Merry Christmas fellow earth-conscious friends. I keep a special place in my heart for the Holidays. Gathering together to spoil each other with delicious food and over-indulge in wine and gifts is a great time! I also hold a special place in my heart for minimalism... Hmmm... Sometimes the two worlds collide and force me into some creative thinking. I'm a huge fan of balancing functionality with aesthetics. I believe both can be accomplished with a bit of creativity during the holidays. I figured I'd share some of my thoughts with you here.
Eco-Friendly Tree ideas
There is a size-able argument online about which tree option is most eco-friendly. There are some that say plastic trees are the most environmentally friendly and others who swear that plastic trees are worse for the enviornment than any other tree option.
My favorite resolution is to grow your own (or utilize a living tree you already have). When I lived in Costa Rica I had this baby palm tree right outside my door (pictured above). So, I decided to decorate it and raise the festive vibe in my tropical retreat! Your family could grow a Douglas Fir, or other evergreen in your backyard with the tradition and purpose of decorating it each year for Christmas. How fun would it be to see your holiday tree grow up with your family in your holiday pics? You could even name it!
If your family really wants the tree inside then you still have plenty of options. You can make a driftwood wall Christmas tree like the one pictured above or create a tree out of stacked books or wine bottles. Or, even better, you could make a tipi styled tree.
It's easy to give eco-friendly gifts, however, it might take some training to receive the same. My favorite gifts to give are experiences or high-quality items that will be used and loved for years. For example, this year, my fiancé really needed a new computer. She has been battling with a historic PC for waaaaay longer than anyone should. So her big Christmas gift was a new iMac. I love buying Macs because they outlast PCs like 3 to 1. She will love and use this computer daily. In years past, we usually gift each other a trip (i.e. a long weekend in a new city or a staycation).
My sister wanted to see the snow (since we live in LA that takes a bit of planning) so we worked out a weekend in Big Bear. I don't want to give or receive something that is going to sit on a shelf just for the purpose of looking pretty and require cleaning. As far as receiving gifts, let your friends and family know that you either have all of the items you need, or give them a very specific list of what you need. If your needs are met, then give them a few ideas of experiences they could give you (i.e. tickets to a play, concert, horseback ridding, pottery or dance lessons, etc.
I have a confession to make... I love free greenery clippings. Occasionally, I've been known to take a walk in my neighborhood with a large black trash bag and a pair of sharp scissors helping the city prune some of it's greenery. I actually did this for my sister's wedding. I arranged all of her centerpieces for 16 tables! I filled a bag of greenery clippings, popped in a few wet paper-towels for moisture and left the bag open outside overnight. The next day was, the day, and they were fresh and beautiful. You can do the same for a holiday party, or get fresh clippings weekly for a fresh holiday vibe in your home. The key to beauty here is a variety of textures and shades of greens (and or other colors).
Decreasing Food Waste
Food waste is a huge problem daily, however during the holidays it's outrageous! Last year, Americans threw away the equivalent of 6 million turkeys! Let's learn from our mistakes.
Rethink the turkey. How important is it to have turkey on your holiday? Many of you may already be vegetarians or vegans, but if you're not consider cooking a boneless meat like a nice roast, turkey breast, prime rib, etc. That way more of the meat is likely to be consumed since it's off of the carcass.
Make sure you eat your fridge clean before you go shopping for the holiday. You'll want an empty fridge to fill with Christmas foods and ingredients so don't shop the week of. This way, you're less likely to let the zucchini and lettuce hiding in the back spoil.
Make sure and send home doggie bags with left overs so that more people will enjoy a second meal and the food all gets consumed. Otherwise, donate your left overs to a local charity. Have that relationship set up in advance so that you have somewhere to deliver the consumption-ready food.
Christmas Day Environmentally Friendly Traditions
Growing up, my favorite holiday tradition was opening up my gifts on Christmas morning, then going surfing! It was so much fun because no one was in the water! They were all out of town or with their families in their jammies. I surfed my heart out with my dad and brothers, then came home to the rest of the family for a huge Christmas brunch, and boy had I worked up a worthy appetite. This was a great tradition because it was family time, great surfing conditions, supplied a rush of endorphins, usually came equipped with home made hot coco (for the car after we got out of the cold water), and then had the best post-surf meal ever! The only thing this activity cost was the gas to get us 15 minutes to the beach and back! No packaging, no movie theater crowds or chemical butter.
Think about what your family likes to do the most. Create a new eco-friendly tradition for your family today! Do you want to play in the snow? Go for a hike somewhere new? Serve food at a shelter? Plant a tree in a park or school? Work in a community garden? Do something that makes a difference, that's good for your family, your community, and your (our) earth.