Make It a Season for Sustainability

Bells ringing, cookies baking, ribbons tying. The merriment is joyous, but behind it is much excess and waste — which you can be a part of changing. Here are some areas to contribute to sustainability and make your holidays a little greener this year.

Try these ideas for achieving greener celebrations:

Less plastic
Almost everything comes packaged already, and sometimes double or triple packaged — an item inside a plastic sleeve inside a box, the box wrapped in plastic, then that item put into a plastic bag. Sheesh! Anywhere you can stop a layer helps stop the madness.
Bring bags, ask for paper, carry the thing with your beautiful, strong arms. I notice baggers at grocery stores sometimes putting a few items inside two plastic bags and people walking out with armfuls of the plastic. For, you know, 10 items. If you must get plastic, ask checkers to fit items in as few bags as possible. And if you must get plastic, why? I’ve eliminated the need for single-use plastic bags at my home. I use my sweat towel to carry out sweaty gear from the yoga studio, Bio Bags for pet waste, and reusable containers for carrying any food items. Be creative.

Coffee coffee coffee
I know, it’s the best. But did you know — paper coffee cups are not recyclable because they are lined with … plastic. If you are a frequent consumer, buy some of your own reusable containers for the shop to fill. If you do get a disposable to-go cup, only grab a plastic top if you are traveling with the cup.

To-go grocery containers
Lots of last-minute gatherings lead to relying on grab-and-go. Even alternative places like Whole Foods automatically put the prepared food in a heavy plastic container. But they may also have the compostable containers behind the counter. Ask for those, instead.

Cloth napkins
Come on, it’s classier, anyway! Paper napkins and towels are not the worst offenders, but washing cloth is more eco-friendly and feels nicer on the face and hands. Use rags instead of paper towels to clean, or cut any beat-up cotton (T-shirts, towels, sheets, stained dishcloths, etc.) into rag-sized pieces with fabric scissors.

Gift wrapping
Inside packaging (especially shipped items!), there is sometimes innovative, protective, paper-based cushioning. Sometimes it’s so beautiful, I can’t bear to toss it. So, I got the bright idea to use the stuff to wrap presents. You can also buy thick, plain shipping paper (hello, office supply store!), which will easily biodegrade, rather than shiny papers. Go with the classic “brown paper packages tied up with string.” Twine or cotton string will return to the earth, eventually. And reuse ribbons and other decorative items that are not so eco-friendly. Get creative with name tags; what can be repurposed that will be unique and special? An eco look is minimal and chic. Work it.