Sustainable Living Challenge

Week 30: Have an Eco-friendly Holiday!

It’s that time of year again! Tonight we light that last light on the menorah and go back to business as usual! Yep…your neighborhood Jew is writing a post about the holidays. Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, and Hannukah is not traditionally about gift giving, I still get roped into a lot of the holiday activities at this time of year. I mean…I cannot tell you how many bad Christmas rom com’s I’ve watched on Netflix already this month! And Christmas lights¬†are¬†pretty gorgeous. So as someone on the periphery of this whole holiday season, I have some ideas for how to go about it in an eco-friendly way!

DIY Gifts

Around this time of year, it can be so easy to just go to Walmart and get one of those gift packs filled with all sorts of artificial goodies. And yes, these are usually cheap and quick, but they are typically wrapped in tons of plastic packaging. Instead, think about your skills. Do you crochet or knit? Think of something easy, like a mug cozy, and make that for the people in your life. Or maybe you draw or enjoy woodworking. A couple of years ago, my friend made me an owl ornament by burning the owl onto a piece of wood and it’s still one of my favorite things! In my experience, people LOVE gifts that you make yourself, even if you don’t have the time to make something elaborate for everyone.

Quality Over Quantity

I’ll be honest. I have never put up a stocking to be stuffed (again…Jewish), but my perception is that a lot of people buy lots of cheap little trinkets to give to people and put them in stockings. It’s hard for these items to have meaning if they are so cheap. Cheap clothing items and jewelry are also likely to fall apart rather quickly. Rather than trying to give the people in your life a ton of poor quality items, go for quality instead. Maybe buy them one really nice thing instead of ten cheap things. It will end up lasting them longer and bringing them cheer for years to come!

Gift an Experience

If you’re like me, you don’t need any more “things” in your life. Sometimes it can be much more meaningful to spend your time with someone instead of giving them something they don’t need. Rather than focusing on gifting products, think about gifting an experience. Take a good friend out to dinner if you haven’t seen them in a while. Offer up your skills if you’re a photographer or artist. Buy tickets to a show or a movie you know someone has been wanting to see. This is a great way to spend quality time with people without buying a physical item.

Buy Eco-friendly or Used Products

If you really want to buy a physical item for someone, look into buying gifts made from sustainable ingredients. You can give someone a collection of hand crafted soap from a local company or clothing made from natural sources like bamboo. Rather than just picking something off the shelf at Walmart, look for items that come in a minimal amount of packaging and are made with natural, sustainable ingredients. This will also encourage you to check out your local small businesses for gifts, since these places are often a treasure trove of mindful gifts! Also be sure to check out the thrift store! Most thrift stores pull out their holiday themed items around this time of year, so be sure to look there before buying something new!

Wrap With Upcycled Materials

Wrapping paper is hands down one of the most wasteful products at this time of year. You wrap a gift in paper that is immediately thrown away once that gift is delivered! Instead of buying brand new wrapping paper, wrap your gifts in old newspapers and magazines. You can also find cute towels or fabric at the thrift store to wrap your items in! Using natural items like twine and pine needles instead of traditional wrapping paper can also give your gifts a nice touch! Or if you want to be really lazy, just skip the wrapping altogether!

Make a Donation

Finally, sometimes the best gift can be a donation to a cause that someone cares about. Instead of buying my mom a gift for her birthday, we made a donation to the Animal Rescue Center at our local aquarium in Baltimore! This can be a great way of showing someone that you care! It’s also a wonderful way to pay it forward and ensure your money is going to a place that needs it, rather than towards another product that no one needs. If you make a donation to places like 4Ocean, you can help fund trash cleanups and also give someone the gift of a bracelet made from recycled materials!

I hope this inspires you to have a more mindful and eco-friendly holiday! Chag Sameach to everyone else celebrating Hannukah and a very happy holiday to all! Thanks for reading!