It probably doesn't come as a surprise to you that the holidays create a lot of extra waste. But it might surprise you to learn that it's estimated to be about 2,887,500,000 more pounds of garbage per week compared to the rest of the year. That's pretty huge.
The biggest waste culprits are plastic packaging, wrapping paper, greeting cards, string lights, and returned items that get tossed instead of re-stocked. It's hard to avoid contributing to the gifting holidays' massive carbon footprint, but there are definitely some easy and aesthetic options that can help make a difference!
Here are a few ideas:
1. Go With a Live Tree
It may seem counterintuitive, but Christmas tree farms are actually better for the environment than the production of reusable artificial trees. Often made in China of plastic and aluminum parts, these trees leave a hefty carbon footprint and cannot be recycled. They also rarely last long enough to make that carbon footprint worth it in the end.
Conversely, Christmas tree farms are inherently sustainable, using 10x fewer resources than artificial trees. They also provide important habitats for insects and animals, and often utilize land that would otherwise not be farmable.
Live trees are beneficial for your home as well! They improve indoor air quality by helping to remove dust and pollen from the air. Plus, they smell amazing.
Best of all, live trees can be reusable too! Instead of a cut tree, you can opt for a young potted pine that can be moved inside and out for several years, or one with a wrapped root ball that can be planted when the season ends.
2. Craft Natural Garlands
You can keep a lot of plastic, styrofoam, and aluminum out of landfills by skipping the store-bought garlands. Opt instead for old school classics like strung popcorn and dried cranberries, or dried orange slices. When choosing beaded strings, go for wood instead of plastic! These favorite yuletide adornments of yore are not just aesthetically pleasing and pleasant smelling, but making them together with loved ones is a festive tradition for the anticipatory weeks leading up to the holiday.
3. Make Your Own Ornaments
Instead of buying a plastic carton of generic baubles, consider starting a family tradition of making unique ornaments of your own! You can keep it simple with whole natural elements - like pinecones, cinnamon sticks, walnuts, holly sprigs with berries - or slice up some oranges and get to dehydrating! Whole orange slices make darling ornaments, but you can also use just the peels, no dehydrator required. Simply cut with scissors or use a cookie cutter in the shape you'd like (we recommend stars), punch a small hole and string with twine. Peels will dry on their own!
Make it a craft project by trying your hand at burning words or images into wood slices, or baking a tray of salt dough gingerbread people.
4. Use Recycled/Recyclable Wrapping Paper
Wrapping paper and ribbons are some of the biggest holiday waste offenders. Most wrapping paper contains non-recyclable elements like foil, glitter, or plastic, and nearly all of it gets thrown away. Saving the wrapping paper from the gifts you open is one way to recycle, though it isn't feasible for everyone. But if you do store seasonal decorations somewhere in your house, you might find it's worth it to make space in one of those boxes for some pretty paper.
You can definitely choose to shop for recyclable paper, but you can also do the recycling yourself! Dig into that cupboard where you cram all your paper grocery bags! After all, what says joy and contentment better than brown paper packages tied up with strings?
5. Decorate Surfaces with Natural Elements
When decorating mantles and other surfaces, incorporate more of those natural elements, like cinnamon, oranges, pinecones and pine boughs. Trade battery operated and plug-in lights for candles to save on electricity as well as plastic and metal waste.
And if you'll be using fake snow, try one of these compostable options:
- Paper towels in a food processor. That's it!
- Coarse sea salt. Yep, just course sea salt.
- Baking soda and water. Start with 1 cup baking soda and add water one tablespoon at a time, fluffing with a fork, until desired consistency is reached.
6. Build a Seasonal Scent-Scape with Plants & Essential Oils
Repeat after me: I do not need a Glade Plug-In.
Skip the excess packaging, the plastic waste, and the drain on your electricity! Skip the petroleum products and synthetic fragrance oils in generic scented candles and incense! Breathe plants, not plastics!
Many of the most popular scented products for the home contain synthetic fragrance oils, which are some of the most common allergens and are known to contain hormone disrupting phthalates and parabens. And unfortunately, if you see the word "fragrance" on an ingredient list, there is no way for you to know what's behind it.
But the best ways to fill a space with delicious smells today are the same as they were hundreds of years ago: burning things, and boiling things. So burn a stick of all natural essential oil incense, light a fragrance-oil-free candle, or try an old classic - the simmer pot!
For an instant, house-warming aroma experience, fill a pot halfway with water and add some sliced oranges and your favorite seasonal cooking spices from the pantry. You can even spritz your favorite Scented Veil into the pot for a potent boost!
7. Shop Small or Make Your Own Gifts
Did you know that more than half of gifts returned after the holidays are thrown away instead of re-stocked? Unwanted presents represent a huge chunk of holiday season waste, which is especially important to remember when you're preparing those impersonal gifts for co-workers and acquaintances. (They would probably appreciate a jar of mulling spices or a gift card to a local café much more than generic holiday tchotchke anyway.)
Homemade gifts are a wonderful option, but you can also help reduce holiday waste by shopping small and local, or by buying directly from makers. You can even find Sea Witch Botanicals on the shelves near you with our store-finder!
However you spend the holidays, we hope you are warm and comfy and surrounded by love. Blessed Yule to you and yours!
Sea Witch Botanicals