It's no secret that the holiday season can feel overrun with consumption—and it's not just your bank account that suffers. Buying gifts for everyone on your list, cooking an excess of food, even just hosting parties... those things can put quite a strain on our environment, especially when you consider how many people are celebrating the season in the very same way.
It's a tough issue because we certainly deserve the celebrate the most wonderful time of year, but we also want to mindful while doing so. But here's what we say: If every family took a few very small, simple steps to care for the environment this Christmas, the cumulative effect would be massive. It's not about being perfect, it's about taking little steps where you can.
So here are 10 very simple, incredibly easy ways you can look out for planet Earth this year.
1. Opt for a Secret Santa gift exchange
Buying gifts for each and every one of your loved ones may not be the way to go. Shopping for so many people is exhausting, expensive, and it's not exactly easy on the environment. Instead, reduce your consumption by implementing a secret Santa instead. That way, everyone in your family is buying fewer gifts (which means less packaging and fewer resources used). The best part? If each person is only responsible for buying on gift, that allows them to put more energy into selecting something that's truly thoughtful and appropriate for the recipient.
2. Shop in person
Shopping online may be the most convenient way to snag gifts, but it takes a major toll on the environment when you factor in what it takes to package and transport orders. Now, we're not saying you have to banish online shopping entirely (we know how much of a lifesaver this is for a busy mama!). But, if you make an effort to get out and shop for as many gifts as possible in person, that'll go a long way. Obviously, this is tougher if you live in a more remote location, but seeking out local stores can be a great way to reduce that negative impact on our environment.
3. Give gifts that promote day-to-day consciousness
Consider using this holiday season as a chance to give a gift that keeps on giving. Give the coffee lover in your life a reusable mug made with sustainable materials. Gift a pretty water bottle and encourage your recipient to use that every day instead of constantly buying bottled water. Give cute tote bags for the ladies in your life to use while running errands or shopping instead of asking for bags in-store. Pick up an e-reader for someone who adores books. Get creative here—the point is to promote day-to-day habits that benefit the environment.
4. Go unwrapped
We all love a beautifully wrapped holiday gift, but using tons of wrapping paper isn't super green. We suggest hosting an "unwrapped" holiday if you're looking to reduce this effect, or using paper you already have around the house to do your wrapping. And think of how much less cleanup will be required if you go this route!
5. Put Christmas lights on timers
No, we're not going to suggest forgoing Christmas lights entirely (of course, if you want to that's great, but we know how treasured this tradition is for many families). There is a simple way to enjoy gorgeous lights in a more environmentally-friendly way, though: Consider putting your lights on timers. That way, they won't use up energy all the time.
6. Go card-free
Consider encouraging family members to skip the sweet cards that accompany their gifts. We love reading them too, but we can't deny the environmental impact of using so much paper. An alternative idea? Ask members to write holiday emails instead... after all, we always seem to lose cards, and email is forever. You may even consider sending out a virtual family holiday card instead of printing one as well.
7. Turn consciousness into a family activity
The best thing you can do for the planet? Instill healthy habits in the next generation. That's why we love the idea of building a holiday tradition around consciousness. Think: A family trip to drop off recycled goods, a family contest where kids are rewarded for environmentally-friendly acts, or donating to an environmental charity as a family.
8. Implement a plastic-free policy
Commit to going plastic-free if you're hosting an event. Break out real plates and utensils, avoid plastic ornaments, and make sure none of the gifts you choose contain the material.
9. Ask family members what they really want
Unwanted gifts aren't just a bummer, they also create unnecessary waste. Instead, encourage your family members to come clean about what they really hope to see under the tree. But giving people gifts of their choosing, you reduce the chance that they'll discard the gifts.
10. Give experiences, not things
Ultimately, accumulating more stuff isn't great for the planet. That's why we love the idea of gifting experiences instead of material things. Concert tickets for your kids, a spa day for a fellow mama, a meal delivery gift card to the expectant parents... giving something that can be experienced allows you to take another step towards consciousness this holiday season.