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Celebrating the Holidays and Gift Giving Amidst the Climate and Plastic Pollution Crises

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, another holiday or none at all, the holiday season brings with it an opportunity to shift societal patterns of overconsumption to sustainable giving.  Every year around this time, mass consumption is incentivized more than usual with “holidays” like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Sales for the holiday season are starting earlier and earlier, and consumers are taking advantage of it.  Corporations, which already have far-reaching impacts on the environment, see a dramatic sales increase during this time - Amazon alone has a 260 percent increase in usage on Black Friday each year, translating into not only more stuff in our landfills, but also more money into big businesses and more pollution with the increase in mass production and transportation.

While U.S. waste statistics are already staggering to begin with, we’re bringing this one back from last year’s holiday blog post as a reminder of just how critical it is to be mindful of waste during the holidays: from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, Americans throw away one million extra tons of trash per week.  If there is anything this year’s U.N. Climate Change Conference taught us, it is that much, much more action is needed - even with COP26 pledges, the world is currently not on track to meet the Paris climate agreement’s goal.  The good news is that each of us always has the ability to make empowering choices, especially around this time.  From shopping local to participating in “Buy Nothing,” we’ve rounded up our recommendations for sustainable holiday celebrations this year, so we can give from a place of protecting future generations and mindfulness.

Food and sustainability this season

The holidays tend to be loaded with meat and if you choose to eat plant-based like many of us, it can be an awkward time.  Family members may judge, let alone simply not understand, and it isn’t fun to be the one going hungry at a gathering.  Cultural foods that are typically made with meat can still be enjoyed, too! Below are some recipes that vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike will enjoy, if you have the time and accessibility to create sustainable meals that will satisfy almost everyone at the table:

Sustainable gift-giving guide

Selecting gifts is where it gets tough for many, but there are countless ways to reduce your climate and plastic pollution impacts with holiday shopping.  In general, we encourage shopping at local stores owned by folks from communities of concern to reinvest in the communities that are disproportionately experiencing the burden of the climate crisis.  Some of our favorite gift ideas for loved ones include:

Traveling for the holidays?

Unlike last year, some of us may be traveling for the holidays this year.  With that, also comes the likelihood of opting for convenience and sometimes, not being mindful of our impact.  Here are some ways you can minimize your carbon and trash footprint if you’re planning on visiting loved ones this season: