Embracing sustainability can be a daunting task. Moving past the existential anxiety of climate change without feeling apathetic from apocalypse fatigue is hard enough. Once you actually find the motivation to try to figure out what you can do to lessen your impact, you then have to navigate an overwhelming array of dos and don’ts. However, it doesn’t have to be that way this holiday season.
By providing 5 actionable tips to lessen your impact, this blog aims to eliminate the apathy, ambiguity, and stress of embracing sustainability over the holidays.
5 Actionable Ways to Embrace Sustainability
1. Shop Local Artisan Markets
When you’re brainstorming your holiday gifts this season, keep your local artisan markets in mind. By reducing the distance that your gifts must travel, you can minimize their carbon footprints. With a shorter distance, you’ll avoid the excess packaging and plastics associated with shipping. Not to mention, supporting local artisans gives back to your community, which is the epitome of the holiday spirit.
Finding an artisan market near you is easy if you’re in a metropolitan area. In Portland, there are makers markets each season, including the Slabtown Makers Market which donates proceeds to local nonprofits. In Austin, there’s a variety of holiday, vintage, and makers markets that feature live music. Boston also hosts European-style holiday markets with hot beverages to fortify you against the winter weather.
2. Wrap Presents Sustainably
Once you’ve picked out the perfect present, it’s time to wrap it beautifully. This is where you’ll want an alternative to brand new gift wrap, and there are some easy options at your disposal. If you already have used gift wrap or tissue paper laying around, put that to use instead of buying any more. If you don’t mind a more casual feel, place the present in a tote bag you no longer need or wrap it with scraps of fabric. For a more traditional look, opt for recycled wrapping paper. For instance, Wrappily offers holiday designs that are eco-friendly.
3. Read Product Labels
During your holiday grocery shopping, make an effort to read the back of product labels. This is especially important in box stores or larger supermarkets, notably in the interior aisles. While you may not recognize all of the ingredients, there are certain names to pay extra attention to, such as palm oil. Palm oil is said to be found in 50% of supermarket products, with over 500 palm oil derivatives. Unfortunately, palm oil derivatives don’t clearly say ‘palm oil’ in them. Instead, look out for words that include ‘palm’ ‘stear’ ‘laur’ and ‘glyc.’
In lieu of identifying individual ingredients, you can also rely on technology to do the heavy lifting for you. By leveraging mobile apps such as EWG’s Healthy Living, you can scan products and access sustainability scores for each product on the go. For online shopping, you can install browser plugins such as Trestle that evaluate e-commerce websites and provide score breakdowns as well. With digital tools at your disposal, you can now shop sustainable products without much effort at all.
4. Stash Holiday Leftovers
With all of the food-centric celebrations during the holiday season, there’s a tendency for plastic consumption through Ziploc bags and saran wrap as well as food waste. To avoid both of these undesirable situations, invest in reusable containers and bags. For instance, Pyrex glass containers are sturdy, safe, and allow you to reheat food directly inside them. In addition, Stasher silicone bags are the perfect replacement for Ziploc bags. They’re dishwasher safe and as they say on their blog, can even be used as gift wrap.
5. Opt for Bamboo
Just as plastic is being replaced in the kitchen and home, so are traditional paper products. By avoiding tree-based paper products, you can make a tangible difference in lessening the economic demand for deforestation. With paper towels and toilet paper currently contributing 20% to global deforestation, your consumption matters. Vote with your dollar and opt for bamboo paper products. There are numerous eco-friendly options to choose from, and Cloud Paper even has an offer to try out their products for (practically) free this holiday season.
Hopefully following these 5 simple tips to lessen your impact will make sustainability feel more approachable this holiday season. If the holidays exacerbate feelings of stress and making a difference starts to feel futile, just remember that your impact and participation do matter. As Wangari Maathai says, “I will be a hummingbird, I will do the best I can.”
While you’re traveling or visiting with family and friends over the holidays, consider wearing an eco-friendly face mask as well.