Happy holidays, everyone! With the giving season already in full swing, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of things that will pass through your home. For many, this burden lingers well past December as folks face increased waste production and cluttered homes as a result of over-gifting.

Not to worry! I’m here to put together a shortlist to help you take charge and give with the Earth in mind. Plus, your wallet and mental well-being also benefit, so it’s a win-win-WIN all around!

 It’s time to go beyond the 3 R’s and get intentional with our choices for the sake of our well-being, homes, and the planet.

Before we get into our helpful tips, did you know Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle aren’t the only ways to be eco-friendly? The list has expanded to include different practices such as:

  • Repair: Before you throw it away, can you fix it?
  • Rethink: Be mindful with your dollar. Is there a different way to get a product that doesn’t place undue strain on the environment? (carbon-neutral shipping, plastic-free packaging, buying local to eliminate shipping costs)
  • Refuse: If you don’t want something, can you politely address the gifter in advance to say “No, Thanks”?
  • Rot: Start a compost heap and create fertilizer for the garden instead of methane in the landfill! (This is a very niche gift-think long and hard before giving someone compost!)

Recycling works but only if it’s done correctly. Keep reading to find out how to incorporate these new ideas into your holiday season!

  • For Wrapping Presents
    • Use unique wrapping paper
      • Traditional wrapping paper is coated in plastic and therefore can’t be recycled.
      • Despite our best efforts to recycle wrapping paper, it’s not always that simple. All the extra ink introduces chemicals into the paper, making it harder to refine and create new paper from it, so it may end up in the landfill anyway.
      • Try these alternatives
        1. Newsprint
        2. Brown paper grocery bags
        3. Cotton cloth-like dish towels, scarves, or a reusable bag that can become part of the gift.
        4. Avoid ribbon (primarily made of plastic) and opt for a natural fiber like jute, raffia, or cotton string.
    • Reuse As Much As Possible
      • Reattach old bows with fresh tape or a stapler
      • Flatten and fold untorn tissue paper. No one has to know it’s from a past birthday or holiday!
      • Those gift bags that held a present and were tossed aside once the recipient opened it are still good for many, many more uses. Hang onto them for next year!
  • For Gift Giving
    • Gift Consumables or Experiences
      • It’s considerate to support a loved one’s effort to minimize what comes into their home. By giving tangible items, you have unintentionally also handed them the responsibility of maintaining the item, storing it, and/or feeling obligated to use it when they don’t have a need for it! Giving something they can use up eliminates that stress of a “forever” item. Some ideas include:
        1. Food and drink (bonus if it’s from a local company!)
        2. Skin Care (extra bonus if they are plastic-free packaging like a shampoo bar or bar soap)
        3. Experiences-With crowd restrictions and social distancing recommendations still present, gifting experiences may be a risk, but there are ways to ensure the activity will be safe for the whole family.
        4. Ditch single-use plastic gift cards and send a virtual one. They work the same, and it’s easier for online shopping.
  • For Home Decorating
    • Use natural materials from the outdoors! There are several crafty ideas for décor featuring small twigs, acorns, or leaves. Make sure to only collect in areas that you have permission to do so and always take things that have fallen to the ground. Breaking branches off living trees can cause problems for them.
    • Give old decorating items an upgrade by fixing any broken parts, freshening up the paint, or updating them to fit your current style.
    • Take apart any unwanted decorations and cobble them together to form a new item ready to uplift your home.
  • For Correspondence
    • Go Digital
      • For sharing family photos or an end-of-the-year letter, send it digitally! Email the letter and upload pictures to a cloud sharing platform
      • eBooks are a wonderful option for the bookworm in your life
  • Final Words of Wisdom
    • If you truly need something, buy secondhand or borrow
      • There is no shame in asking to borrow from a friend or family member. It may help them understand your efforts to simplify around your home
      • Bringing something new into your home can be done with intentionality. Instead of impulse buying the minute you think of something you need, give yourself time to weigh options and decide the best way to purchase a new item.

With these tips in mind, your holiday season can be a meaningful time to focus on your values and how it affects your home and the Earth.

Happy Holidays, everyone!