Going green, local and sustainable this holiday season


Is “sustainable holiday” an oximoron? Is it really possible to block out all those messages to over-consume everything from gifts to food to libations? Would the holidays even be as much fun if we truly made them sustainable?

Here are a few ideas that can help you keep the holiday season green, local and enjoyable.

Green your gift giving.

We all love getting gifts. But buying “just to buy” tends to leave us with a purchase hangover. There are many ways to be more sustainable about gifts without giving up this cherished and enjoyable tradition.

1. Make a sustainable gift list. A little planning could help you rein in spending and find new ways to give. You may decide to wait until the holidays to buy larger items the whole family wants or needs. You may find that writing down what each person on your list really wants leads you to choose less material gifts, such as tickets for an event, tuition for a class or a donation in someone’s name (see #4 below).

2. Give something you’ve made. The economy and the DIY movement have restored respect for the homemade gift. From artwork to pottery to crocheted or knitted items to vinegar, herbs and jams from the garden, there are many ways to make a loved one happy with something you’ve created by hand. Of course, if you have young children, helping them make hand-crafted gifts is a great way to demonstrate that the true value of what we give is not in the price tag.

3. Buy locally made or eco-conscious gifts. There are at least two ways to think about making your purchases both green and local. If an item is made by a local artist or artisan, it probably didn’t travel far from studio to store. So, buying locally produced items can reduce your carbon footprint. The Delaware River Valley towns (New Hope, Lambertville, Doylestown, Frenchtown, Newtown) are home to many, many local artists and artisans whose creations can make wonderful gifts. The area also has a growing number of vendors and shops offering green, sustainably made items. Check out green gift ideas in Green Resources under the Local Resources tab.

4. Give the gift of nature. If connecting with nature can inspire eco-consciousness, the Delaware River Valley offers plenty of inspiration. We don’t have to go far to bike back-country roads, stroll along canal towpaths, canoe on the Delaware or hike the trails of local nature preserves. We’re also fortunate to have a variety of local organizations committed to preserving open space and making it available to the public. If you have a hiker or naturalist on your gift list, you may want to inspire them to enjoy more time outdoors in 2013 by giving the gift of membership at one of these organizations (or another of your choice).   

5. Shop local. In addition to benefitting the local economy, shopping in New Hope, Lambertville or the other Delaware River Valley towns can reduce the carbon footprint involved in your holiday gift buying. It also can make shopping for the holidays fun as you gab with friendly shop-keepers, bump into friends and enjoy the beauty of our river towns decked out for the holidays.

Green your gift wrapping.

gift 1

Every holiday season, our beautifully wrapped packages contribute to a huge uptick in the amount of garbage in local landfills. We can protect our local environment by purchasing items that are not overpackaged and by wrapping those gifts thoughtfully. Here are just a few ideas for wrapping green.

  • Try Furoshiki. This is the Japanese art of wrapping gifts with beautiful fabrics. The idea is that the fabrics can be reused, moving from one gift recipient to the next over the course of many holidays. If you sew, knit or crochet, you may want to try your own take on this tradition.
  • Recycle. There’s no shame in wrapping one more gift with gently used paper and ribbons. You may also want to use interesting papers that you would otherwise discard, from old magazines and newspapers to drawer liner to “outtake” art prints.
  • Go back to nature. Cuttings from the winter garden — herbs, lavender, hydrangea, holly — can add the finishing touches to a simple package.
  • Skip the wrapping altogether.