Fill Your Holidays with Joy, Not Waste

Jackson Carrasco, Zero Waste Intern

With the holidays racing towards us, don’t forget to practice zero waste in your gift giving and cooking this season! Zero waste practices can help us reduce our ecological footprint—our individual environmental  impact from using natural resources of the earth.

Though you may not be Gordon Ramsey, your cooking skills can still be complemented by sustainable zero waste practices. In the kitchen, local meats such as turkey can be purchased to forgo the carbon emissions produced by importing goods. Refrigerator trucks emit carbon dioxide and other air pollutants as they burn fossil fuels and carry your dinner to the local supermarket.

Plastic packaging is mostly petroleum based, carbon intensive to produce, and will exist on earth long after you are gone. Explore your local farmer’s market for fresh, unpackaged, local fruits and vegetables.  Lean away from pre-packaged goods and utilize the bulk section of your local co-op for constructing side dishes and desserts. Here, various ingredients can be purchased for your famous pumpkin pie, tamales, or fruit cake using reusable containers.

At the dinner table, do without all of the single use plastic dishes and utensils. Raise your level of class, and make good use of grandma’s fine china and silverware. Reusable cups or mason jars can be used for your devout beverage of choice when on the go.

During the season of giving, take into account zero waste practice in selecting gifts for your family, friends, co-workers, and estranged in-laws.  Rather than giving a physical object, give an experience to a loved one. Experiences like concert tickets, a trip to the beach, or a season lift ticket can reduce the amount of physical “stuff” we give away. Subscriptions to online magazines, movie streaming platforms, or music streaming services can also serve as an alternative to a physical gift.

If you do decide to gift a physical object, take a few things into account:

1) Where did it come from? 2) How was it made? 3) Where will it end up at the end of its life?

If you consider these three questions while selecting a gift,
you can analyze resource impacts, the object’s contribution to landfills, and the overall ethics of the purchase—which will help you choose a gift that will have the least amount of negative impacts for our planet.

If you wrap gifts, don’t forget that conventional wrapping paper tacks on extra waste to the gift (not to mention extra time). Who needs wrapping paper anyway? Break the social constructs of the season and give away an unwrapped gift. Or, if you aren’t feeling so daring, use a reusable gift bag.

Whatever your holiday season entails, don’t forget to weave in environmentally sustainable practices wherever you can to prevent holiday waste!