By Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RDN, Founder of The Well Essentials
The holidays can be some of the most exciting times of year, but with each new season, there often comes a lot of waste and excessive consumption that aren’t really aligned with what the holidays should be about. So, this year, we want to challenge you to think more intentionally about the way you approach and celebrate the holidays – from the food you eat to the gifts you purchase for your friends and family.
To help you enjoy this holiday season more consciously, we’ve rounded out five of our favorite ways to create a sustainable holiday at home and contribute to positive change during this special season.
1. Buy from Conscious Companies
Shopping is a part of the holidays, but it doesn’t have to be something that is filled with excessive spending and waste. If you do plan to purchase something new for your loved ones this holiday season, think about supporting sustainably conscious companies that put people and planet first.
To determine whether a company is sustainably minded or not, take some time to research the brands you want to support. Some things to look out for are companies that source organic materials, invest in fair trade practices and are transparent about their supply chain.
2. Go Evergreen and Skip the Plastic
If you decide to purchase a tree, wreath or other greenery for your holiday decorations, opt for the real things! While plastic wreaths and Christmas trees may seem like good options because they can be reused from year to year, the materials are often sourced from fossil fuels and are usually shipped from halfway around the world to reach your home.
For those that are worried about cutting down a live tree for the holidays, we want to put your mind at ease, as there are more than 350 million trees currently being grown on Christmas tree farms and only 25-30 million are sold each year. Most trees are also grown on small family farms that benefit the environment by sequestering carbon into the soil and can be grown on land that often isn’t suitable for other food crops.
Wreaths and trees that are natural are also 100 percent biodegradable, so as long as you dispose of them properly after the holiday season, they are some of the best ways that you can sustainably decorate for the holidays.
3. Choose Organic and Fair Trade Baking Ingredients
The holidays are some of the most exciting times for cooking and baking, but have you ever stepped back to think about where your sugar, chocolate and other baking ingredients come from?
Unfortunately, the global sugar, nut and chocolate industries are all known to contribute to unethical labor practices, unhealthy working conditions, and corruption that exploits small farmers and laborers. For these reasons, it’s critical for consumers to think about where their food comes from – all the way down to their baking and cooking ingredients.
Consumers have the potential to create incredible change when it comes to improving the way our global food system functions, which is why choosing to support companies that are investing in regenerative organic and fair trade products is so important. This holiday season, consider making all those chocolate desserts and hot cocoa with some Fairtrade certified cacao powder, and swap your cane sugar for sustainably sourced organic coconut palm sugar.
4. Create Seasonal Holiday Meals with Local Produce
Along the lines of using ethical baking ingredients, you can easily create a more sustainable holiday by opting for local, seasonal ingredients that support regenerative organic farmers in your own local food system. When you purchase from local farmers who utilize regenerative organic practices, you are significantly reducing the carbon footprint of your food, while also supporting the health and vitality of your local environment and food system.
So, when planning out your seasonal holiday meals, think about which ingredients you could purchase locally and get creative with the dishes you make!
5. Skip the Seasonal Wrapping Paper
While wrapping gifts can be a fun part of celebrating the holidays, we want to encourage you to think about reusable options you already have at home that you could wrap your gifts with instead of seasonal wrapping paper.
Because of their decorative foils and glitter, most commercial wrapping papers are actually not recyclable, which means that all that holiday waste ends up in landfills each year. So, rather than contribute to this unnecessary load, get creative with your wrapping options this holiday season.
A few of our favorite ways to wrap holiday gifts are with linen or organic cotton tea towels, brown paper bags with string and some seasonal greenery, and reusable canvas bags that make for a perfect food tote after the holidays are over.
By making these small, sustainable changes to the way you approach this holiday season, you can turn a season that is full of excess into something very intentional and capable of supporting people and planet in a positive way. Not to mention, the more you show your friends and family how easy it can be to create a sustainable holiday, the more likely they are to make conscious changes in their own lives and homes for years to come.