Green Christmas: 8 Tips for Hosting Sustainable Celebrations
This year’s holiday dinner table conversation may go beyond Grandma’s pies as society becomes increasingly concerned about the environmental, social and economic impact of the products we purchase. According to the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform, we are now more willing to act on those concerns...perhaps due to the millennials—the oldest ones are firmly into their 30s—sitting around your family table. A Pew Research study shows millennials are the most sustainability minded generation yet. If you're interested in going green for your holiday gathering, try some of these tips from holistic pharmacist and author Sherry Torkos.
1. Prepare a sustainable and healthy holiday meal.
Bypass the bargain bird and opt for a certified organic turkey. USDA organic certification ensures the bird was raised on organic feed, provided access to the outside and wasn’t treated with antibiotics. If this purchase will stretch your budget, go for a natural turkey. While it may have been treated with antibiotics, natural turkeys contain no artificial ingredients or colors. Prepare side dishes with Eco-conscious ingredients such as locally grown produce and ethically sourced herbs. Serve fair trade coffee alongside a homemade dessert.
2. Forgo the disposable party supplies.
Put back the colorful paper plates and plastic silverware, and use the family china and silver instead. If you don’t have enough tableware for everyone, ask extended family to bring their favorite service from home. After the meal, spend time together washing the dishes and putting away leftovers. Hint: Guests will enjoy taking home their favorite bowl filled with a post holiday snack. This may even become a new tradition.
3. Think usable gifts, such as sustainably-sourced food or beauty products.
Many families are trying to live in a smaller footprint and don’t want more stuff coming into their homes. Instead of loading your shopping cart at the local discount store with gifts that may be soon forgotten or discarded, choose consumable gifts such as food or beauty products. For the foodie on your list, a cooking oil gift set with Malaysian sustainable palm oil (a non-GMO, sustainable vegetable oil) can be coupled with some artisan popcorn or sustainable seafood for culinary inspiration. Palm-based soaps and lotions also make Eco-friendly gifts.
4. Look for upcycled or fair trade items.
Consider where it comes from, how it’s made, how it got to you, what it’s made out of and what the recipient will do with it after it’s done. Another way to boost the sustainability quotient is to look for locally made products or shop at a small mom-and-pop business.
5. Try for zero waste.
Instead of wrapping paper, which gets crumpled and thrown in the trash, wrap gifts in bags, fabric or newspaper. (Click here for 7 earth-friendly gift wrap ideas!)
6. Consider a charitable donation in lieu of gifts.
Another environmentally friendly gift-giving option is to make a charitable contribution to the family’s favorite charity. Many charities even offer small gifts, such as an ornament or book which may satisfy your urge to give a small gift. Or, consider gifts that donate proceeds to a cause, such as "Back to Basics," a Malaysian cuisine cookbook which features recipes and stories from sustainable-focused chefs. All proceeds from this book, available exclusively at Amazon.com, support the Malaysian Wildlife Conservation Fund.
7. Green up your holiday decorations.
Keep it simple by not covering every square inch with red and green plastic, singing reindeer or flashing lights. Opt for natural decorations such as a pine bough wreath and beeswax candles. Consider a live tree that can be planted when the season is through. Or, if artificial trees are a better lifestyle fit, buy a quality one that will last for 10 to 15 years. Replace traditional lights with LED bulbs. They last longer and use 90 percent less energy.
8. Make family togetherness the ultimate gift.
Most of all, ensure the memories you make this holiday are about being together and not about who received the fanciest gadget. Instead of the gift-giving bonanzas of years past, some families are opting to vacation together. Volunteer vacations—a trip combined with a volunteer activity—can help your family remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Sherry Torkos is a pharmacist, author and certified fitness instructor. As a leading health expert, she has delivered hundreds of lectures to medical professionals, and is frequently interviewed on radio and TV talk shows throughout North America and abroad. Sherry has authored 18 books, including "Saving Women’s Hearts," "The Canadian Encyclopedia for Natural Medicine," "The Glycemic Index Made Simple," "Winning at Weight Loss" and "Breaking the Age Barrier."