Autumn is here, and with it come brisk winds, cozy sweaters, and the start of the holiday season. The holidays allow us the opportunity to spend time with our families and create traditions and memories to be passed down from generation to generation.
This time of year is also a great time to make a deliberate effort to be environmentally conscious. Parties and special occasions can potentially generate a lot of excess waste. With just a little planning, there are plenty of ways to help keep your holiday joyful and green. Here are some ways to minimize your environmental impact and have a holly, jolly, eco-friendly holiday season.
Holidays offer us a chance to catch up with people that we haven’t heard from in a while. This happens at parties and family get-togethers, and also through correspondence.
Sending an annual letter at Christmas is a tradition that has caught on with families everywhere. These often include family portraits, individual pictures, family news and stories, and an update on all they year’s activities. This is also a chance to wish your loved ones a blessed holiday season and let them know that they are on your mind.
A great way to send your holiday greetings and reduce paper usage is to utilize eCards. They offer a fun, innovative way to show that you care. Many sites have designs that have the look and feel of paper stationery, but with the convenience you expect from the digital world. You can mix and match envelope and postage stamp designs, add photos, and include the exact message you want. Delivery is instant; you don’t have to worry about anything getting lost in the mail or arriving late. You can also choose to be notified when your card is opened, so you can be sure that everyone sees your message.
Using eCards saves paper, postage, and the time and energy of the mail service. You can even design multiple greeting cards to send to friends, relatives, and coworkers, including relevant information for each group.
Don’t forget to save paper after all the big events by sending digital thank-you notes to those who attended your parties or gave you gifts. This will prevent you from falling behind and allow your friends and family the prompt gratitude they deserve.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are known for their massive, decadent feasts. Around this time, you can find delectable Christmas gift baskets that contain some of the most delicious treats. There is practically a sub-sect of the recipe industry dedicated to finding uses for leftover turkey, ham, and potatoes. In the planning of your meal, consider what will keep for a few days. Make more of dishes that last longer, because you’ll be much less likely to waste them.
If your stuffing is the only dish that has celery in it, you may end up with half a bunch of celery that could go to waste. Find a recipe you can add it to, or cut it into pieces and add it to an appetizer tray. This is just one example that by planning ahead, you can make sure everything is used and nothing goes to waste.
The challenge to planning a huge meal is that you want to provide enough for everyone to have some of everything, and also give them plenty of options. This is what leads to the massive leftovers. Send everyone home with some of their favorite dish to increases the likelihood that the leftovers will be appreciated, instead of going to waste.
In the spirit of giving, make sure to look into local food donation options. There are restrictions on accepting prepared foods, but a lot of places accept leftovers after Thanksgiving and Christmas. See what the rules are and share your bounty with those who need it. This not only prevents you from wasting perfectly edible food, but is a great way to fully embrace the holidays.
Instead of using traditional wrapping paper – which is, admittedly, very festive – to wrap your gifts, try a more eco-friendly option. You can re-use bags and boxes from previous gifts if they are still in good shape. Baskets are also a great option, and can be decorated in countless ways. If you want to keep the element of surprise, use a simple box. We often wrap boxes, but there is really no need. Spruce it up with a bow and some accents, and you’ve got a beautiful, reusable gift carrier. It also won’t get torn up as easily. Make sure you don’t throw these away so they can be reused time and time again.
You can find wrapping paper in many untraditional places. For the world explorer, wrap gifts in well-preserved outdated maps. You can iron out any wrinkles. For the book lovers and current events enthusiasts, use old newspapers. Try to find headlines you think they’ll enjoy. This adds a level of personalization and fun while providing an extra use for materials that would be otherwise unused.
If you want to keep the festive aspect that wrapping paper provides, find some brightly colored fabric. You can either re-use fabric that you have around or buy some with beautiful season-appropriate designs. The biggest benefit of using fabric is that you’re providing an extra gift. The recipient can use the fabric to wrap a future gift, or to any use their heart desires.
When contemplating gift-wrapping, always try and consider recycling. If you are using something that has already served its purpose, such as maps and newspapers, then it’s ok that it will be torn up and discarded. If you are buying something specifically for wrapping this gift, try to make it something that can be used again in the future.
Preserving the environment does not have to be difficult. Often all it takes is considering very simple steps and including it in all aspects of life—even the holidays. The extra consideration is shared with those that you celebrate with. So take some time and see how you can minimalize your waste this holiday season, and really get into the spirit of giving.
Stephanie is the Sr. Marketing Manager at Punchbowl, Inc. She blogs about celebrations, party planning, and free eCards.