Although COVID-19 has put a damper on our usual plans, it seems that the entire country is hoping the holidays will bring some joy into our lives during this difficult time. As we reevaluate our holiday practices, we can make some simple changes that will keep our families safe and are also good for the earth. At the November “Eat, Pray, Grow Zoom” meeting hosted by the FLUMC Creation Care Task Team, United Methodists around Florida shared ideas on how to have a green Christmas. See the video here: https://youtu.be/QdXOd4AiM9g.
Did you know that Americans throw away more trash between Thanksgiving and Christmas than any other time? In fact, it is DOUBLE the usual amount, according to the Mother Earth Living Magazine, who says “Americans throw away a million tons of trash weekly, but during the holidays there’s an extra million per week, including 38,000 miles of ribbon and 4 million tons of shopping bags and gift wrapping.”
We have the chance to reevaluate what is important to us this holiday season, and here are some ideas to help you make safe and earth-friendly choices this year:
When holiday shopping, protect yourself from exposure to the virus by making purchases online from local businesses, sustainably-made gifts from ETSY, or online free-trade food gifts. Cloth novelty masks, scented hand sanitizer, and UV disinfecting lights are popular virus-fighting gifts this year. Emailed gift cards are easy and always appreciated. Consider reigning in the excess and buying fewer, more meaningful gifts. Think quality vs. quantity.
Real vs. Fake Christmas tree? The age-old question of which is better for the environment is easy to answer, according to The Nature Conservancy. They state that real trees are best because of these reasons: Christmas tree farms keep land open instead of being developed, real trees suck carbon out of the air while they grow, they are a renewable resource, and are completely recyclable. Most areas even pick up real trees after the holidays and turn them into mulch. If you really want an artificial tree, find a used one on Craig’s List or a thrift store to minimize their impact on the earth.
Make your holiday meals more sustainable by using real dishes instead of disposable, recycling cans and bottles, and if you are able, composting vegetable scraps. If washing dishes isn’t feasible, use paper goods over plastic or foam. To avoid spreading the virus, keep gatherings within your family “bubble” or move them outside, masked, and socially distanced.
Look for recycled content holiday cards, or better yet, send a waste-free e-card this year.
LED Christmas lights use 80-90% less energy than incandescent lights, so make the switch when it is time to buy new ones. Use timers on holiday lights so they turn off during the day and while you are sleeping to save energy.
Researchers say consumable homemade gifts like holiday breads, jams, or soaps are still safe to share during the pandemic as long as good hygiene practices like handwashing are used. This is great news because homemade gifts are fun to make, warmly received, and top the list for sustainability. A live plant is a nice gift that can be enjoyed far beyond Christmas. A basket of fresh fruit is healthy and delicious, and even more special if it comes from your own tree. Thrift shopping is another way to get a deal on quality used items (including baskets and baking pans that homemade gifts can be delivered in) and nonprofit shops have a wide array of treasures.
Consider gifts from an Alternate Christmas Market where you make a donation to a charity in the receiver’s name. Memberships to state parks are always a hit with families, and children love “Adopt an Animal” gifts from zoos, Heifer International, or World Wildlife Fund and many times will receive an adoption certificate, photo, and stuffed animal with your gift.
Use recycled content wrapping paper, butcher paper, or reusable cloth or paper gift bags, and reuse tissue, bows and ribbons that are still in good condition. Have a paper bag or box ready Christmas morning to collect all the paper wrappings and cardboard for the recycling bin.
Cut out pretty pictures and sayings on old holiday cards to make gift tags, and attach them by hole punching and threading on a ribbon, or using glue dots.
Challenge yourself to decorate for the holidays with only what you already own or can find in nature. Beautiful table arrangements can be made with holly cuttings, citrus, and candles.
These simple ideas can go a long way in making your holidays more environmentally friendly, safer, and may even save you money.
Have a happy and sustainable holiday!
Contact Cara Fleischer, FLUMC Creation Care Task Team Chair, at Cares4Creation@gmail.com.