The holiday season is now fully upon us and as this time of year can also be synonymous with heavy consumption, it’s important to find ways to be sustainable while enjoying the cheer! Luckily, the Jane Goodall Institute has this guide to celebrate these happy holidays sustainably! So grab a warm mug of hot (ethically sourced) cocoa and your favorite Charlie Brown holiday special and prepare for a jolly — and most importantly, environmentally friendly — holiday season.
While we think of everything we have to be grateful for, including our planet and all it provides, we must also remember to give our thanks to the Earth by considering these factors during our celebrations:
Setting the Table: While the food might be the main focus of the night, the dishes used to serve it offer a valuable opportunity to demonstrate sustainable behaviors. As Stanford University notes, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash than any other time of the year. Reduce your waste by serving dishes with reusable items that you already own, and/or compostable flatware. Overall, to reduce food waste, purchase only what you/your guests can eat! Buying food from your local farmers market or growing it yourself can additionally cut down emissions and waste.
Go Plant-Based: Farm Sanctuary estimates that 265 million turkeys can be killed in the U.S. in just one year – not to mention other animals like pigs and cows. In addition to the adverse effects of food waste caused by these actions and the loss of life, the meat industry acts as a major source of methane, a greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change. Ultimately, the demand for meat heavy meals causes tremendous environmental damage through habitat loss, detrimental human health effects and the grossly inhumane treatment of animals. You can commit to going plant-based by joining Dr. Goodall and JGI in saying #IEatMeatLess. Learn more here.
Decor, Gifts and More!
“The most wonderful time of the year” offers an endless supply of fun, from seeing family and friends to giving and receiving exciting presents! Here are a few tips to stay sustainable during these delightful times:
Decorations: Create ornaments from items found within your home or nature (only without removing important parts of the ecosystem) to avoid negative environmental impacts. Reuse decorations to ensure maximum sustainability. The only limit to the ornamentation of your home is the extent of your imagination!
The Tree: If you celebrate Christmas, you might face the complex question of choosing the most sustainable tree. CNN generally recommends purchasing either an organic tree with its roots attached or a high quality plastic tree that can be used for many years. They note that when disposing of real trees, make sure to incinerate them as trees in landfills create carbon footprints about 4.5 times greater than those incinerated.
Gifts: Wrapping your presents in environmentally friendly materials helps achieve maximum gift-giving potential. Bags offer a reusable and sustainable alternative to gift wrap, particularly if you forgo tissue paper. If you wish to traditionally wrap a present, Stanford University suggests using materials like old newspapers and magazines. You can also shop eco-friendly, ethically sourced gifts on JGI’s eStore here.
Reuse/recycle Electronics: Making electronics like your cell phone is an extractive process with harmful effects. Electronics require materials like gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum (coltan) which comes from the Congo Basin, an important chimpanzee habitat. Extracting these materials destroys habitats, can contribute to conflict between humans, and cause harm to chimpanzees. To minimize the negative effects of this mining, recycle electronics that you no longer utilize and/or keep electronics for longer. These actions reduce the demand for new products and allow materials to be reused. You can learn more about JGI’s annual mobile recycling campaign here and/or visit mobilerecycling.com to get started.
Now it’s time to pass the question off to you: What are your best tips to celebrate the holiday season in a fun, sustainable manner? You can make this your JGI’s Roots & Shoots project! Learn more about how to get as a part of Roots & Shoots started here.
The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.