Although certain governmental agencies and big corporations might not seem to care about climate change, the reality is that many individuals are concerned about the negative impact we’re having on this planet we call home. And while one person may not be able to change the entire world, it’s clear that making small lifestyle adjustments may have more of a positive effect than you might think.
Not only can embracing eco-friendly practices allow you to reduce your carbon footprint, but it can also help to safeguard your health. After all, children who had PGE concentrations within the top 25% in their bedrooms exhibited at least a 100% higher likelihood of developing asthma and eczema, among other conditions.
No one wants to be sick around the holidays, of course. But since yuletide celebrations can be rather wasteful, you might be able to literally give the gifts of eco-friendliness and good health if you follow these tips.
Get Creative With Your Wrapping
By now, you probably already know that single-use plastics are bad for the environment. Although we rely on all kinds of plastic materials (and processes like the reaction injection molding process, which involves two liquid components being mixed, injected, and cured to create components), one-and-done plastic materials are difficult to break down, are rarely recycled, and end up hurting the eco-system by making their way to landfills and waterways.
You might think that as long as you stay away from single-use plastics in your holiday wrapping, everything will be fine. But we’ve got bad news about wrapping paper. Although it may initially be made from a natural material, wrapping paper typically can’t be recycled.
Whether due to glitter or other elements, wrapping your gifts can lead to a lot of waste by the end of the holiday. Even plain brown paper might not be able to be recycled, depending on the circumstances. And since some papers can’t be saved and reused from year to year, you might think you’re out of luck.
But if you get a little creative, you can solve this puzzle — before you wrap that puzzle you’re putting under the tree (which your parents might use to activate their brains and provide some relaxation in the new year). Consider using old newspapers, fabric scraps or reusable tote bags to wrap your gifts instead. You’ll earn extra points for ingenuity and do your part to protect the planet at the same time.
Rethink Your Gift Selections
While it might cut down on the excitement of unwrapping gifts on Christmas Day, consider opting for non-tangible presents for your nearest and dearest. That might mean sending over a digital gift card or concert tickets (which can be delivered via email or an app).
You could also turn charitable donations into gifts, particularly if you have friends or family members who want to support a specific cause. Many organizations are established to protect the planet and eco-friendly efforts — so if you know someone who cares about sustainability, this could make for a perfect present.
Alternatively, you might consider giving a houseplant, a homemade piece of jewelry, or some delicious food item made right in your kitchen. As long as you utilize eco-friendly materials and ingredients, you’ll be giving your loved one something truly thoughtful without all the waste.
Choose the Right Christmas Tree
It’s traditional to put up a Christmas tree during the holiday season, but this practice isn’t necessarily the most sustainable. Growing pine trees specifically to cut down, bring in the house for a month, and then leave out on the curb doesn’t exactly scream “environmental responsibility.” Then again, the manufacturing of plastic trees is harmful to the environment — and they can’t be disposed of in an eco-friendly way, either.
Although plastic trees can be reused from year to year, research has found that real trees are actually better for the environment overall. Still, you might want to think about buying a potted tree for the holiday and planting it in the ground afterwards. You could also decorate an already existing evergreen in your yard and retire the tradition indoors. If you do use a real tree and bring it inside, however, at least dispose of it in an eco-friendly way. If you already have a fake tree, you should continue to use it for as long as possible (the same goes for your existing holiday decor) to reduce your environmental impact.
Since the holiday season is so commercialized, it can be tough to recognize your own wasteful habits and separate them from the traditions you hold dear. However, by making small changes to the way you celebrate, you can feel great about reducing your impact on the planet without sacrificing holiday cheer.
Image credit: Annie Spratt