Sustainability tips for the holidays


Photo by Ananya Pandit

A book is prepared to be wrapped to be given as a gift. This wrapping paper without plastic glitter or sparkles is more sustainable.

By Ananya Pandit, Assistant Features Editor

From twinkling rooftop lights that set streets alight, to the shimmery wrapping paper that leaves little silver specks in unreachable crevices, part of the holiday season’s charm is its excess. The holiday season creates more waste and energy usage than any other time of the year as families and friends gather to express their appreciation for their loved ones. Whether with food, gifts or decorations, this desire is often met with excessive and unintentionally wasteful celebrations. Additionally, corporations flood screens with bright reds and fun jingles, coaxing out wallets, caring more about profit than the impact of their marketing on the longevity of the planet.

Here are five tips and tricks for WCHS students and families to sustainably enjoy this holiday season:

Homemade or Reusable Gift Packaging:

According to the Stanford Recycling Center, “Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year.” To combat these harrowing statistics, those wanting to give gifts to friends and family can get creative with their gift packaging by using newspaper or maps for an artsier look, or even brown parchment wrapping paper. Hand-drawn decorations on these otherwise classically simple options can make for a touching and personalized gift. Alternatively, gift-givers can opt for decorative reusable bags to be repurposed and used year after year, helping reduce the amount of trash. 

Purposeful Gift-giving

Should one want to stick to a budget or give a gift from home, sustainable options include handmade gifts. If one has an artistic flair or is good with crafts, knitted or crocheted sweaters, hats, scarves, etc., are a perfect way to show love towards relatives. Additionally, gifting an experience such as concert tickets for music lovers, or a voucher for a massage, to lower those end-of-semester cortisol levels could also be worthwhile! These gifts provide an individualized and memorable experience while also reducing waste. 

LED Holiday Lights

Though stunning, conventional holiday lights use a vast amount of energy. Instead, LED lighting will use 80% less energy and reduce electricity bills. Not only are LEDs sustainable and more affordable than traditional incandescent lights, but they are less of a fire hazard, more resistant to breakage and can even connect several strings of lights to a single outlet without it overloading. Whether for the price tag, efficiency or sustainability, making this switch is worthwhile!

Cook up a Sustainable Feast

Adding locally sourced meats and produce to a holiday meal improves its quality and is more environmentally friendly as it substitutes for hormone-pumped, mass-produced ingredients. At a local farmer’s market, they even offer seasonal vegetables and treats that would be a wonderful additionatany dinner table. Furthermore, this greatly benefits small businesses and the community at large. 

Set Sustainable Traditions

Finally, the health of the environment is a shared responsibility. Habits and traditions implemented into the lives of community members can make a lasting difference in longevity. The holiday season is perfect for these opportunities. On days off from school and work, families can go hiking, enjoy nature and get some fresh air. Moreover, annually planting a tree to ring in the New Year could be a fun and environmentally beneficial activity for loved ones. 

Though the holiday season represents a sparkly, candy-striped distraction from the otherwise dreary wintertime, it does not make its environmental repercussions negligible. Luckily, there are many alternatives to stay sustainable while enjoying the holiday glitz and glamor.