Dreaming of a Green Christmas

According to the Stanford University recycling center, Americans make 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than at any other time of the year. Much of it, of course, is caused by the waste produced by decorating and gift giving. So why not instead strategize how each of us can make less waste instead of more this Christmas season?

Photo by Daniel Reche

Here are some suggestions on how:

  1. For decorations, reuse or repurpose as much as possible. Ask your parents or grandparents if you can have some of their heirlooms. More than likely, they will be touched by the request and be happy to share. And when you do, carefully consider the carbon footprint of any decorations you do buy. 
  2. For gift wrapping, think the three R’s: Reuse wrapping paper and supplies that were gifted to you or items that started their lives in another capacity. For example, reuse newspaper and twine for wrapping gifts. Or skip the wrapping entirely. And finally, if you have to buy wrapping paper, make sure it can be recycled.
  3. Do-it-yourself gifts are often the best! Ideas include “breakfast in a mason jar” (made from rolled oats or other whole grains, seeds, and dried fruits), framed handwritten recipes or letters, homemade cutting boards, a batch of Christmas cookies, a pie, a homemade wreath, a reconditioned old toy, or a photo album.
  4. If you do end up buying a gift, your footprint will almost always be lighter by choosing gifts from a local shop rather than online. How about a book or two from your local bookstore, like Phinney Books, Couth Buzzard, or Third Place Books?
  5. Digital subscriptions are great ideas. This could be a subscription to a newspaper (e.g., NY Times), online learning, streaming music or movies (e.g., Netflix, Peacock, or Hulu), a virtual cooking class, or perhaps a virtual gym or meditation service.
  6. Of course, in person classes and memberships are great gifts too. Who wouldn’t want a massage certificate?
  7. Previously-owned (used) items have a smaller environmental impact than new items. How about a used bike for a kid or even an adult who wants to exercise more? Or maybe a gift card to or a neighborhood thrift store or Goodwill.
  8. My all-time favorite gift (as mentioned last year): donating to a worthy charity in a loved one’s name. Candidates include charities ministering to the poor such as Catholic Charities, Unbound, St Vincent de Paul, Doctors without Borders, International Rescue Committee, or Northwest Harvest. Other worthy causes include those working for climate action and justice, including Catholic Climate Covenant, the Laudato Si movement, 350.org, and Climate Reality. Or perhaps an animal shelter like Pigs Peace Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, or the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Google any of these to find their website.
  9. Lastly, have you ever thought of talking to your significant other, kids, and siblings about not purchasing (or purchasing minimal) gifts for each other and instead spending that money on a charity instead (see idea #8)? My siblings and I long ago decided against gifts for each other and only to purchase gifts for the children.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

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