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It’s not a fun fact, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans create the most waste between the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays1.
We’re not trying to be a Debbie Downer here — but it is helpful to know where your waste is coming from in order to live a more sustainable lifestyle. (That’s why we recommend doing a trash audit in your own home!)
Here at Cloud Paper, we’re doing all we can to help you lead the type of sustainable lifestyle you strive for. Because protecting our planet is well worth a few changes to our routine.
There are plenty of ways to celebrate a joyful holiday season without falling prey to the wasteful ways of the past.
How? Let’s get into it. Here are three ways to have a more sustainable holiday while still enjoying the spirit of the season.
You might be thinking that a sustainable holiday means minimal decorations and zero gifts. But while it’s true that minimalism lends itself to the zero-waste lifestyle, you don’t have to say goodbye to the twinkling lights just yet.
Sustainable holiday decor isn’t that hard to come by if you know where to look.
Keep in mind, even if your decorations are full of plastic and not made to last, you don’t need to dump them in the bin to go buy more products labeled as eco-friendly decorations. One of the most basic principles of a sustainable lifestyle is to use what you already have and reduce what you buy.
Dig out those old attic boxes or raid your parents’ or grandparents’. Chances are, your family already has more than they actually use.
Now, if you do need more decorations…
Thrift shops and garage sales are full of holiday decorations, and as the second of the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), reusing someone else’s items makes for inherently sustainable holiday decor.
Another place to look for decorations is in nature! Consider a traditional wreath made of pine boughs, winter berries, and maybe some pinecones. Take a walk in the park and see what you can find to decorate your home knowing that it can all go in the compost when it’s over.
Remember: It’s important to compost biodegradable materials rather than send them to the landfill, because at the landfill they produce significantly more methane.
If you want to make lots of boughs and natural garland, check with your local Christmas tree provider. Oftentimes they must cut off the lower branches in order for the trunk to fit in a tree stand, and all those extra branches are just waste! They’ll usually let you take them for free since they will otherwise go to a burn pile.
Finally, if you’re celebrating Christmas, there’s the tree itself.
Ahhh, the great debate: Which is more eco-friendly — a real tree or a fake?
For more on this, check out last year's blog where we go in depth and suggest several alternatives you might not even know are options!
Next up… what to put under the tree.
Whether you’re a big fan of traditional holiday cards, or you just love the way it feels to unwrap a present, we aren’t here to tell you the only way to have a sustainable holiday is to send e-cards and skip the wrapping paper.
You’ve probably heard those tips, and while they may help some, we want you to know those aren’t your only options. So here are a few ways to gift a little greener this holiday season.
You know how we feel about trees here at Cloud Paper (#SaveTheTrees)! So even though we’re not going to ask you to give up holiday cards, we are going to ask that you consider the source.
Look for cards made with recycled paper or seed paper (which can be planted and grown into beautiful flowers — a gift that keeps on giving)!
By avoiding cards made with virgin paper (read: fresh from the factory/never been recycled), you help preserve old growth forests.
There’s nothing more special than a gift from the heart — except maybe a gift that comes from the heart AND saves the planet. 😁
Get creative and give it some thought. Chances are you can find something the recipient will love that is also sustainable. Consider:
Like we said, we’re not going to ask you to give up gift wrapping. Although reusables like totes or gift bags are more eco-friendly, we understand the simple joy of unwrapping a present.
That said, there are more eco-friendly ways to do it than grabbing that giant roll of glossy paper from Costco.
First: consider what you already have on hand. If you have newspapers or magazines, those can make for fun wrapping designs. The comics section is great for kids' presents.
Consider saving the brown packing paper you often get from online orders and tie a twine bow on top for a classically chic look.
If you cannot give up traditional wrapping paper, choose a matte finish paper and recycle it afterwards. (Many glossy papers aren’t recyclable!)
Finally, no holiday is complete without friends and family. And if you’re traveling to visit people this season, that may be the biggest sustainable impact you can have.
The holiday season is known as a peak traveling time. Plane ticket prices skyrocket, gas goes up, and you know the traffic will be bad. But — as we all learned over the past few years — the holidays just aren’t the same without our loved ones.
So you pack up your bags and make the trek… because in the end, it’s worth it.
Traveling, however, is likely one of the most carbon costly activities you’ll do around the holidays, especially if you’re traveling long-distance.
There are four basic principles to save on travel emissions:
Maybe it means you have to wait until your cousin gets off at 5pm and you’ll hit more traffic… but if it saves you from taking two cars several hundred miles, the emissions savings are worth the inconvenience.
And when it comes to flying… well until they come out with hybrid planes you’re better off driving whenever possible.
If you can’t avoid traveling but want to have a sustainable holiday, consider carbon offsetting your trip! Using a tool like CarbonFund’s Air Travel Offsets, you can help support carbon reducing projects when you fly.
It may sound cheesy, but truly the best way to enjoy the holiday spirit is to slow down, take it all in, and savor those moments with friends and family.
Take a walk or a hike together, play a game, and remember that the holidays aren’t about the material things we exchange.
We at Cloud Paper wish you a wonderful, sustainable holiday season!
Oh and, don’t forget to stock up on tree-free toilet paper before all those guests arrive!