Sustainable season: Simple changes throughout the holidays can minimize waste


Dhaanya Balaji

Students can make environmentally sustainable choices during the holiday season.

Lily Singer, Senior Arts & Leisure Editor and Senior Opinons Editor

With holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Black Friday and New Year’s, the months of November and December are saturated with themed feasts, numerous gifts, shopping deals and quality time with family friends. However, it can also be a time of excessive consumerism and waste. There are numerous ways to cut down on the environmental impact this holiday season whether it be giving sustainable gifts, minimizing food waste or choosing plastic-free decoration alternatives.

Throughout the holiday season, it is common to attend numerous themed parties where food is front and center. However, this can lead to a lot of food waste.

Luckily, there are a few simple steps that can be used to prevent food waste from occurring. For one, try to plan your menu out beforehand and note exactly how much food you will need to buy based on how many people are coming and if they are bringing anything. Try to cook multiple items in the same oven at the same time and run appliances on full loads. Also, avoid buying individually packed drinks to minimize plastic waste and make sure to use reusable plates, cups, napkins and utensils.

Another way to limit food waste is to encourage your guests to bring their own reusable containers and give them food to take home. You can store leftovers in the freezer to enjoy after the holiday season. If you run out of ideas of how you can repurpose your leftovers, a quick search online provides thousands of unique recipes. Whatever food is not eaten can be composted to fertilize soil.

When it comes to holiday decorations, such as Christmas trees, there are numerous alternatives that are eco-friendly. For one, skip the tinsel and avoid buying any plastic decorations for your trees. Nature provides so many beautiful ornaments and other holiday decorations; gather a basket of evergreen branches, berries, flowers, fresh fruit and arrange as you desire, or make ornaments from twigs, bark, flowers or herbs. You can also make edible ornaments like pine cones with peanut butter to put around your yard to feed the local wildlife.

The holidays are a time of gift giving, however this can lead to over consumption. There are so many gifts that are fun, useful and sustainable.

For the artists or kids in your life, Amazon sells a set of eight plantable colored pencils for just $14. When the colored pencils get too short to use, they can be planted and will sprout to form a surprise plant.
Another unique sustainable gift idea is a subscription box to Alltrue, a brand that sells many sustainable and greener alternatives to just about everything. Members receive boxes packed with goodies, ranging from kitchenware to skincare. There is even a magazine guide that shares tips on eco-conscious living, DIYs and the story behind new brands.

Thrift and consignment stores, such as Goodwill and Plato’s Closet, provide a large collection of unique pieces that make them the perfect opportunity to find a sustainable gift for a low cost. It can also be fun to hunt through all the racks to find something good.

One great way to encourage others to be sustainable would be to give them a cookbook for leftovers, a reusable water bottle, shampoo and conditioner bars or metal straws. Another way to cut down on buying unnecessary gifts is to give the gift of an experience such as concert tickets, a trip to a local museum or being taken out to dinner.

When searching for the perfect sustainable gift, try to pick out one that is long lasting or that can be reused and later recycled. Keep an eye out for gifts that do not require batteries, or if they do, opt for rechargeable batteries and give them with the gift. Finally, make sure to bring your own reusable tote back when shopping.

One gift idea that is very unique and personalized would be to make something specific for that person. You can make an edible gift such as bread, cookies, cake or jam, or any baked goods that the person will like. You can also pick out a classic holiday recipe to get immersed into the season.

If you are feeling artsy, you can knit a hat or sweater, paint a watercolor scene, design your own jewelry or create a masterpiece out of clay. Handmade gifts like these can often mean more to people because you put in the work and creativity to make it yourself instead of something store bought. This year, instead of buying a gift, give your time and talent to make something for your loved ones.

When it comes to gift wrapping, there are numerous ways to stay sustainable. For one, make sure to wrap your gifts in a reusable bag or use reusable wrapping paper. Amazon and Etsy provide many different colors and patterns to choose from to ensure you will find their perfect one.

You can also make the wrapping a part of the gift. For example, gardening pots are easy to fill with gardening supplies and a mixing bowl makes an excellent package for your favorite cook.

Throughout the holiday season there are numerous simple swaps that are more sustainable for our planet including minimizing food leftovers, buying gifts that are useful and using reusable decorations.