Photo By: Lilly Trott/Shutterstock.com

The holidays are just around the corner, and after a year spent in isolation, people are more excited than ever to get back to celebrating the good old-fashioned way. While often described as the best time of the year, the holidays aren’t always the most eco-friendly. So, we’ve compiled a list of easy swaps you can make to help you celebrate more sustainably this season. 

Choose a gift with purpose

Gift shopping can be stressful, especially when you’ve got a long list of loved ones to shop for. It’s far too easy to get carried away and buy more than you need (and more than you can afford). This year, consider planning out your shopping list ahead of time along with a general idea of what you’ll buy for each person. 

When brainstorming gifts, try to think of gifts that are both thoughtful and will be useful for the person receiving them. Some examples include cufflinks for the lawyer in your life, or a daily planner for the undergraduate who always seems to be studying. Gifts with purpose serve the recipient even after the season has passed, and as an added bonus, will make them think of you every time they use it.

Shop local

On that note, ditch the shipping fees and check out some of the local businesses in your area this year. Especially if you’re looking for something custom, there are plenty of local craftspeople who would be happy to design it for you. By shopping locally, you’ll be helping hardworking people and families like yourself while also giving something unique and more personal than anything you’d find on Amazon.

Send virtual greetings

There are few things more exciting than receiving holiday cards in the mail – it’s tradition after all. However, mailing cards can be expensive and have a significant environmental impact. This year, it may be worth considering sending virtual greetings to your loved ones instead. Designing virtual cards has never been easier – they not only save time and money, but also eliminate the possibility of your card ending up in the recycling bin. Finally, by keeping digital copies of the cards you received, you can pull them up later in the year for a pick-me-up whenever you need one. 

Eco-friendly wrapping paper

It’s very tempting to pick up an extra roll of wrapping paper when you’re at the store, but you probably have plenty of wrapping material lying around your house. Get creative this festive season and try recycling things like old newspapers, extra fabric, glass jars, or other boxes you might find in the garage. While you’re at it, maybe even forgo the fuss of wrapping and unwrapping altogether and deliver your gift as is. By using some of the scrap materials lying around in your house you can greatly minimize the amount of waste that ends up going to the landfill and add an extra layer of surprise for the gift’s recipient.  

Cut food waste & try plant-based

There’s nothing quite like a holiday feast in the company of loved ones. The only problem? This is usually accompanied by leftovers that last for days. This year, be mindful of how much food you’re cooking to avoid having to dump out leftovers a week later. Whether that means sending food home with guests, preparing lunches for when you go back to work, or freezing meals for later, be sure not to let your hard work go to waste. 

Also, what better time than the end of the year to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new? This holiday season, consider trying your hand at plant-based cooking and sharing it with your loved ones. You’d be surprised how many meat and dairy alternatives are available nowadays, and oftentimes, the best meals don’t even require them.

Becoming environmentally friendly doesn’t have to mean giving up the things you love. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the holidays, but if you can, why not make it sustainable? So this winter break, try making some small changes to work towards sustainability in your own lifestyle. It’s likely not as complicated as you think.