By Olivia Lease
So I’m kind of passionate about the environment.
I like learning new ways to live sustainably and one surprising time we all can do that is now, during the holidays. When you think of this time, you probably picture an abundance of snow, peppermint everything and credit card debt. No? Maybe that’s just me.
No matter what you picture, here are some ways to fit Mother Earth into the grand scheme.
For those who give gifts, maybe use recycled paper to wrap them. I used old newspapers last year and they didn’t look too bad. Yes, a journalism major is suggesting you use the articles people work hard on to fulfill someone’s need to rip something apart. Maybe read them as you’re wrapping? Or not, that’s cool too.
Some people use maps, blueprints and even old posters, which are all great ideas. Any non-glossy wrapping paper can be shredded for compost or put in paper recycling bins. Tissue paper, boxes, bows and ribbons can all be reused.
Even the gift itself can be a bit more eco-friendly if you choose to buy local. Not only is this great for local businesses but it’s also more sustainable. Opt for quality rather than quantity. This time of year is more about that spending time with family anyways.
For those who don’t already have a menorah, buying used is good idea. Using natural beeswax, soy, or vegetable oil candles is best.
Ordinary paraffin candles produce harmful byproducts when burned including greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. They are also petroleum products, meaning they’re made from oil. Make sure the wick does not have additives like zinc or lead because both release harmful gases when burned.
Also, make use of the candlelight. Use it to light a meal or simply to play games with your family. Just don’t fall asleep.
For those who celebrate Kwanzaa, the seven symbols used for celebration can all be made with sutainable materials.
For example, the Mkeka, or place mats, are typically made of straw or cloth which is already eco- friendly. The Mazao, or crops of fruits, nuts and vegetables, can be bought organically and locally. The Kinara, or candle holder, can be made from extra wood rather than bought.
The tree is kind of a tossup in my point of view. Fake trees, despite the resources expended to make and transport them, last roughly 10 to 20 years. While I don’t think they are recyclable, you could always reuse the branches as other decorations. On the other hand, purchasing real trees often supports local businesses and depending on where you live, curbside pickup is available after the holidays to turn them into mulch. Though in the U.S. alone, 20.8 million trees are cut down for Christmas.
For decorating, try to choose LED lighting. It saves up to 90 percent more on power costs than traditional lighting. Put lights on energy-saving timers which can be found at most hardware stores.Bringing in natural elements to decorate rather than factory-made goods can look better while being more sustainable. Twigs, burlap, and pine cones make for nice center pieces.
Whether you’re celebrating a holiday or not, most can agree that the food at this time of year is amazing. Many relatives go above and beyond to create favorite meals. A lot of people also cook too much. Limiting how much is made and eating leftovers minimizes food waste. Untouched meals could also go to a local shelter. I’m not sure about other places, but the landfill for central Ohio only has about 20 years of use left to it. By minimizing food waste we can extend the life of our landfills. Composting is always an option as well.
Hosting a party? Put a recycle bin next to the trash can for guests to throw in their aluminum, glass and plastic. Skip disposable plates and silverware; now is the time to break out the fancy, reusable stuff. Try using cloth napkins and tablecloths as well. For afterwards, try all-natural housecleaners. Equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle work as a great disinfectant and deodorizer.
Traveling is really popular at this time of year, whether it is for fun or to see distant relatives. Use public transportation or carpooling to minimize carbon dioxide emissions.