Even in a good year, the holidays can be really stressful. And this year, well... it's been a year. 2020's wildness had gotten me thinking more about my impact. With more stress on resources this year (because of the pandemic and finances) and our increasingly stressed climate, I decided dig deeper into the actual impact of our holiday celebrations.
Tape (and Wrapping Paper)
My entry point into this exploration was packing tape. For years, I've saved old Patagonia catalogs and taped them together to make wrapping paper. It's visually appealing, recycled, and awesome! But the more I've learned about the impact of tape, the more I've changed my practice.
Standard packing tapes are made by applying a layer of adhesive to a layer of plastic film. While it's hard to find conclusive data addressing specific environmental impacts, we know from other industries that plastic takes a long time to degrade in the landfill. Tape left on cardboard boxes contaminates recycling and tape that makes its way to the incinerator releases toxic chemicals when burned.
Wrapping paper has a similarly unfortunate backstory. Many wrapping papers cannot be recycled, which means that their life cycle includes only a single use and then disposal. The city of Durango's guidelines say that wrapping paper can be recycled if it passes the "scrunch test". If you scrunch it up into a ball and it stays scrunched, it can be recycled. If it doesn't (like a metallic paper), then it's destined for the trash.
So what can we do about it? Just like with everything else this year, a fresh perspective and a bit of pivoting goes a long way. There's no one right way or perfect solution when it comes to minimizing your holiday environmental impact, but here are a few helpful principles:
- Rethink: Look at your holiday traditions through a fresh lens. Which of your actions use the most plastics? The most single-use items? Which are the most wasteful? And more importantly, what's really important to you about each tradition? Do you give gifts to show love? If so, can you give a less-material gift like a state parks pass or a gift card to a local gardening store?
- Buy Less (Reduce): Our culture tells us that the quantity of gifts is more important than the quality. Be rebellious and choose meaningful gifts over many gifts. Make things instead of buying them. Repurpose household items for decorations.
- Save (Reuse): Think about items you can reuse year-to-year for decorations. Save packing material at home (boxes, paper, bags) and use it for gift wrapping. Collect items from nearby natural spaces for ornaments.
- Compost! (Recycle): If you make edible ornaments and decorations, they can be composted after the festive season! You can recycle cardboard and paper packaging or even shred brown papers/boards and put them in your compost bucket.
Some Fun Ideas!
Think out of the box for your holiday gifting this year. Give the gift of composting with our holiday jars and gift cards! Our seed starter kits include a jar of our Artisan Soil, a packet of organic seeds, and a free month of compost service.
Or consider supporting the Good Food Collective by gifting delicious local apple cider and apple chips. Make a donation to Manna, the Durango Soup Kitchen. And if you're looking to shop, be sure to shop locally at any of our awesome local stores.
Remember that toilet paper you were hoarding a few months ago? Upcycle the empty tubes into fun little gift wrappers!
Or make little holiday poppers or countdown gifts by wrapping the tubes in recycled paper and tying off the ends.
There are so many fun ways to upcycle old materials into ornaments. These ones made out of cardboard would make a great craft project with kids.
Dehydrated orange slices seem to be quite the hip ornament this year, but they're also a relatively sustainable option. While oranges don't grow in Durango, they are biodegradable and they dry nicely to make cute little ornaments. At the end of the season you can put them away in a cardboard box and reuse them for years to come, or drop them in your compost bucket and we'll repurpose them into awesome soil.
Old books and brown paper can be folded and made into these fun little ornaments! This would make for another fun craft project with kiddos (or just to pass the quarantine time). Keep them for future holidays or toss them in your compost bucket (strings removed please!) after your celebrations are over.
Here's some fun inspiration for paper chains and snowflakes. Again, old books (even from the thrift store or free bin), newspapers, recycled packaging, or those darned phone books we keep getting can all work well for projects like these.
You can cut orange rinds into fun shapes and string together to make garlands. While cutting out a hundred tiny stars might not be up your alley, any shape can work well, even random ones. Working with oranges will also make your space smell fresh and citrusy.
More orange slices! Use orange slices or even pine cones to make garlands for around your home.
If you normally decorate with a tree, here's a fun alternative "tree" idea. Use sticks, pine boughs, or whatever you have on hand to make the shape of a tree on your wall, and decorate with lights or ornaments as you please!
Sources & Inspiration: