sentiment well. I founded DreamBank.org, so you could do just that–no waste involved. DreamBank is a kind of virtual gift registry which enables you to give and get the perfect gift. How? We’ve created an “everything registry” where you can start a fund for yourself or for someone you care about. Then you invite friends, family and fans to the “dream”. It could be a musical instrument, sports equipment, even a trip. The waste involved with discarded gifts and shipping and wrapping is reduced, as is the hassle of shopping for and returning gifts. Plus, we give 10 % of all net transaction revenue to charities. So your holiday gift results in someone else’s gift as well. Of course, if you’re feeling particularly charitable, there are plenty of great sites that can help you organize a giving campaign or send a laptop to a needy child in the developing world.
3. Reconsider Plastic. Bring cloth bags to stores to avoid getting plastic ones and eschew disposable dishes. While plastic plates and utensils may seem more convenient, these disposable items can last 10,000 years in a landfill. No one enjoys washing dishes, but perhaps you can organize the cleanup with your guests. After all, guests frequently offer to help–why not take them up on the offer? In fact, if you like the person (and we hope you do) it could give you more time to chat. Or you could plan the cleanup ahead, asking for assistance before the party, so everyone knows what they’ll be doing. Plus, you’ll gain some peace-of-mind.
4. Be Mindful of Food. Remember that your eating habits affect the planet’s health so try to purchase ingredients locally and be aware of how and where your food is produced. The gift of food doesn’t have to be limited to your guests. There are those whose holidays could be made more festive by your donation to a local foodbank or by organizing a food drive to support a soup kitchen.
5. Think About Meaning. Is the holiday about the myriads of gifts, or about connecting with your family? Does your house really need to have the most lights? What’s really important to you? Connect with nature by talking a nature walk or by putting extra effort into making environments hospitable for local birds. Make some gifts rather than purchasing them (edible gifts are a good bet–who doesn’t love cookies?). You can even volunteer with family to help those in need, and create an experience that might be more memorable than the gift of new Ugg boots. Vancouver and Toronto both have volunteer sites for their city and “Do-it!” offers online information on opportunities in the UK. Many other areas have similar sites.
It doesn’t take all that much effort to make a difference. And making these changes will probably reduce your stress level and the holiday energy drain as well. So you’ll be free to enjoy the festivities knowing that you’ve embraced the true sentiment of the season.