Deck the Halls with Sustainable Practices… Fa la la la laaa… la la la laaa!

The holidays can evoke images of relaxing with family, giving of gifts, and gathering around the table for good food, however, the season can also be a consume-a-fest of intense proportions…

Especially if you do it with the planet in mind though, the holiday season can be the best opportunity to stretch those reuse, recycle, reduce legs.  You can have a sustainable holiday AND eat your rugelach too!

Here at Ann Arbor 350, we’ve gathered some of the best (and let’s be honest…fall-off-the-yuletide-log easy) tips from around the internet for the most sustainable and joyful of seasons.

Buy smart – There are countless ways to purchase items that did not use a truck load of fossil fuels to manufacture and transport:

  1. BUY LOCAL!  There are numerous reasons that buying local is THE avenue for unique, never-find-anywhere-else, low carbon footprint gifts.  Plus, you know… there are all those co-benefits from a strong, healthy local economy and connecting with small business owners…
  2. Choose gifts made from recycled sources
    • Example: I just purchased a submarine ship for my nephew that’s made from recycled milk jugs!
  3. Give battery-free gifts.  Might just be me, but I think we could all go for LESS blinking, flashing objects in our lives.
  4. Re-gift (with caution)… you don’t want to offend the original giver, but if you aren’t using the item, maybe someone else could! … Even more than re-gift, how about repurpose?

Who wouldn’t want to be on the other end of these beautifully wrapped gifts?

Gift-wrapping alternatives – be the ultimate Hipster gift-wrapper… wrap items in the coolest of overlooked wrap:

  1. This may take some planning, but temporarily halt the funneling of newspapers to the recycling bin (especially the brightly colored comics section)….old newspapers make great gift wrap.  
  2. Throughout the year, you can save up bubble wrap, calendars, gift bags, etc. that can serve as gift wrapping later.  I also try to be proactive about the types of gift wrap I give others.  If I do buy gift wrap, I buy plain white or brown bags that could be easily used for any occasion.  (Proactive recycling tip*: Avoid using metallic or glossy wrapping paper – it’s difficult to recycle and cannot be alternatively used as mulch!)
  3. Use maps!   My undergraduate university library would periodically give away their old maps to the recycling center and I would quickly snatch them up!  My friends loved unwrapping the gifts and even taking a look at these old maps of South America from the 1970s!   
  4. The list goes on and on… 
    1. Lunchbox (you could probably find a cool vintage one at a thrift store)
    2. Empty cookie tin
    3. Wooden wine box
    4. Empty candy box
    5. Flower pot
    6. Wrap in a beautiful dish towel (that can also be a gift!)
  5. For tags, use cut outs from old holiday cards or magazines 

Recycle: This section is devoted to all the forgotten iPhones and abandoned PCs….

E-waste is term applied to consumer and business electronic equipment at the end or near the end of its life.  Very often with the dominant culture of needing to have the newest and up-to-date phone, laptop, tablet, or TV, much e-waste includes still functional electronics!  Besides the immense waste generation, e-waste becomes a human rights issue when it is shipped abroad to be broken down for its useful metals.  Much e-waste is considered hazardous and should be recycled and repurposed in a safe manner.

For more information about e-waste reuse check out the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s page  ”Plug into Electronics Reuse”.

And for a complete Ann Arbor guide, check out the wonderful resource from Recycle Ann Arbor!

Have a safe and happy holiday, Ann Arbor 350!


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