How to be more sustainable during the holidays

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Whether you were inspired by Greta Thurburg’s recent visit to the United States or you’ve always been eco-conscious, we should all look for new ways to reduce our environmental impact. Since the average American produces 25 percent more trash than normal between November and January, the holidays are the best time to start cutting back and reusing more. Here are some tips for living green this holiday season. 

Thanksgiving

For most people, Thanksgiving means one thing –  food. This year try to limit your food waste. Plan your meals in advance, and buy only what you need. If you know you already have 10 pounds of apples from your fall trip to the orchard, skip the pumpkin pie this year, and make an apple one instead. 

While you’re at the store, pay attention to what you buy. For all your fruits and veggies, look for organic, pesticide-free options – bonus points if it comes from a local family farm. For the all-essential turkey, look for something farm-raised. If you’re really committed to going green this year, consider a meatless option like tofurkey. 

You should look for ways to cut back on disposable items. Use real plates and silverware so you don’t throw away tons of paper plates. At the store, bring your own bags, and buy in bulk if possible. You can also take Tupperware to your family feast so you can take home leftovers without plastic waste. 

After the meal is over, save as much as you can. Thanksgiving leftovers taste amazing and reduce food waste – a win-win. You can also save scraps like potato skins or apple cores and take them to a composting site the next day. 

Finally, the biggest way you can reduce your carbon-footprint is by cutting back on your traveling. I know everyone wants to be with their family around the holidays, but it’s easy to make small changes like carpooling to grandma’s house or making only one trip to the store. 

Christmas

The most wonderful time of the year may fill your hearts with festive cheer, but it also tends to fill our landfills with tons of garbage. Wrapping paper makes up the biggest chunk of the waste. This year try to use more sustainable alternatives like old sheet music, recyclable gift wrap or scarves. You could also use bags as long as you save them to reuse next year. 

The presents you pick can also make a big difference. Making your own presents can lead to personalized and heartwarming gifts that cut back on shipping materials and other plastic waste. If you’re not super crafty, try to buy from local artists, or look for items made from recycled paper or plastic. You can also find durable alternatives to disposable goods like getting your mom a cute tote bag to take to the store. 

A simple rule to keep in mind is: less is more. Look for ways to buy fewer presents without feeling like you’re skimping on family and friends. Regifting is not always a bad thing, and creative regifting can save your wallet and the planet. If you have a big family, consider splitting up the gift-giving by having each person draw a name so you only have to shop for one person instead of everyone. 

Annual family Christmas cards also go to waste most of the time, so this year think about sending email cards or making a Facebook post instead. If you feel like your friends and family would be heartbroken without a card this year, print on recycled paper or make your own. You could write on the back of a calendar photo, use old doodles you’ve saved or tear the front off an old card and write on that. 

It’s also important to keep in mind all the green tips you used for Thanksgiving. Try to limit food waste, shop using reusable tote bags and travel as little as possible. Most of the time being more sustainable means being more mindful of the choices you make. Each of these tips may seem like they don’t make much of a difference, but when you combine them all you can do your part to help the world. 

Christmas may be all about the red and green, but this year focus on the green. By making simple, sustainable swaps you can lessen your impact on the environment and still spread holiday cheer.

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