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How to have a Sustainable Holiday Season

 

This is the time of year when we experience a little magic. It may be instilled in us when we are young, when we are told fun, traditional stories of reindeer and sugar plum fairies, but many of us hold on to this sense of magic even into adulthood. How could we not though? During the holidays, from the snow on the ground to lights that twinkle overhead – everything sparkles! 

It’s hard not to have a smile across your face as you walk down a chilly street lined with fresh snow, bundled up with something warm in your hands, and feel the magic of this time of year. There is an interesting paradox in the air during the end of the year; the onset of winter brings a sense of sleepiness to our natural environment, there is a change as plants die to prepare for new generation in the spring, and animals turn in for a period of hibernation. At the very same time, for us humans, the holiday season almost spurs a new energy – there is a buzzing as families gather, kids get excited for Santa’s arrival, fires warm and lights flicker, laughter is heard at holiday parties, and lists with wishes and goals for the New Year are meticulously drawn up. 

This energy can often feel a bit frenzied at a time when our bodies are craving a slow down, causing us to rush about and feel frantic with preparation, but if we allow ourselves to soak in the natural desire to slow down and be mindful, then all the beauty about this season can really shine through.

One of the most beautiful aspects of this time of year is the culture and spirit of giving to others. 

Image by TizzleBDizzle from Pixabay

The concept of giving gifts is a wonderful thing, and absolutely is worth celebrating, but we should also make an effort to do it in a sustainable and responsible manner, not only for ourselves, but also for future generations. We have a responsibility to acknowledge that commercialization of the holidays has contributed to a culture where we feel pressured to exchange material possessions, often above and beyond what we would naturally want to give and receive.

 

Christmas Waste by The Numbers 

Despite efforts to reduce waste, such as recycling, unfortunately, statistics show that the opposite is occurring. Instead, it appears that we as a country show trends that our production of waste is actually increasing.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2017 alone, the generation of municipal solid waste (or the general trash that a typical American household discards each day) amounted to 267.8 million tons. That number is a shocking 5.7 million ton increase from the year 2015. A little under 30 years ago, the average number of municipal solid waste was 208.3 million tons. Trash is piling up – literally – and it is happening fast. 

Unfortunately, the accumulation of municipal solid waste is not something that is readily obvious to us all. It is really easy to simply just chuck something in the trash, that is then taken away each week by the friendly and familiar garbage man, to a place that is out of sight and out of mind. Because we are not immediately confronted by the crisis that waste has created, it is simply not always at the forefront of our minds. 

Photo by Jordan Beltran on Unsplash

 

During the holidays, however, we see even more of an increase in the amount of waste produced.
Here is a small glimpse of the figures: 

  • During the holidays, we see an increase of 25% more waste produced. This means this is an extra 1 million tons of waste produced per week during this time. 
  • Each year on average, about 38,000 miles of ribbon is discarded. This is equivalent to the amount of ribbon that could be used to wrap around the entire planet, and yet still have some left over to tie into a bow. 
  • Approximately $1.1 billion worth of one-time use packing material is discarded each year 
  • Each year about 2.6 billion Christmas cards are sold, which is equivalent to the amount that can fill a football stadium 10 stories high
  • If each family in the U.S. were to simply wrap 3 presents in recycled materials, it would mean we could save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields

 

These figures document that a staggering amount of waste is produced in just one year!

While we do feel it is important to bring awareness to this very important issue, our goal is not to make you feel ashamed or guilty. Nor are we advocating against long-handed down Christmas traditions, or saying that one should not offer gifts. However, we do feel we can partake in these wonderful memories and experiences in a way that is not only fun for our families, but is done in a way that is sustainable and responsible for our planet, and for the future generations that will follow. 

 

How to Do The Holidays… Mindfully

So now it’s time for the good news – while the waste produced at Christmas can be daunting, or maybe even overwhelming, you don’t have to contribute to it! Here are a few recommendations to reduce your holiday waste the Golden Poppy Herbal Apothecary Way: 

 

Shop Local & Small. 

Did you know that your dollars usually go further in your community when they are spent locally? Matter of factly, dollars spent locally are four times more likely to stay in the community than when they are spent on large, national, corporations. This means it is four times more likely your money will go toward positive impacts on the community you live in – spurring economic growth, retaining jobs in your community, provide financial stability for local families and neighbors, ensure tax funds are contributed back to the community, and more. 

Additionally, shopping locally is a great way to make a positive environmental impact. Were you aware that 25% of our global C02 emissions are a result of shipping products around the world? Buying products from a storefront a few blocks from your home greatly reduces the amount you contribute to gasoline consumption! 

We would warmly welcome the opportunity to be able to serve you – one of our neighbors. Whether you are looking for an opportunity to purchase herbal supplies in bulk to make your own gifts, or perhaps you would like to pick up a few already made hand-crafted natural items to gift, nothing brings us more joy than to make a difference for one of our own. 

 

Give Gifts that are Waste-Less. 

Another option for gift giving is to give experiences in place of material gifts. Perhaps someone special in your life would love to learn a new skill?  You could consider gifting one of our class experiences

If you cannot think of someone who may want to participate in a class, perhaps utilize this as an opportunity for yourself to learn how to create something meaningful and unique as a gift! There is no better opportunity than right now, as our classes at the shop are tailored for creating holiday gifts! From aromatherapy rollers to beauty products to remedies made from plants, it’s time to put your herbal skills to work! 

Instead of purchasing a product, we strongly advocate crafting something special for a loved one or friend. There is something truly beautiful about making something with your own hands that is infused with the loving intention you placed into it as it is processed.

 

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

 

Choose Your Materials Wisely. 

Something cannot show up in the landfill if it is never thrown away to begin with. When considering materials for wrapping gifts, consider reusable products such as paper bags, old maps, or saved wrapping paper from last year. Additionally, wrapping gifts in beautiful pieces of fabric tied with cloth ribbons or sting makes for a lovely gifting experience, and the fabric can easily be used year after year. By opting for a reusable solution versus traditional wrapping paper, you can help diminish the whopping 4 million pounds of wrapping paper alone that is sent to landfills each year. 

If you don’t have anything lying around, mindfully shop for wrapping materials that are distinguished as being produced from recycled materials.  

 

Another beautiful thing about the holidays is that with them, comes a call for unity. As we gather with friends and loved ones during these last few months of the year (and in this year in particular, the end of this decade), we are reminded that we can’t always make progress alone. Protecting our planet, and the future generations to inhabit it, is something we must do together. For that, we thank all of you who took the opportunity to read this post, simply for allowing yourself to receive awareness of this vastly important issue. We hope that you will share these recommendations with your community, and we thank you for your contribution to minimizing waste, as our friends and neighbors. 

We hope this onset of a new decade brings you joy and wishes, and from our hearts to yours, wish you the happiest of holidays. See you all in 2020, and thanks for reading! 

 

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