BY: DEANNA WILLARD
With Holidays right around the corner, it’s hard not to be swept up in the beautiful decorations, hustle and bustle of finding the perfect gift, spending countless hours in the kitchen, and finding a ride to grandma’s house. While all these things are adorned with nostalgia and make this time of year so special, many of us are looking for a way to make the Holidays more meaningful by making them less impactful. That is, to the Earth. This post will be your one-stop shop for all things “Sustainable Holiday”!
Petroleum or Pine?
To make a substantial impact this year- try purchasing a real tree. Not only are they compostable once the winter months fade, but they’re also cheaper. On average, artificial trees will run you anywhere from $150-$500. That’s a big investment! Real trees typically cost $30-$100 (Heffernan, 2020). Despite being able to be used for several years, artificial Christmas trees cost our Planet much more than money. Artificial trees are composed of plastics and metals that are not biodegradable by any stretch of the imagination. The trees collect in landfills for years to come and are made from non-renewable resources. Besides, real trees come with a built-in air freshener!
It is no secret that our food choices directly impact the Earth. Whether it be from methane or nitrous oxide, the two main greenhouse gases emitted from animal agriculture, the carbon footprint left by choosing meat is irreversible. On average, beef production for just 1,000 dietary calories is 146 square meters, and freshwater usage is 1,650 liters (Hanson, 2020). The greatest threats that animal agriculture pose to our Planet are greenhouse gas emissions triggered by deforestation, use of land for feedlots, water usage, and water pollution. By choosing meat-free foods and saying no to turkey this year, you could be saving our planet tons of resources and reducing the burden we place on it. A plus: meat-free meals take less time to prepare and are more inexpensive!
Think outside of the Box
Using newspapers, paper grocery bags, and even recycled bags and gift wrapping from last year can make a great positive impact this year! Untraditional items you already have not only saves you money and time, but also prevents more waste from collecting in landfills, and will give your gift a memorable appeal. Some ideas include newspapers, paper grocery bags, gift bags from last years’ gifts, tote bags you no longer use, fabric you might have laying around, mismatched jars, old shoe boxes, and much more! All these things might not sparkle on their own but using some eco-friendly odds and ends can spruce it up. A more creative, but slightly more time-consuming route, is to hit up a local thrift or antique store for fabrics and accessories. You might even find a thrifted item that’s worth giving as a gift!
Speaking of thrifting….
While you’re at it, you should consider thrifting your holiday decorations! Once again, thrifting helps reduce your carbon footprint and cushions the impact to the environment. Since the resources have already been utilized to create that product, they won’t have to be drawn from again to create a product just for you. Thrifted items also have a worn-in and preloved feeling that makes the holidays even more sentimental.
Share the Love
Despite being the season of indulgence, some of your delicious creations could be going to waste. Most local food pantries and food banks will accept food donations. Some might have stricter standards, but it’s always a great idea to check and see if your leftovers will qualify. Another way to reduce impact is to only make enough food that you’re sure will be eaten. Food waste is a global crisis, with over 133 billion pounds of edible food waste ending up in landfills every year in the United States alone (USDA, 2020). Get an RSVP going for your event, and plan servings accordingly! You can find a food pantry in your area here: https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank.
Hitch a Ride
coordinating a carpool will reduce your carbon footprint by emitting fewer fossil fuels. It is estimated if one additional passenger were to be added to every 100 vehicles, 7.2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions could be prevented every year. Additionally, if a single passenger was added to every 10 vehicles annually, 68.0 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions could be prevented (Shaheen, 2018).
BONUS: Sustainable Gift-Guide
Stasher Silicone Reusable Food Storage Bags-
Kitchen Food Composter-
Bamboo Toothbrush set-
Reusable (non-disposable) Razor-
Biodegradable Cotton Swabs-
Reusable Paper Towels-
Reusable Wool Dryer Balls-
Zero Waste Journal 2021-
Zero Waste Gift Set-
“Carbon Emissions Faq | World Shipping Council.” Accessed November 25, 2020.
“Food Waste Faqs.” Accessed November 25, 2020. https://www.usda.gov/foodwaste/faqs.
Hold the beef. “Hold the Beef.” Accessed November 25, 2020. http://holdthebeef.org.
JamieHanson. “Hold the Beef: Why America Must Reduce Its Beef Consumption.” Education. Accessed November 25, 2020. https://www.slideshare.net/JamieHanson2/holdthe-beef-report?ref=https://holdthebeef.atavist.com/.
Yes! Magazine. “Oh, Christmas Tree... Fake Christmas Tree?” Accessed November 25, 2020.
“Real Trees vs. Fake Trees - Pros and Cons.” Accessed November 25, 2020.
Shaheen, Susan, Adam Cohen, and Alexandre Bayen. “The Benefits of Carpooling.” California Digital Library, UC Berkeley, October 22, 2018, 1–34.
“Shipping and Climate Change | Transport & Environment.” Accessed November 25, 2020.
“The Best Artificial Christmas Tree.” The New York Times, October 30, 2020.
Sightline Institute. “Your Christmas Tree’s Carbon Footprint,” December 21, 2015.
about the author: deanna willard
Deanna is a Dietetics student at Kansas State University in her final year. She previously earned her Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Science at NC State University and has a passion for sustainability and a low-impact lifestyle. She teaches a community learning center course on Plant-based Nutrition and Cooking, and loves developing new healthy recipes in her free time.