Now that Thanksgiving has passed, we are now officially in the holiday season. In an extra special coincidence, Hanukkah also is occurring as I write this. So there are plenty of holidays to go around, and still more to come in December (Christmas, Kwanzaa) and a whole bunch of other ones around the world that center upon creating light in the darkness.
Lots of holidays, lots of stuff–too much stuff, actually. Fortunately, there are many “guides” and “tipsheets” oriented around a more environmentally sensitive holiday season. I liked the one in my wife’s All You Magazine in particular. This one was pretty cool because most of its tips were both pretty simple and widely applicable.
One example is something as simple as repurposing newspaper into customized wrapping paper. My wife had used this one in some of her classes. She also had our son put his handprints on used newspapers–and voila! personalized wrapping paper! Another benefit is that there is no question of whether this wrapping paper can be recycled.
Another personal favorite of mine is tap water. As in serving tap water at holiday parties vs. bottled water. A huge amount of bottled water is basically processed municipal water transported hundreds of miles anyways—better to save the environmental impact to taking water from your own tap. And if you are still concerned about quality or taste, get a filter. This will be far less environmental impact than using bottled water.
For many people, the holidays are all about shopping. If you are not waiting until the last minute (and are shopping online), you can save both money and carbon emissions by choosing ground shipping vs air. Or, if you are in the store, many store cashiers accept images of coupons on your smartphone (or tablet)–thus avoiding the hassle and paper of regular coupons–the vast majority of which are not redeemed anyways. Actually, from a marketing point of view, a significant amount of coupons are only offered via mobile device. So if you have a smartphone or mobile device, it would behoove you to check the relevant app.
One depressing feature of the holiday season is that it gets dark so early. This is why cultures all over the world have some kind of lights as part of the season. In the United States, many people put up holiday lights. (I’ve promised my son a drive to see some cool ones). While many strings of lights of lights are the older incandescents, LED technology has come a long way, especially in terms of cost. LED lights are significantly more efficient than incandescents.
I like the holiday lights. They really brighten up the darkness of the season. Another thing that brightens up the season for me is the personal aspect. Call me out of touch with the times, but I kind of like the idea of making the holiday about connections with people (and community), while minimizing gifts in the first place. Maybe that is the most sustainable option of all…