How to Have a Sustainable Holiday Season

The holidays are here, and with them countless opportunities to make small choices and shifts to a more sustainable season.  

Easy Sustainable Steps to Try this Year 

This is a great year to try staying home for the holidays; you can lower your carbon emissions while helping to protect loved ones from COVID-19. If you choose to travel, look into carbon offsets, which you can purchase so another organization will “make up” for your emissions by engaging in carbon abatement activities like planting trees; some airlines and airports have an option to add carbon offsets on while you’re choosing your ticket to make it even easier, check out San Diego International Airport’s carbon offset program here!  

Another great way to keep your emissions low is by making a detailed, thoughtful list of items you need to purchase.  Then plan to make a single trip to gather your supplies, rather than having to go back and forth multiple times. This goes for holiday gifts as well as everyday items like groceries! If you’re able to bike or walk to the store instead of driving, that’s even better. 

Animal-based products, like meat, fish, and dairy, have a higher carbon footprint than produce products. Trying a produce-centered dish in place of a traditionally meat-based dish can lower your carbon emissions and provide a fun opportunity to try a new recipe! Alternately, opt for a less carbon intensive animal-based product, like chicken instead of beef.  

Instead of sending out traditional paper holiday cards to family and friends, opt for e-cards instead, saving money on postage and saving paper! If you prefer physical cards, there are many options made of recycled or recyclable paper that are more environmentally friendly. 

Decorating for the Holidays 

When it comes to holiday lights displays, make sure to choose energy-saving LEDs, and set a timer so that they don’t run all night when no one will be able to appreciate your decorative skills. A smaller light display also saves energy and will gift you a smaller energy bill at the end of the month!  

Instead of buying a fake Christmas tree, go out and buy a live tree. The live trees can be recycled after the holidays, which makes them a more environmentally friendly choice! If you want to be even more environmentally friendly, purchase a potted tree that you can keep year-round!  

Zero Waste Gift Giving 

When shopping for gifts, try to avoid shopping on sites like Amazon, where items travel large distances and have excessive packaging. Instead, look into sites like Etsy, where you can filter your search to see local vendors, reducing the emissions from shipping products. If Amazon is the only available vendor, check out how to support non-profits and eco-friendly shopping practices here

Instead of online shopping this season, get out and support local small businesses in your own community! Handmade, small batch gifts are incredibly meaningful and unique, and dually help support craftspeople in your town. Shopping in person also reduces the use of packaging that would otherwise have to be used to send items to your home.  

Resources for shopping local in Encinitas can be found through the following local business associations: 

Second-hand stores are another great shopping location for finding unique gifts for loved ones, with the benefit of giving an item another chance at life. This is also a great way to find gifts on a budget, and to get creative with gift ideas by personalizing items you find. Items in your own home that you no longer love are also great for re-gifting, like books you’ve enjoyed and can pass on for another person to read and love, or clothes that no longer fit or suit your personal style.  Some great second-hand stores in Encinitas include: Community Resources Center Resale Store, Rancho Coastal Humane Society Thrift Shop, La Costa Kids, My Sister’s Closet, and Flashbacks Recycled Fashion

Handmaking gifts is another great low waste way of creating novel gifts for friends and family; if you’re talented at baking, knitting, painting, jewelry-making, writing, or other creative pursuits use that talent to create something for those special people in your life.  

Another low waste gift idea is to give experiences over objects, especially since studies show experiences make us happier than possessions anyway! Pick out a gift certificate for a friend to try a new restaurant, a gift card to a local small business you think they’d love, or a membership to a nearby museum or zoo. Other possible experience gifts include event tickets, theater memberships, trips, classes, or other services like haircuts or massages!  

Regardless of the specific items you have in mind, it’s always a good idea to reach out and ask people if there’s something in particular they need or want so that gifts don’t end up sitting unused or otherwise tossed out. A gift that your loved one can use and enjoy is so much more valuable than one that will become a piece of clutter.  Don’t be afraid to reach out and see if there’s anything they’ve jotted down on their wish list.  

Finally, if you’re looking at gifts for the children in your life, purchasing battery free toys is a great sustainable option! If a gift requires batteries, including a set of reusable ones along with a battery charger is a great way to encourage sustainable practices.