I have always tried to participate in the sustainability movement and incorporate it in my lifestyle as much as possible. In fact, I started a recycling initiative in college where I got an old dumpster donated so we could make it easier for the students living in the apartments to bring out their recyclables, along with their regular trash. I had the students who had to do community service paint it bright green and one of the art students paint a nice field of flowers on it, Sounds kind of corny, but it was a great start to get people into the idea of recycling! I wish I could find the pictures of it. I’ll keep looking! Anyways, recycling was just the start of my journey to more sustainable living. I required it at my parents house as well as when I first met N and he was living with a roommate — I got them a recycling bin and they couldn’t believe how less often they had to take the trash out from recycling all those pizza boxes and beer cans 🙂 They probably thought I was such a nerd, but hey, he kept me around 😉
I wanted to share some of the ways I have made not only the holidays greener, but everyday living and how simple it is for you to do the same!
You can start with Gift Wrapping!
Use non glossy wrapping paper or Paper Shopping Bags (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods), Old Maps, Books, Posters, Wallpaper scraps, 2016 calendars, or newspapers. I love the vintage appeal with foreign or local newspaper pages. You can get more creative by focusing the article to the person receiving the gift. Use the sports section to wrap up a new football for your nephew, the travel section for your globetrotting cousin, classifieds for your housewarming gift or the wedding or birth announcements for the your sister’s shower gift. We got this Farmers Market Calendar for 2016 and I just ordered the 2017 one, and my sister and her bf just happen to be part of a CSA every year, so how perfect is this for wrapping paper for them? I actually mod-podged it on so they can reuse the box, if they want for herb and veggie seeds packets perhaps!
Make this cute bow from the handles off the bag!
I would love to do this fabric gift wrap idea one year too!
Shop local to reduce emissions and support local artists and shops, craft your own gifts like these DIY ornaments.
Skip the Disposables:
We aren’t hosting our annual Ugly Sweater Party this year (it was just too much with N finishing up school and all my planning time was dedicated to the wedding!), but I am totally going to use dishes and cloth napkins instead of disposables going forward. Instead of using disposable paper napkins, cups and plastic silverware at Christmas parties this year, use dishes and cloth napkins instead. Not only are they reusable, but you can shop thrift stores to find charming mismatched sets of china and dishes that you’ll use again and again. If you must use disposable, spring for unbleached compostable products that reduce toxins and break down more easily than conventional disposables.
Don’t leave your Christmas lights on all day. Instead, you can purchase and set a timer if you have a large or outdoor display, or you can simply turn them on at dusk. I replaced all of our lights for the tree last year with new LED Christmas lights.
And if you’re really into this, here are some of the little ways that you can be green at home any day.
- Stop buying plastic disposable bottles (my favorite is the Klean Kanteen with the sport cap) and we love our Contigo mugs for coffee on the go – hot or cold! It’s insulated so it keeps it at the perfect temperature for hours and hours.
- Swap Household Cleaners: Look for plant-based products from companies that have a complete list of ingredients on their labels. Switching to green cleaners reduces air pollution both indoors and out, minimizing exposure to both asthma and allergy triggers as well as chemicals that can be harmful to your health. I switched up most of our products with these!
- Go Meatless on Mondays: We eat meatless and vegan a few times a week. It might not seem like a big deal, but adding one meat-free meal per week (for a family of four) has the same impact as driving a hybrid car. (I just traded in my Prius and I miss her! Hybrid is the way to go) Raising livestock produces a large amount of greenhouse gases, so cutting back, even one night per week, makes a big difference.
- Shop for Sustainably-Raised Meat
While sustainable isn’t a term certified by the USDA like organic is, it generally means that the animal was given ample room to roam, and wasn’t treated with hormones or antibiotics. Look for labels like free-range and organic as well as no-hormone and no-antibiotic.
- Leave Your Shoes at the Door: Think of removing your shoes when you enter a home as the equivalent of washing your hands. First, it couldn’t be easier. And second, it prevents the outside gunk like car exhaust, chemicals, and pesticides from being tracked all over your home. This is something N needs to work on! I feel like I can’t relax until his shoes are off! He sometimes keeps them on for hours after we get home. AH.
- Microwave Glass, Never Plastic: Heating plastics can cause leaching into food and many contain hormone-disrupting compounds (not just the much maligned versions made with bisphenol-A or BPA). Plastics that are labeled “microwave-safe” can simply withstand a higher temperature before losing their shape. So when popping anything in the microwave, opt for glass or microwave-safe ceramics. I replaced ALL of our plastics tupperware with this 18 glass piece and I love them.
- Donate: By some estimates, for every item of clothing donated, 27 pounds of carbon emissions are reduced based on the fact that you don’t another item being produced while one is headed to the landfill. Take items to a thrift store, or a charity that accepts donations. I also wash and donate all of Freddy’s gently used toys (& clothes)!
- Choose Safe Pots and Pans: The materials you cook with do have an impact on your food. The three safest options are cast iron, enamel coated cast iron, and stainless steel. Non-stick pans, while convenient, can be problematic if you scrape the coating and it gets into your food. I always (sometimes) use a wooden spoon so I don’t scrape the coating, but we are switching over to stainless steel once our non-stick ones start to chip at all.
So when you are cleaning up after Christmas morning presents, remember that any non-glossy paper wrapping can be shredded for the compost or added to the recycling bins. Be sure to keep the bows and ribbons for multiple uses, as well as tissue paper, gift bags and boxes (I always reuse the ones people give me gifts in).
There’s no way to guarantee a white Christmas. But anyone can have a greener Christmas!!
Merry Christmas and Thanks for reading, XO