Five simple ways to have an environmentally-conscious holiday

With the holidays rapidly approaching, many are shopping for gifts and preparing for their holiday meals. However, waste and pollution in the United States will increase throughout December until New Years’ Day. Since global warming does not stop for the holidays, here are five simple ways to promote sustainability this year.

1. Skip the gift cards

Gift cards are popular gift ideas, but many do not know that billions of plastic gift cards are printed in the United States each year. Some contain toxic PVC, and most will not be recycled. Instead, buy small, personable gifts that will last for months or years in the future without wasting away in the landfill after one use. For some affordable gift ideas, click here. Homemade gifts, such as baked goods, are also great alternatives.

2. Try new foods and ingredients

What you eat has a tremendous impact on your carbon footprint, so what you eat and where your food comes from both matter. Choosing plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, and grains has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than meat and dairy. In addition, using locally sourced ingredients in your holiday meals promotes sustainable agriculture by using less resources to grow the food, which also benefits the local economy. To learn more about how your diet affects the environment, click here.

3. Reuse and recycle

During the holiday season, the United States alone produces 25% more waste during this time period, which is approximately 25 million tons. This year, when wrapping gifts, try to reuse materials already at home. For example, use newspapers, magazines, brown paper bags, or old gift bags to wrap gifts instead of wrapping paper. If you still want to use wrapping paper, make sure it is recyclable. Wrapping paper that passes the “scrunch test” can be recycled. However, reusable options are the best options.

4. Drive less

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Leaving your car at home just two days a week can reduce your GHG emissions by over 3,000 pounds per year.” Therefore, if you are choosing to shop in-person this year, use your car for one trip instead of making multiple small trips. Walking, biking, or using public transportation are also ways to reduce GHG emissions.

5. Buy second-hand

The fashion industry contributes to ten percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and is the second-largest consumer of water, according to CNBC. Fast fashion in particular poses a threat to the environment because the synthetics and polyesters in the clothes do not decompose in landfills, and the microfibers from the fabrics pollute water sources. Buying second-hand clothes reduces the amount of clothes in landfills, the consumption of resources, and pollution.

As the climate crisis becomes more serious, small actions become more important. If you can’t follow every example listed, especially due to the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, try doing two or three this year. To have a safe and happy holiday, it is important to care for oneself, each other, and our environment.

To have a safe and happy holiday, it is important to care for oneself, each other, and the environment.
Photo courtesy of Chapman University

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