Consider Giving a Gift to the Planet this Holiday Season
by Rachel FeidelmanWhat kinds of things first come to mind when you think of the holiday season? Gift giving? Delicious food? Traveling to see loved ones? Well, if it was any variation or combination of these three things, it is likely that some kind of wasteful behavior is occurring. As the holidays take the forefront in most people’s minds, many place a strong emphasis on luxury and forget to consider environmental implications.
The answer is not to stop celebrating and break tradition all together but to follow some simple tips to act consciously this holiday and consider what kind of footprint these festivities are leaving on our planet.
Gift GivingWhen it comes to presents, often the physical gift, whether it be a toy, gadget or electronic, comes in its own box from the store. If this is the case, consider creating DIY wrapping paper by using the fabric from an old shirt. Not only does this eliminate the need for wrapping paper, but this is also a perfect way to repurpose it, instead of creating direct waste by tossing the old shirt in the garbage.
Instead of putting clothing in a paper or plastic bag with tissue paper, consider taking a more environmentally friendly route by replacing the tissue paper with dip-dyed recycled newspapers, or use permanent marker to decorate an old shipping box and eliminate the bag altogether.
Additionally, if you receive a gift in a festive bag or seasonal wrapping paper, consider saving it for next season. By the time December comes around again, nobody will even think twice about it.
Meal MakingAs for holiday dinners, most family’s mottos are some variation of “the more the merrier”, and that often pertains to number of guests as well as quantity of food. This year, try to limit the leftovers. This will lead to throwing away minimal food and wasting fewer materials to contain the surplus, such as aluminum foil or plastic storage bags. If making less food is out of the question, consider donating what is left after the meal to a local shelter.
Road TrippingThe most important part of the holiday season is spending time with friends and family. However, for many this requires hours upon hours of travel. Instead of driving across the country or taking a taxi into the city, it is much more energy efficient to utilize public transportation. If driving is the only option, carpooling is the way to go. By doing one of these two things, it is possible to save money on gas and tolls, but more than that, one can also save our environment from enduring the air pollution that vehicle with one or two passengers release, especially when simple alternatives are possible.
With just a bit of forethought, there are hundreds of ways that the meaningful parts of the holidays can be enjoyed without placing a burden on the environment. So celebrate the holiday and the fact that your actions are a gift to sustain our beautiful planet.
Rachel Feidelman is a junior at the University of Maryland, studying journalism and economics. She is also an editorial intern with Natural Awakenings.