By Maya Navabi ’20, Mechanical Engineering

With the holidays around the corner, it can be easy to forget about the environmental impact of our respective celebrations. Unfortunately, this is the time of year where we tend to create more waste (and don’t even get me started on our increase in travel emissions — you can calculate your carbon footprint here). While some things are out of our control — I certainly don’t want to miss out on time spent with family because of flying limitations — there are simple actions we can take to be less destructive this holiday season.

Gift giving is a popular way to celebrate the holidays, and Black Friday can make shopping for gifts more affordable. However, because of lowered prices and higher gift expectations, we may be tempted to buy more than we need, causing more to end up in our landfills, despite our best intentions. Being a conscious gift giver can drastically reduce the amount of waste you produce.

Some examples of low-waste gifts include:

  • Baked goods delivered in paper products or reusable containers — who doesn’t love holiday treats, after all?
  • Reusable foodware for your relative who doesn’t know where to start in lowering their environmental impact
  • Experiences — gifts don’t have to be material objects, and spending time with a loved one can mean more than any physical gift you could think of.
  • Second-hand gifts, especially when it comes to clothing. There are tons of clothes in circulation, especially with the rate of fast fashion increasing, so buying vintage and secondhand decreases the associated emissions and waste while giving you the opportunity to find some really unique gifts. There are loads of online thrift shopping options available, too, such as ThredUP and Poshmark!

Other ways to reduce your trash output during the holidays are reusing wrapping paper or using other paper products to give gifts (Trader Joe’s bags make cute wrappings in my opinion), as well as reusing cards or even making your own from recycled paper.

Ultimately, there are a lot of ways to be more eco-friendly around the holidays. Reducing the amount of meat you eat, using recycled materials, getting creative with decorations, and being conscious about gift giving have benefits within a system that was designed to be as wasteful as possible. It is imperative that we take action as concerned individuals in a country that just removed itself from the Paris Accords. Along with all of these tips and more, one of the most effective ways we can create positive change for our environment is to stay civically engaged and keep the members of our communities aware of what’s going on around us. After all, nothing screams the holidays like a good conversation about global events!