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Sustainability - Green Notes

Sustainable Swaps for the Holidays

sustainable swaps for the holidaysIt is officially the holiday season, or as some would say, the most wonderful time of the year. I must say, I fall into the latter category. Year after year, the holiday season continues to sprinkle joy into the lives of many. Along with that joy, approximately 25% more waste is sprinkled into each household during the holiday season. However, there are many easy ways to combat this extra waste. Keep on reading to learn about some simple, sustainable swaps you can make this holiday season!


Getting to unwrap gifts (and wrap them, if you are like me) is one of the most exciting parts about a holiday. There is nothing quite like ripping apart a carefully wrapped package to reveal the gift you have been waiting for. However, that whole exchange seems very wasteful, and it can easily be avoided. If you are an online shopper, then you more than likely have received your fair share of brown packing paper. Why not put it to use? Sure, it's a bit wrinkly, but it will just be ripped apart anyways. Plus you can always spice it up a bit by adding some pretty decorations. My favorite ways to decorate gifts involve twine, fresh pine twigs, and dried oranges—simple, sustainable, and beautifully scented! It would also be fun to use pages from the newspaper or a book to wrap with. I love the way the words look wrapped around a gift!


I also love to go to local thrift stores to search for lightly used gift bags. I hit the jackpot recently at a local thrift store, Serenity Thrift! They were selling such cute—practically new—gift bags for fifty cents each; total score! You can also check thrift stores for some fun fabric to wrap gifts in. Fabric can be used year after year as it will more than likely not rip for quite a while. Also, if you can, try to avoid using tape. It is totally possible to secure gifts using special folding techniques and string only. Here is a great tutorial for no-tape wrapping; I will definitely be trying this out! Moving forward with no-plastic gift wrapping, try to avoid using plastic ribbon and bows to decorate your gifts. Like I said earlier, turn to nature when it is time to decorate a gift. I did this last year and received many compliments on my “creative gift wrapping!” 


As for the contents of those sustainably wrapped packages, there are plenty of sustainable swaps! I considered making a sustainable gift guide for you all, but there are so many amazing options out there—it was hard to narrow it down! So instead, I want to supply you with some options on where you can purchase said sustainable goodies. My first option may not come as a surprise to you, but purchasing gifts secondhand is a fantastic way to buy a sustainable gift if you are on a budget. You can find some really amazing things at thrift stores, antique malls, or even online marketplaces! This is also a great way to take advantage of and support your local businesses! 


If you are a crafty person, this is the perfect time to take advantage of that skill and make some DIY gifts. Even if you are not the craftiest person, I encourage you to at least give it a try. Everyone loves a personalized gift that comes from the heart! Follow this link to find some super easy DIY gifts that your friends and family will love! It is also important to not go overboard with the gifts you give this year. It truly is the thought that counts, not the quantity. Be sure to buy meaningful gifts that will not go to waste!


What about the home decor? Again, turn to nature! Make a homemade wreath using pine twigs you gather from your backyard! Stick some pine cones in there and maybe some berries, if you can find them, and voila! a homemade wreath that the planet will love! I feel like one of the biggest trends this year is the dried orange garland. It is cute, simple, and completely sustainable! Plus, the oranges will not go bad once they are dried, and you can decorate with them more than once. Don’t forget about the classic popcorn and cranberry garland. This is a timeless decoration, and snack, that will never go out of style! 


I have labeled my final category of sustainable swaps as miscellaneous because I needed a place to put all of my random thoughts! Beginning with what is possibly my favorite sustainable swap, have you all heard of living Christmas trees? These are real trees that are potted and are able to be used year after year. This is a great option if you want to have a real tree but feel a bit iffy about cutting down a tree! My next tip may sound a bit repetitive if you read my Thanksgiving article, but consider eating less meat this holiday season! Eating less meat is an easy way to take care of your own health while saving an animal’s life in the process! 


Driving around and looking at Christmas lights is one of my favorite things to do around this time of year. While all the elaborate displays are so fun to look at, they do require a lot of energy to keep them running. I encourage all you Christmas light presenters to be conscious about the amount of energy you are using with your displays, and try not to leave them on for extended periods of time! You could also look into using energy efficient LED lights, instead; not only do they save more energy, but they also tend to last much longer than fluorescent incandescent lights. 


My final sustainable swap for this holiday season is to send an e-card rather than a paper card! E-cards are still great ways to spread the holiday cheer; however, sending them through the internet will cut back on a lot of pollution that will occur through the mail. If you read my post about buying local foods, you will be familiar with the term food miles—the amount of miles your food must travel in order to get to you. The same concept holds true for mail! E-cards are an easy way to cut back on pollution and waste this holiday season! 


While these swaps were catered more for the holiday season, most of them can be used anytime of year! You can use the wrapping swaps for birthdays, the decoration swaps for any holiday, and the meat for plant-based food swap any day of the year! I hope you all have a safe and relaxing winter break—you deserve it after all the hard work you have done this semester! Feel free to contact us at ttugreen@tntech.edu with any questions you may have about sustainability!


Happy Holidays, Eco Eagles!

 

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