Christmas is one of my absolute favorite holidays, and every year I jump into it wholeheartedly. I love to decorate my home, and shopping for gifts for loved ones is my absolute favorite! However as someone who deeply tries to live a sustainable lifestyle, I do recognize with all the shopping and gifting how much waste comes with this magical time of year too. So as the Christmas countdown marches on, I wanted to share some ideas with you on how you can take a more sustainable approach to the holiday season.
10 Easy Ways to Enjoy a Merry, Sustainable Christmas:
1. Join a local Buy Nothing group and exchange items locally!
I am a raving fan about the Buy Nothing Project and have blogged about my experience with the group before. If you are new to the idea, it is a community group you can join on Facebook based off your location, where you can share and goods with your neighbors for free! Around Christmas time I gift things such as toys my kids no longer play with that can go to a new home, or old Christmas decorations I don’t find myself using anymore that I am sure someone else will love. I even gift things like leftovers of really nice meals, gift bags I received for others to use, and more! Be sure to check out my post about Buy Nothing and find your community group so you can give it a try – it sounds weird at first but once you get started and used to the vibe I am sure you will love it as much as I do!
2. Accept that you can shop second-hand (people will never know!)
I know what you are thinking – that your loved ones deserve something amazing, not someone’s pre-owned junk you found on Offer-Up. However, there are gems out there on buy/sell sites, sometimes things still new in their original packaging. I have found with how kids often have a ‘flavor of the week’ toy that they have lost interest in, and there are a good number of parents out there selling these like-new toys. Also, kids (especially babies) grow through clothes so quickly, sometimes second-hand clothing items being sold have only been worn once or twice. Last year, we found my daughter an electric car…. okay hold it… not just an average electric car, but a toy remote controllable Mercedes AMG that has a sound system, pre-loaded techno music, and LED lighting on Offer Up in new condition at 1/5th of the normal price new. It was an amazing find that saved us a bunch of money, and also helped us avoid waste since there was no shipping, no packaging to discard. Trust me that it did not even register with my 3 year old that this wasn’t a brand new toy, and she loved it!
3. Donate your old lights
Did you know that Christmas lights can be recycled? So, if that old tangled set is driving you crazy and you decide to give up on it, please don’t throw it in the trash! Here is a link to a website showing where you can recycle your lights in the Greater Seattle Area. If you aren’t in Seattle, still Google what light recycling locations are near you – the copper wire has value and there likely is someone willing to take them in and keep applicable parts out of the trash!
4. Reuse wrapping materials
I drive my husband a little crazy with this one, but you know what? I bet I have not purchased a gift bag in 5-10 years and that is a source of pride for me, haha! I have a little box in the corner of my garage where I keep gift bags people give me presents in. If there is a bow I keep that too – anything I can use over again, it goes in my wrapping box! I ended up with so many nice bags that I gifted a bunch in my Buy Nothing Group and people were so happy to receive them and started their own little wrapping corner too. This year my plan is to reuse brown paper grocery bags (“brown paper packages, tied up with strings” anyone??). With some cute ribbon from my wrapping corner and some creative work with my Christmas stamps, I think they will turn out super cute!
5. Gift experiences, not things
As a parent to young kids, this is a big one for me! My 4 year-old’s room is an absolute disaster zone, overflowing with stuff. I have always been good about not buying her toys for no reason, but even with just giving a few basic gifts per holiday, she is still swimming in toys. We just moved and as I unpack boxes in her room, I think to myself that she has so much that she wouldn’t even know if half these toys never re-appeared on her shelves again. It is overwhelming to me, and I imagine subconsciously it is for her too! However, I know this kid remembers every experience – she loves her memories so deeply! Every time we have gone to an event, out for ice cream, to a book store, to a park, on a mini vacation… she talks about all these things we do together all the time! Some ideas of things you can gift a child: a day pass to a museum or zoo, tickets to a movie or concert you can attend together, a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant (The Sugar Factory is one my daughter LOVES), just to name a few.
