You've swapped your old Christmas lights for ones with LED bulbs, requested that retailers ship your items when everything is ready to go and choose the most fuel efficient route over the river and through the woods. But if, like us, you're looking for even more sustainability as you celebrate the end-of-year holidays, we've got a few ideas to get you started.
Don't Scrap the Wrap!
If your wrapping paper doesn't contain foil or glitter, you can put it in your recycling bin. Remove all bows, sticky bits and tape. This could be a fun task to do with kids. Many ribbons and bows can be saved to use again or repurposed for craft projects.
Got gift bags? Fold them flat and save for next year, or if you want to recycle them, remove all strings, bows, ribbons and handles, until the handles are made only of paper (no wire or fabric). And boxes and tissue paper that are free of glitter and foil can be recycled, though we like to hang on to anything that's still in good shape to avoid an impromptu trip to the store the next time you need to wrap a present. Reusing wrapping is always your best option.
Or Make the Wrapping Part of the Present
A pretty tea towel, a fabric napkin, a silky scarf or even a t-shirt, held together with a length of ribbon or craft twine, makes for memorable wrapping—and a bonus gift. Replace paper gift bags with repurposed fabric bags that originally held bed sheets or articles of clothing.
Plan Your Tree's Next Act
Where there's a Christmas tree, there's a touch of holiday magic and lots of coziness. A little planning will solve the "now what do we do with the tree?" mystery come January.
Artificial trees: Consider this Christmas tree an investment. Store it for future holiday seasons or if you can't do that, donate it to an organization that can use it rather than putting it out as trash.
Live trees with roots: If it's a live tree that you want, you might opt for one that's carefully removed from the ground with its roots intact so that it can be re-planted later. There are also many varieties of houseplant conifers to choose from, especially at this time of year, at your local nursery or plant store, such as the Norfolk island pine.
Cut trees: Learn what environmentally-friendly options exist in your community for disposing of Christmas trees, such as transforming trees to mulch. Or, if you have a yard, you might consider leaving the tree outdoors to serve as a wintertime shelter for birds and other animals. No matter where your cut tree ends up, plan to spend a little time making sure every last ornament, light and bit of tinsel is removed before you take it down.
Sort Out All Your Stuff
What presents did you get? If after putting away all your new things, your drawers, cabinets and closets are ready to burst, consider doing a post-holiday sweep to find items that you can donate or pass on to others in need. And if you feel comfortable doing so, you might also want to donate gifts you received that you don't need and feel certain you won't use very much.
Keep the Spirit of the Season Going!
It's hard to say goodbye to the time of year that's all about connection and generosity. But you can find ways to keep the holiday spirit alive any time of year. Look into your community's needs and the efforts that are underway to address them. See what you can do! You might take part in a winter gear collection by gathering warm coats, hats, gloves, scarfs and socks at your workplace. Volunteer with an organization whose mission resonates with you. Bonus: getting to know the people being served, staffers and other volunteers! See if a friend is interested in signing up for a shift together, cooking community meals, packing grocery boxes and so on.
Resolve to Cut Waste Where You Can
A little planning also helps when it comes to eliminating things like single-use plastics. Don't leave home without your water bottle and/or travel mug. Having a cutlery set handy can keep you away from plastic forks, knives and spoons. A nylon bag—one that folds down to next to nothing and fits right in your purse or work bag—is your friend while out shopping. Return your reusable grocery totes to the car as soon as they're empty.