5 Tips for “Greening” Your Holidays

ChristmastreerockcenterOne day after “Giving Tuesday” and as you consider ways to make your family holidays and holiday traditions more sustainable, we are happy to share this special guest post by Climate Mama extraordinaire, Tiffany Kresinski with you. Tiffany helps remind us about ways we can make the holidays more simple, meaningful and easier, not just for us, but for our planet too! So today on “Do Something Wednesday” and on any day, take some time to talk to the kids in your life and remind them how and why we can all tread a little more softly on our planet, and why that’s important for us all.

Greeting your Holidays
by Tiffany Kresinski

It’s the holiday season. And once again, before we could even say goodbye to another Halloween and hello Thanksgiving, the holiday season is upon us, jumping out around every corner.

Not that I mind, as I like to soak up as much holiday joy and family time as I can. It’s always amazing how early these days creep up every year. And besides back to school, this is certainly what I consider our busiest time of year as a family. There always seem to be a few extra school functions, vacation days, family get-togethers, and of course, shopping. Between gifts and groceries, I feel like I’m in a constant state of back and forth between my home and my local market.

This year, while I try to make the coming holidays as special as possible for my family, I want to make a conscious effort to remember to really think through my purchase decisions and go about them in the most economical way that I can. This includes environmentally friendly purchases. It’s easy to get careless when we’re making last minute decisions, but with proper planning, we can make smarter choices. As these coming weeks can be truly hectic for many people, I’d like to share a 5 simple ideas with you that can make a big impact this season.

imagesMake it a habit to DIY and Donate

When you write your list of presents to buy this year, it’s important to consider whether you can make something yourself rather than buying a new item. I recommend checking out some DIY clothing and accessories boards for ideas on how to make it your own. Not only can these ideas save you money, you can get your kids involved and spend quality time helping them make gifts for their friends. Re-using the fabric from clothes they have grown out of has endless possibilities for crafts and repurposing. Older children can consider passing their hand-me-down clothes on to younger siblings or cousins. While sometimes this isn’t considered an exciting gift, they could include a letter about why they chose this gift for the recipient to add a special touch. If you find yourself with too much clothing they can’t wear or repurpose, consider donating it to a local nonprofit in need, or recycling the clothes that you can’t donate. It’s a wonderful feeling to see your family able to help others, especially during the holidays.

Shopping local is great to keep in mind all year round, but I’ve found that there are even more options for keeping it local in the fall and early winter seasons, when specialty crafters are circulating. Keep an eye out for craft fairs and holiday markets. Supporting your local economy is the best way to keep profits and growth at home instead of boosting a big corporation. Shop with your kids and help them learn the difference between a “need” versus a “want,” instead of agreeing or refusing to buy a given item. This kind of rational decision-making will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Clean out your pantry. If you have relatives coming to town or if you need to bring a dish to someone else’s party, you might be surprised to find that you already have ingredients to make something without making a trip to the store. And again in the spirit of giving, you can donate anything that your family won’t use to a local shelter or food bank. Check out Ample Harvest, an organization that helps you find food pantries that accept fresh produce. This is great for gardeners as you finish up harvest season and close the garden before the winter freeze. If you have any surplus, there are certain food banks looking for your donations. And you can check out Feeding America to find a local food bank for your non-perishable items.

When it comes to packaging, think “reuse”
There are two main categories of eco-friendly packaging that you can use to help make your holiday season a little more green: packaging for leftover food and packaging for wrapping presents. Holiday dinners big and small tend to lead to the inevitable leftover meals. You can prepare ahead of time and make sure you have the proper containers on hand for keeping things in your own fridge, for sending food home with guests, and with packing for kids’ lunches if they’re not on a break. This holiday season is a great time to reevaluate your current food storage system. There are lots of options for reusable containers, and some are insulated to keep food warm or cold until lunchtime. Spend some time reading the labels, as many are manufactured without chemicals like BPA or PVC so they can be safely used in the microwave over and over. You can also find fun reusable zip-lock bags with unique designs. Any packaging that you give to relatives could be considered part of your gift to them, or you can always ask that they return it next time you go to see them.

Traditional gift-wrapping paper can be harmful to trees and lead to waste as it often goes straight into a landfill after a one-time use. There are so many alternative ways to wrap gifts, even as simple as buying fabric gift bags. Then you can wrap presents for your kids, collect the bags after they open them, and use them again for years to come. One of my favorite options is using pages from last year’s calendar, since you are almost done with it anyway! I also enjoyed reading The Prairie Homestead’s list of 15 ideas, such as the idea of using plain brown paper, or anything else that you can safely burn in your fireplace after. Pretty packaging that will later keep you warm, and won’t end up in a landfill? Sounds like a winter win-win.

I’ve lately gotten really excited by the concept of “cradle to cradle,” popularized by William McDonough, which essentially means reusing something as closely to its original purpose as possible. If you can use all scraps of material for an article of clothing- let’s say you use some to make a new clothing item and some as gift wrap- then you are getting the full potential of the material without creating waste. This helps minimize costs out of your pocket and costs to the environment. And just as important as helping our earth is talking to your kids about why you’re making the effort. They might be excited to learn that just by bringing a special container to school, they are being kind to the planet.

Keep decorations natural and trees local
When it comes to holiday decorating, one of the best things you can do is use natural materials in addition to the items you already have on hand. It’s easy to fix up old decorations from years past by adding new touches found from your yard or your home. Items like pinecones from outdoors, seashells collected on your last vacation, leftover yarn from a craft project, or last year’s holiday cards can all be used to create something new to spruce up your decorations.

Used with permission: EnviroDAD

Used with permission: EnviroDAD

If you are going to buy a live tree for your home, it’s best to get the tree from a local farm. These farms raise trees specifically for the holiday season, which means that cutting one down doesn’t detract from our natural forests. Also, if you go to a local farm and cut your own, you are helping to eliminate the transportation that goes into bringing trees to retailers. Once the holidays are over, you can bring your tree to a facility that will recycle it into wood chips and mulch.

Overall, when it comes to holiday preparation, my rule of thumb is use what you own or can make, before resorting to buying new. And for anything you can do without, consider giving to other families who could use your donations. Happy green holidays!

Tiffany Kresinski is a wife and mother who blogs about her experiences as she tries to live a more sustainable and economic lifestyle. She’s always looking to share any tips she learns along the way, and learn from other people who share her passion for the planet.

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