6. Be mindful of the energy you are using
Statistics show that our energy consumption can raise as much as 70% this time of year! I am not going to be a total Grinch and tell you not to put up Christmas lights, but there are still quite a few things you can do to help improve this statistic. A huge one would be replacing your old lights with energy efficient LED ones (but don’t forget #3 above and recycle your old lights when you do!). Another big one is to unplug your lights when you aren’t home to enjoy them. If you are traveling for the holidays it is a good idea to put your water heater and furnace on ‘vacation mode’ so you aren’t using any unnecessary power (as long as you aren’t at risk of pipes freezing, of course).
7. Gift things that will help others live sustain-ably
I absolutely support giving gifts that help people live a sustainable lifestyle! How about a bamboo cutlery set so a loved one doesn’t use plastic forks at work on lunch breaks any more? This year I know my hubs is getting a key chain stainless straw holder, as we further our efforts to decrease our plastic use. A refillable glass water bottle, or a stainless steel travel mug are other easy gift ideas that will hopefully assist in people using less single-use cups and bottles. The key here is to get something QUALITY that will stand the test of time… if it ends up in the landfill soon it defeats the purpose! My Yeti tumbler is an all-time favorite and I have been bringing it to my coffee stand for years.
2 Pack Reusable Metal Straws Collapsible Stainless Steel Drinking Straw Portable Telescopic Straw with Case Black/Rose Gold
8. Compost your leftovers
With all the holiday baking, Christmas parties, big dinners and get-togethers, there is just a ton of both extra food waste this time of year. It is always those last few cookies in the cookie jar that go stale, or maybe you totally over-did it with the charcuterie plate and there are a whole bunch of scraps that are picked over and not save-able. I use a little counter top composting jar that I scrape our leftovers into over the course of the day, then I take them out to the compost at night. You don’t have a compost outside? Check again! Our trash provider confirmed with us that our yard waste bin can be used for compost too, which I actually love since it gets hauled away instead of taking up space in my yard. Check with your waste management company and see if this is acceptable in your area too! Keeping all that food waste out of landfills is so critical.
We use a little counter-top composter just like this one!
9. Buy quality items you will use for years to come
If I am buying something brand new as a Christmas gift, you better believe I have put a lot of thought and research into it, and I know it will be something we use for years to come. Last year I purchased a beautiful Japanese steel chef’s knife for my husband for Christmas, and this is a fantastically made utensil that I am sure we will keep the rest of our lives. When it comes to what my kiddos get for Christmas, I make them put A LOT of thought into what they want and I help them weigh their options to make sure they ask Santa for the one thing they want and love most. Santa only brings ONE present, and it will be a quality one that I know they will play with for years to come!
10. Shop local!
Don’t forget, supporting the local makers and storefronts is not only the nice thing to do, but it is sustainable too! By purchasing something locally sourced and crafted, you are eliminating the need for it to be packaged and shipped which is huge. So before going cyber-crazy, give your local shops a chance first! You are supporting someone’s dream and staying green at the same time.
So, is there anything you and your family do to try and reduce waste this time of year? Do you participate in some of these already? I would love to hear your ideas!
Also, if you are on the journey to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I love it and totally support you! I always think about my girls and what kind of life mankind is paving for them, and honestly right now it breaks my heart. My hope always is that by bringing awareness to the topic and sharing easy ways to go about living sustainably that it inspires you to join the movement too!
X.O. – Abbey Co.
P.S. – Speaking of buying local, did you see my giveaway I just launched? A group of local bloggers and myself put together a FANTASTIC prize package for you, all from local Seattle-based businesses! Head over to my Instagram page to enter yourself, it is so great and I am super excited to share it with all of you!
Abbey Co. Seattle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. I am not sponsored by any of these products, but am bringing you info on how to purchase them because I LOVE THEM!!!