With so much to do during the holiday season, all of that pesky plastic can easily slip right by us. From gift wrap and packaging to decorations to party supplies, we can easily get lost in piles of unnecessary plastic. However, when we shift our mindset a bit, we can find more eco-friendly options to use during our holiday celebrations. Here are some tips to ensure that you stay as plastic-free as possible throughout the holidays.
Whether you are in charge of throwing the big office holiday party or an intimate family holiday dinner, you can control whether plastic shows up as one of your guests. First of all, avoid using plasticware and serve ware. Instead, choose paper (recycled is best), bamboo, or even plates and utensils made out of palm leaves. Next, be sure to use real wine glasses—not plastic ones—and don’t serve your drinks with plastic straws or stirrers. If possible, use real cloth tablecloths instead of those cheap plastic throwaway ones. Be mindful of which food items you purchase at the grocery store to avoid those wrapped in all of that excessive plastic, such as dips and pre-packaged fruit salads. Finally, when you store your food or package it up to transport it to a party, be sure to avoid plastic containers and plastic wrap. Look for non-plastic food storage alternatives.
What kind of holiday celebration could we possible have without all the festive decorations? Here are some ideas to show your holiday spirit minus the plastic.
- Make your own. Part of the issue with holiday decorations is that they come packaged with tons of plastic. Instead make some of your own decorations. Use last year’s holiday wrapping paper, bows, and ribbons to decorate a wreath or to create a festive wall hanging. Or sew your own stockings using material from old clothes. The options are endless!
- Go natural. Consider decorating your home more naturally by using items like plants, sprigs of holly and fir, twigs and branches, mistletoe, pine cones, popcorn garland, dried citrus rings, cinnamon sticks, wooden ornaments made from cut logs, cranberry garlands, and dried flowers and leaves. Go for a lovely hike outdoors to collect your special nature décor. Plus, all of these items can be composted after the holiday season.
- Shop second hand. One way to cut back on the plastic being used in the market is to reduce demand by shopping second hand. Check out local thrift stores, online sites like freecycle.org, and garage sales for some treasures that can add a sparkle to your holiday look. When you choose to reuse, you are reducing plastic waste and keeping items from ending up in the landfill.
- Trade with friends and family. Another way cut back on new plastic decorations is to organize a decoration swap with friends and family. Many of us get bored of the same old decorations year after year, so by trading with others we can all get a fresh new look for the holiday season. This would be really fun to do with your neighbors along with a block party or progressive dinner party as everyone moves from house to house.
Real or plastic tree? This has been a hotly debated topic over the years. After weighing all the pros and cons, experts conclude that real Christmas trees are still the better option for the environment. According to the New York Times, the most comprehensive study by an environmental consulting firm to determine whether real trees or fake tress are more eco-friendly found that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually. These calculations take into account greenhouse gas emissions, use of resources, and human health impacts.
Real trees are also biodegradable, which means they can be easily reused or recycled for mulch and other purposes. On the other hand, most artificial Christmas trees are made of metals and plastics that are not recyclable and ultimately end up in a landfill. Most also contain the petroleum-based polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which produces carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal. Finally, the living trees grown in farms produce oxygen, reduce carbon dioxide, and provide habitat for wildlife.
Whether we are talking about wrapping paper (that is sold in plastic) or cellophane, gift wrap can be a real waste. Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to present your gifts to your loved ones.
- Save gift bags from other events and last year’s holiday season and reuse them year after year.
- Make the wrapping part of the gift by using items like handkerchiefs, scarves, blankets, or place mats.
- Use fun cloth bags of all sizes and patterns to enclose your gift.
- Make your own wrapping paper by using the plain backside of used paper and decorating it with holiday-themed stamps or other design elements.
- For smaller gifts, you can use jars or reusable containers.
- Go rustic by using recycled brown parcel or butcher paper tied in twine or cloth ribbon.
- If you have something fragile, opt for shredded paper instead of polystyrene packing material.
Last but not least, the types of gifts we choose to give can have a huge impact on our plastic use. So many gifts are either made out of plastic materials or wrapped in layers of plastic. Consider choosing more meaningful gifts to give to friends and loved ones that also happen to be plastic-free:
- Make your own crafts from recycled and reused materials.
- Bake yummy organic treats and deliver them in a basket, cloth bag, or ceramic jar.
- Share flowers and produce from your garden and present them as an attractive care package.
- Seek out natural and organic products such as organic cotton clothing, essential oils, and natural beauty products sold in non-plastic containers.
- Opt for an experience like hiking, taking an art class, attending a music or theater performance, visiting a museum, or going to a sports event.
Wishing you a very joyful holiday season!