The holidays are here which for me means more quiet time drinking holiday chai and making homemade presents like my peppermint hot chocolate body scrub, orange spice body butter, and pine and charcoal soap.
Why do I bother making homemade gifts? A valid question, considering most people look at it as more work. For me though spending time in the kitchen is part of my self-care routine, helping me to unplug from the frantic pace of the holiday season and the mindless consumerism that contributes to so much waste. According to the National Environmental Education Foundation, our trash production increases by 25% around the holidays, meaning we produce an additional one millions tons of garbage per week this time of year. Yikes! That data, combined with the realities of climate change now facing us, should put all that holiday excess into perspective if you haven’t already unplugged from the mindless consumerism bandwagon.
Here’s another reality: At the risk of sounding like a cheesy holiday special, the holidays aren’t about buying needless items (studies also show that we only keep around 1% of what we end up purchasing this time of year!), but about celebrating loved-ones and taking time to rest and reflect at the close of the year. It’s also the celebration of the Winter Solstice, where we honor our intrinsic connection to the natural world and our own natural cycles.
Now I’m not asking you to go full-Grinch and give up gift giving or insist that every gift you give is homemade (I know not everyone has the time of interest in that!), but with a few low maintenance tweaks, you can enjoy a more eco-friendly holiday that’s good for the planet, your wallet, and your soul—seriously! Unplugging from the culture of buy buy buy has made me slow down and take in the soul-nourishing simple pleasure of the season. I look forward to quiet nights at home knitting and enjoying the twinkling lights of my tree, reading holiday romances with a glass of wine fireside, and taking long nature walks to relish the heady winter air.
So how do we honor the festive spirit of the season without giving into wasteful consumerism? Here are five ways to green your holiday routine.
Reuse that wrapping paper—and ribbons. I can’t remember when it started, but for as long as I can remember, my family always reused our wrapping paper. Well-preserved festive bags, tissue and wrapping paper, and fancy ribbons became part of a beloved holiday tradition where, as kids, we eagerly looked to see who got the snowman bag that year or the reindeer wrapping paper or the red polka-dotted tissue paper. Our growing collection of ribbons lead to outlandish present wrapping with over-the-top bows, each one more outrageous than the last. I’ve added to this tradition by purchasing beautifully patterned cloth and festive cotton ribbon that can be reused indefinitely, long after our tissue paper collection has become unusable. It’s fun, festive, and, just like unwrapping tree ornaments, we look forward to seeing our favorite present wrappings come back every season.
Omit one-use items. I know, I know, I say this constantly and put it on every “Green” list I make, but that’s because it is such an important part of protecting our planet and reducing waste. Many stocking stuffers, fun little toys, and those iconic Christmas crackers are only ever briefly enjoyed than quickly discarded. All those trinkets can’t be recycled so the end up in landfills. No thanks! Instead, focus on quality items that you know your loved-ones will really enjoy. You’ll spend less and have the satisfaction of knowing your gifts will be enjoyed long after the holiday season has gone.
Make your own gifts. Let me first say that, while I LOVE making homemade gifts, I only make the easy things. It’s no fun if you’re slaving away on complicated projects after all! And these gifts don’t just have to be cookies, which can feel less-than-celebratory when you’ve received your ump-teenth cookie tin and can only eat so much sugar. In fact, I love surprising people with unexpected edible treats, like my all-purposing seasoning or chile-infused olive oil. I also like to give them practical indulgences like beeswax candles or, if I’m feeling extra fancy and want to up my body-butter and soap game, a homemade bronzer for my make-up loving peeps wanting more eco-friendly cosmetics. These are all things people can use and enjoy for a long while. better still, since I’m making them, I can be sure that they are packaged in zero-waste containers (hello mason jars, my old friends!). Want more easy DIY gift ideas? Check out my recipe index for inspiration.
…and buy local if homemade gifts aren’t your jam. There are so many great local stores in Albuquerque, and no doubt in your neck of the woods too. Local gifts have the added benefit of being unique—not everyone will have it—and, best of all, support the local economy. I personally love taking time to shop at holiday pop-up markets and shop and strolls this time of year. It’s nice to see the community enjoying themselves and even better to stumble upon one-of-a-kind treats. If you don’t want to give more things, consider gifting local experiences like yoga or gym classes, a crafting session, tea tasting or other fun activities people can enjoy throughout the year. One year, I got dance classes from my sister and it was so fun to try something new. These gifts could also be more personalized, as when my sister and I do a yearly deep cleaning of my parents house top to bottom, inside and out, as a special birthday treat for my mom. Sometimes the best gifts are ones that lighten your loved-ones to-do list so they can kick up their feet and relax! Real talk: we’ve also gotten to a point in my family where we don’t want more stuff or for anyone to feel pressured to purchase gifts. At the end of the day, all we care about is spending time with one another…I know, cue holiday after school special music, but it’s true!
Last but not least, limit spending, aka buy less. Yes, this is another go-green list perennial because living a more sustainable lifestyle is all about buying less in general. Use what you have and, when you need to purchase something, consider opting for second-hand and antiques stores, then local, before purchasing elsewhere. This includes keeping that fake tree instead of sending it to the landfills and resting the temptation to buy Griswold-style lights for your house. Enjoy what you have and think twice about buying more just to have more. Since I’ve done this, I’ve found that I look forward to decorating my house with well-loved decor I’ve collected over the years, each one infused with lovely memories. My home feels cozy and special, not another cookie-cutter made-for-TV-movie Christmas explosion.
How do you green your holiday?
Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational blog celebrating life’s simple pleasures, everyday mysticism, and delectable recipes that are guaranteed to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe to my newsletter below for regular doses of enchantment. Want even more inspiration? Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here’s to a magical life!