Happy Holidays, everyone! And to all my friends writing finals right now (including myself RIP) - keep working, you are almost there!
I wanted to take this post as an opportunity to provide a few tips and tricks for making the holidays as fun as possible, but also as kind to the earth and its people as possible. I think this season is so amazing. Personally, I look forward to going home for Christmas every year and getting to relax and see my family. However, there have definitely been times in the past that I've been trying to fully enjoy the season but have simultaneously been noticing things about it that are wasteful or harmful.
Therefore, I thought I'd write this post to show you all some of the simple ways that you can go about reducing your waste and your impact on the planet and its people without drastically changing the way you celebrate the holidays. There are so many things that you can do! Hopefully some of them are helpful to you!
tip #1: buy/ask for secondhand gifts
Christmas and consumerism?! Together?! Imagine that! No, but seriously. Think of all the freaking stuff you buy and get around this season. And let's be honest, a lot of it is out of obligation - only a portion of it you're actually going to use. And while this is a beautiful tradition filled with love, it can certainly be done in a more environmental and ethical manner.
One of these ways - and without breaking the bank at that! - is to shop secondhand, or to ask others to shop secondhand for you. This is especially awesome for all those Secret Santa/Yankee Swaps you're inevitably going to be invited to, as you never know what you might stumble upon in a Value Village when you're least expecting it.
tip #2: package your gifts in recyclable/reusable wrap
So after you've picked up all your secondhand/thrifted gifts, what better thing to do next than to wrap them sustainably, too? This is where we reuse and recycle! The way I see it, you've got two options here:
Get Krafty: basically every store sells that nice brown wrapping paper that looks like butcher paper. Well, pick yourself up a roll (or two) of that and wrap up all your gifts in it! Feel free to get a little more decorative with some reusable fabric ribbons, twine, or cute gift tags. Either way, though, be proud of how minimalist-ly beautiful these wrapping jobs are.
Just Wrap It: got some extra scarves or bandanas? Trust your recipient to return them, or don't care if they do? Then have I got a beautiful and zero waste idea for you! Lush has a fantastic, easy-to-follow video tutorial about how to do fabric-wrapped presents that look so elegant. They also sell the wraps on their website if you are looking to invest!
tip #3: cook a vegetarian or vegan dish for dinner/brunch
One of my absolute FAVOURITE parts of the holiday season is my family's tradition of having a delicious Christmas morning brunch. My extended family all comes over for an amazing spread of bagels, apple turnovers, mimosas, and more. I seriously love it and I already can't wait for this year. I've also recently gone vegetarian, and I've realized that my options honestly don't have to be that limited! My veg friends have opened my eyes to a world of beautiful recipes, particularly BAKED GOODS, that taste just as good vegan.
It's super easy to whip up a batch of brownies or cookies and replace the milk, butter, and eggs with vegan substitutes, and just as quick to Google vegetarian dishes and be met with a whole host of options. Therefore, I'd recommend exploring this avenue this year and potentially saving a ton of greenhouse gases in the process!
tip #4: decorate with handmade or locally-purchased items
Holiday decor is so lovely! There are so many ways to make your home cozier than ever, and let's not forget that it's an excuse to literally bring a giant tree into your home and cover it in things? While we're trying not to overthink that too much, let's talk about ways to decorate that aren't super harmful for the earth.
Buy locally-made soy or beeswax candles: I absolutely adore a nicely-scented candle for winding down at night and often light one as I'm having some tea. It just makes me feel so cozy! However, many of these candles are made from paraffin wax, which actually comes from oil - grr. Therefore, try finding a bit more environmentally-friendly option, such as soy or beeswax candles! These are often sold at farmers’ markets or by other local vendors. If that fails, they're also available in many places online.
Use picture frames you already have and add holiday art: there are so many beautiful, free holiday art pieces available online that aren't tacky! Take a look on Pinterest, like at this option, to see what I mean.
Do some light foraging: chances are if you live in the country and it's snowing there, you're surrounded by beautiful OUTDOOR decor already. Why not head outside and trim some sprigs of pine or gather some pinecones to place around your home? Not only is this completely zero waste, but the pine will also smell fantastic.
tip #5: receive a gift you won't use? donate it responsibly!
Let's face it. For better or for worse, there will inevitably be a gift you received that was given out of complete love, and you were of course thankful for, but that doesn't fit, or you know it might not get used. When this happens, most of us usually donate this kind of stuff, but I'm here to tell you that your donations don't always go where you're hoping for them to.
Donation stores simply receive too many items. If you've ever stepped inside a secondhand store, you know what I mean. Clothes rack after clothes rack, filled with items that won't get purchased. So what happens to them? They either get sent to a landfill, or sent to a community in the Global South to be sold by vendors, which actually floods the market in which artisans and other vendors are trying to sell their handcrafted goods. For many individuals in these communities, entrepreneurship is a way out of poverty - and throwing donated clothes into the mix can often collapse their customer base. This is not okay, and I will you to not contribute to it.
What can you do instead? You should either sell your items or donate them directly to a person or cause that you know will use your donations wisely. You could do this in a buy and sell group on Facebook, by creating a Depop account, or by ordering a thredUP consignment bag. This is really important.
Hopefully these tips and tricks will come in handy in the next couple of weeks! I wish you all a wonderful, cozy, and fun holiday season.
With love and sustainability,