The most wonderful time of the year leaves us full of cheer, home cooking and holiday memories. This season also leaves us with mountains of accumulated Yuletide rubbish destined for the landfill. As you gear up for your holly, jolly Christmas, consider these sustainable improvements to your favorite tradition:
1. Lights are perhaps the most iconic part of the season. It only takes one defective bulb for an entire strand of lights to go to waste. Instead of buying a whole new string, identify and replace the dead bulb to reduce landfill waste. If the strand is beyond repair, opt for energy-efficient LED lights while purchasing. This investment can save up to 90 percent of power costs and last longer than traditional lights. Merry and bright!
2. Next, add an extra bit of thoughtfulness to your gifting this year. For those on your list who seem to have everything already, avoid gifting just another quirky mug, ornament or canvas quote. Instead, give a service to avoid accumulation of “stuff” and support worthy businesses. For example, you’ll never disappoint with a coupon for a massage, manicure, pedicure or close shave. For a charitable gift, donate an animal in someone’s name to provide a family in need with a source of sustainable livelihood from Heifer International (heifer.org). Give a flock of ducks or chicks for $20 or honeybees for $30!
For gifts, shop at small businesses around the corner rather than big box retail stores. Holland’s 8th Street is packed with locally owned businesses. In addition, the Farmer’s Market conducts “Kerstmarkts” Dutch for “Christmas Market,” where you’ll find artisans who craft wooden utensils and bowls, carved toys, soaps, bags, wreaths, jewelry, knit accessories and more! Head over soon as it wraps up next week (Friday Dec. 9 from 3-8p.m. and 9a.m.-5p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10). Visit their website https://kerstmarkt.wordpress.com.
3. Almost as important as the gift itself is the holiday wrapping. Rather than glossy, nonrecyclable wrapping and ribbons, get creative and conscientious with your gift presentation! Use newspaper or a roll of brown paper that can be recycled after opening. Paint simple polka dots or cover it with Christmas phrases like, “Joy to the world!” For those oddly shaped objects that need gift bags, throw it in a reusable bag (often costing $1-$5) as an added element of purposefulness for your gift.
4. Last but not least, the feast. Though the temperatures are dropping, farmers still show up at the 8th Street Market every Wednesday and Saturday morning (until Dec. 10) with potato and squash varieties, carrots, onions, garlic, apples and pears. Shape your dinner menu or potluck dish around seasonal ingredients.
Pleasant potlucks always require serving wear. Instead of paper plates and plastic cutlery, opt for your real plates and silverware to reduce your landfill contribution. Of course guests and hosts dread dish duty, but fill your sink with soapy water, turn on the Christmas tunes and transform your cleanup into a celebration of its own.
These few tips along with your favorite traditions are bound to make this Christmas the best holiday yet.