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While the holiday season can bring us all together, it can also create a lot of waste. According to Stanford University, a shocking 25 million tons of garbage are created during the holiday season. This can be anything from gifts and wrapping paper to food waste and decorations.
This is exactly why I am so passionate about encouraging consumers to shop consciously and wrap gifts more sustainably this holiday season. It is better for the people and for the planet (and our wallets!) When we choose more natural and eco-friendly gifts, we can avoid products that are cheaply made of unsuitable materials.
Let’s start with gifts. We don’t have to go the traditional route when gift-giving—we can think outside the box, making an effort to buy more sustainable products from local merchants. (An additional benefit to buying locally—you’re more likely to get higher quality while also reducing the amount of waste you’re creating. It’s a win-win!)
Here are a few places to start:
- For the nature lover, I suggest gifting a potted plant, a flower bouquet, a wreath, or flowers—ideally, ones they can plant so they’ll last!
- For those who prefer adventures and experiences, a simple night or two at an Airbnb or hotel, tickets to a live musical or play, or a gift card to a local restaurant or the movie theatre creates memories with minimal waste.
- For the foodie, homemade cookies, a pie, muffins, or other delectable goodies can be the perfect gift. Make a hot chocolate mix and add it to a glass jar, grab a mug at a thrift store, and voila, you have an ideal sustainable gift for winter. Remember—glass jars, boxes or baskets are great ways to package gifts in beautiful, reusable ways.
- For the big-hearted philanthropist in your life, consider making a donation in their name rather than more stuff. This is as sustainable as it gets—zero waste, and a gift that gives back.
- For the fashionista, shop secondhand clothing from luxury consignment sites or sustainable brands who are working to do good in the world. A few examples are Allbirds shoes, Zkano socks, Cotopaxi, Kooshoo and Ecologyst.
- Gifting make-up, serums or creams can be a great gift for the person in your life who loves self-care. There are so many eco-friendly and non-toxic brands to pick from. RMS, Axiology, Josh Rosebrook and Henne Organics. And Lush is excellent for avoiding unnecessary plastic waste, as all their products are packed in paper.
- For the kid in your life, bring life back to an old toy and purchase second-hand. Otherwise, seek out sustainable brands that use non-toxic and sustainable materials.
Now that we have bought and chosen our gift, how do we wrap it sustainably? Traditional gift wrapping paper—metallic texture decorated with glitter, or with a waxy coating—is often used once and then discarded. And it is not recyclable. Most tissue paper is made with low-grade materials, which means, typically, that’s not recyclable either. Fortunately, tissue paper holds up year after year, so we can reuse it every holiday season—so don’t throw it away!
For sustainable gift wrapping, often the best choice is to search your home for items to repurpose before purchasing something new. Here are the best ways to make your packaging more sustainable, too:
1) Ditch the traditional paper and use old brown paper bags or brown packaging paper. Save them throughout the year when you receive them at stores or in the mail to use as wrapping paper. You can even decorate brown paper with stamps or drawings if you want to get crafty and make them more festive!
2) Save gift bags and tissue paper from birthday parties and past holidays. This is a great way to deter them from ending up in landfills and a great way to wrap up our gifts.
3) In this age of online shopping, most of us are likely to receive our share of parcels—keep a variety of box sizes to use for wrapping gifts.
4) Reuse old jam or mustard jars as a cute way to package smaller gifts, like jewelry.
5) Keep your old newspaper or junk paper from the mail, and use that as wrapping.
6) We all have an old t-shirt we’re ready to discard. Instead, wrap up your gift furoshiki style with it. You can also do the same with scarves. It’s a win-win. Make your gift wrap part of the gift!
7) Speaking of cloth, Swathe gift wraps are a great way to wrap gifts that does not involve making them ourselves or rummaging throughout the house to find the perfect wrap.
No matter how we decide to celebrate this holiday season, we must remember that even one small change can impact people and the planet. We don’t need to be perfect, but we can begin making more sustainable choices to better the planet—and together, we can make some holiday magic!
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