Happy, Sustainable Holdays!

Joe & I have put a lot of our passion for sustainability into practice this year, & we wanted to carry that through the holidays. Joe is holding me to my promise that I will not buy buy more Christmas decorations (though I still do need to assemble some sort of Advent wreath). We’ve even settled on using our small Christmas tree before passing it on to my sister, for her coming years of dorm & college rental life (!!!).

We’ve been struggling with the real-or-fake debate… I love what The Daily Green has to say about the choice between an artificial or annual tree. But since I can’t afford a bulb tree, we’ll be sticking with the tiny tree I’ve been using for years then hitting the after-Christmas sales for the first (& hopefully only for many years) Betz Family Full-Sized Tree.

So we’re saving money & limiting waste. We’re baking Christmas goodies with organic & local ingredients (which means really limiting my baking to fit a grocery budget). We’re hand-making some Christmas gifts. But how else can we make the holiday sustainable?

Ways in which we’re “failing”:

  1. Every holiday article I read insists that e-cards hold the same sentiment as cards that arrive in your mailbox. As a kid, I endlessly checked the mailbox & flipped through the Christmas card holder that my mom kept on our coffee table. I still decorate with Christmas cards. There’s no way I could pass on the joy of giving & receiving hand-written notes from family & friends. I say I’m doing it to support the USPS. Plus, there are ample recycled cards & cards that support causes (like UNICEF & Oxfam).
  2. Christmas lights. Hmm. I’m torn here. Do we save money & create e-waste by tossing out our still-functioning lights? Do we donate them to Goodwill & pass on energy consumption we’re trying to avoid? I never know what’s best on this one. So for now, we’re opting for limiting the use of our Christmas lights (or using them instead of another table light). When they burn out (or in a year when we can better afford it), we’ll switch to low-energy LED lights.

How we can all do better:

  1. One of my favorite holiday gifts is, in the traditional sense, not a gift at all. Organizations like Oxfam and their America Unwrapped program and Heifer International let family members show how much they care about your interests by sending you a card explaining what has been donated on your behalf. Send a goat to a family in Southeast Asia. Send bees to small farms in Africa. Have fun with it. Here are more ideas for 11 holiday gifts benefiting nonprofits & 9 holiday cards benefiting nonprofits.
  2. If you know me, you know I love crafts. That’s why I spent my Thanksgiving break making tablecloths, curtains & new covers for chairs. If you have itty-bitties or are like me and will look for any reason to make something, make some Christmas ornaments for a more unique tree. Most of them can be made with random things found around the average home.
  3. Skip the gift wrap. Opt for re-useable bags & boxes. Or, like my mom suggested, wrap gifts in hand towels & cloth napkins so that even the packaging becomes part of the gift.
  4. If you’re buying holiday snacks & beverages, look for organic options. (Let’s face it: we’re all splurging for the holidays. Splurge on the things that we can all benefit from!) Check out fair trade coffees, chocolates & cookies. Look for goodies that come in less packaging. Try to avoid those snazzy gift baskets all wrapped in plastic.
  5. EarthEasy also gave me loads of ideas, like:
  • buying gifts that don’t take batteries
  • decorating your trees outside too–with snacks for birds (just make sure those leashless cats can’t get them)
  • finding a place to recycle your real tree

Hope this helps you get a jump on a more sustainable holiday. I know I feel better about spending when I find ways to lower the celebration’s impact & share what I’m passionate about with those I love. Happy sustainable holidays! I look forward to adding more tips to this as the season progresses.


About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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3 Responses to Happy, Sustainable Holdays!

  1. unfinishedportraitofsam says:

    This is a fun post, Meg : )
    Something you might find fun: I’m with you in that I still really enjoy hand-written notes. I send e-cards every once in awhile, but they’re just…I’m sorry, just not the same. I don’t write notes often enough, but I’ll say that apart from two birthday cards (bought for specific humorous reasons), I haven’t sent a card this year that hasn’t been recycled by being handmade. It takes time, and I know most of us (including me, for the last many months) don’t have tons of that, but here’s what I’ve done and enjoyed since we got married two years ago: I’ve saved every card we’ve received, including all of our wedding cards, along with other fun paper bits and pieces we’ve received. I’ve cut out words and pictures from those old cards and organized them (well, they used to be). I’ve sliced up the paint chips we’ve used for our house. And all of that, with some mod podge and tape, gets used to make some pretty rockin’ handmade cards : ) Obviously, it’d be a FEAT to handmake all your Christmas cards, but you can handmake the ones that matter most, and during the evenings when you have extra time and want something crafty to do, you can make a card or two to build up your go-to “stash.”
    Anyway, it’s a thought, and I know people have enjoyed it. That said, you can’t guarantee what they’ll do with them afterwards…so maybe it doesn’t really help anything. But it does mean you BUY less cards and use the paper I have lying around. Does that make sense?

  2. meganbetz says:

    I LOVE homemade cards, Sarah. I love any craft that involves reusing things I have already. I can only imagine how awesome the cards you made were. I’m definitely keeping this in mind for future years (so that I can start keeping all the Christmas cards I get this year & start a little stock of Christmas scraps to draw from). Awesome 🙂

  3. Pingback: the eighth day of Christmas | francofile

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