10 Tips for an Eco Holiday Season

As posted on the Hipcycle Blog, November 7, 2011

by Susan Tucker

I recently read that Americans throw away an additional 5 million tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.  It’s no surprise; even before Halloween, the stores were filling their shelves with glittery, shimmery, come-hither enticements and for the past 2 weeks I have gotten no less than 3 toy catalogs PER DAY!

Makes for quite the mommy conundrum when every day I hear, “I want THIS!” and “I want THAT!” Ugh.

I am determined to find balance. I will not wake up on January 1 feeling like a gluttonous mess. (I’m also starting a diet this week – but that’s another story altogether!)

I have decided to take charge of the situation and have compiled this helpful list of tips for celebrating the holiday season… the ECO way.

  1. 10 Tips for an Eco Holiday Season | gourdsAll Natural Décor
    For years I have been too practical to buy specific holiday decorations. I enjoy decorating with pumpkins, pinecones, pieces of evergreens, etc because, to me it just feels right.  I used to feel like a lame-o decorating this way, but now that I’m aware of the impact of filling your home knick-knacky plastic things, I feel good about going this route. Plus, the evergreens make my house smell so good during Christmas!
  2. Toy Swap Party
    I am arranging to get together with some of the other moms on my block to swap toys. My kids are always excited to do the temporary swap, why not make it permanent! I have been preparing my kids by suggesting we make room for Santa’s gifts. They have diligently filled a box with things they no longer use.  At this age (5 and 3), I seriously doubt they’ll notice or care that they’re getting used toys. Each mommy will bring 10 or so (working and clean) items; we’ll trade then donate the rest to charity.
  3. 10 Tips for an Eco Holiday Season | potted christmas tree | Hipcycle.comDitch the Plastic Tree Idea
    So, by now you probably know that I’ve been on quite the plastic-bashing kick.  Ditch the idea of getting a plastic tree.  Plastic trees are made in Korea, Taiwan or Hong Kong, they are made from non-biodegradable plastics and metals and petroleum! Ugh! Who wants a big, fake, bad-for-you tree in their living room? Certainly not me! Fresh trees are a good choice. Potted trees are even better. Decorate it for the holidays with upcycled goodness (old Mardi Gras beads fashioned together, for example), then plant it in your back yard after the season is over.
  4. Shop Responsibly
    Be a responsible shopper by supporting businesses that are committed to helping people and the planet.  Check the Green America website to learn more about the eco conscience level of a large variety of companies.
  5. It’s Hip to Regift
    It’s ok to regift! I, personally do not mind a regift! Do you? Would you? Should you? Well, that’s between you and the Cat and the Hat. You can read more about best “regifting practices” on the Regifting 101 website.
  6. Dispose of the Diposables
    About 18 percent of the garbage Americans produce is disposable containers. We throw away 25 billion polystyrene cups alone each year. But you can make a difference. If you’re hosting for the holidays, use real dishes and it’s ok – even chic! – to have mismatched settings. Have your guests contribute if you’re running low or even fill in by shopping at the local thrift store. If you’re going to a party, bring your own cups. Small changes can make a big difference.
  7. Gift ONE, Not All
    Got a big family, this is a no brainer – draw names for gifts. Make it even more memorable by gathering in a circle and sharing your favorite holiday stories, each person shares when their name comes up.
  8. Get Crafty
    And, I don’t necessarily mean crafty-in-the-knitting-a-sweater kinda way. Just try to think outside the box. Perhaps cook your favorite dish, create a photo book (there are excellent online options that will walk you through the process), these same photo stores could also help you “craft” a calendar. Or if you like the idea of giving a crafty gift, but lack the patience or creativity to do it yourself, check out Hipcycle.com, Etsy.com or eBay.com– all great resources for hand made gifts.
  9. Start a New Tradition
    Who says the holiday traditions have to prescribe to one particular method every year. Why not break the mold altogether and spend your holidays, as a family, helping others. Instead of giving gifts to each other, volunteer at a local shelter and give back to your community. Check IRS.gov for a list of local charities.
  10. 10 Tips for an Eco Holiday Season | gift wrap | Hipcycle.comGift-Wrapping Goodies
    This year, if you make one change only, consider changing how you wrap your gifts. Hipcycle has chosen to wrap with old sewing patterns picked up at a second hand store. Other ideas could include using newspaper, magazine pages, paper grocery bags, sheet music, recycled aluminum foil, leftover wallpaper, children’s drawings, maps and even old chip bags that have been cleaned and turned inside out.  You could also use containers or the gifts themselves as the wrap – scarves are great to hold little things, buckets, reusable bags, beach blankets, baby towels… the list goes on! Hold your gifts closed with twine, shoelaces, or wool yarn. Top off with twigs, sprigs of berries, shells, pinecones or anything you can find around the house –even a light bulb would work. Voila!

So, there you have it! My top ten ideas for celebrating en eco-holiday. If you have ideas to share, please comment with them below. I’d love to hear them!

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