It’s easy to fall off the sustainability wagon this time of year. There are so many ways to stray, from carbon-rich drives to the mall and the purchase of gifts made in far-off lands to excessive use of wrapping paper and a focus on consumption over giving. Disgusted already? Here are a few ideas for making this holiday season a more sustainable one.
1. Shop local. This is the perfect time of year to help stimulate the economy in your community and boost the “local multiplier effect.” It’s not much of a sacrifice to skip the chain stores in favor of the river valley’s many charming, privately owned shops. Whether you head “downtown” (to Lambertville, Stockton, Frenchtown, New Hope, Doylestown, Newtown) or travel the back country roads, you can find many of the items on your gift list while enjoying some authentic holiday spirit along the way.
2. Get crafty. If your goal is to reduce consumption, don’t be shy about giving home-made gifts. Who would mind getting a taste of a summer garden’s bounty — jams and jellies, pickles, spices or vinegars — or a sample of fine craftwork or design? Making gifts and cards yourself also provides great opportuniteis for creative upcycling.
3. Wrap natural. According to the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), each year Americans produce 25% more trash — a whopping 1 million extra tons — between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Exactly what percentage comes from gift wrapping may be uncertain, but there are some clear alternatives. You can give gifts that don’t require wrapping paper or recycle paper that’s been “gently used.” Better yet, you can adopt the Japanese tradition known as Furoshiki. This involves wrapping gifts in beautiful cloth meant to be reused from one gift giver to the next. To learn more or purchase a selection of wrapping cloths, check out local green business WrapNatural at www.wrapnatural.com.
4. Think of…and do for…others. There are so many people in need right now. If you haven’t yet donated to a food bank, Toys for Tots or some other local charity, consider picking up a few extra items when you go food or gift shopping and donating them before Christmas. Some local organizations that may need your help include Fishermen’s Mark, in Lambertville, www.fishermensmark.org, the Doylestown Food Pantry and the Trenton Soup Kitchen, www.trentonsoupkitchen.org.
5. Give your time. We all know this: The holidays aren’t supposed to be just about the gifts. While the gifts we give generally aren’t sustainable, the time we spend with friends and loved ones can sustain all of us for a good long while.
Have a Happy Holiday.