The holidays are finally here. For most people, the word ‘holiday’ brings up thoughts of parties, celebrations, presents, cookies, days off from work, and holiday travel. But do we enjoy all of these things in an environmentally-friendly way? If you’re hosting a holiday party this season, these eco-friendly ideas will not only impress your guests, but also take care of the environment, so that we can all enjoy the holiday seasons for years to come.
1. Think out of the box. Celebrating the holidays doesn’t need to be glitz and glamour. Volunteering during this time can be as joyful and exciting as even the most wonderful of parties. While most people think of ways to volunteer at soup kitchens and senior centers during the holiday season, you can take an environmentalist approach to volunteering, too. The NJ Nature Club is a great example of how you can get together this holiday season and make a difference.
Think of celebrating by going as a group of friends for a Silent Retreat. In this beautiful blog post, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar explains the real significance of Christmas and the importance of silence during Christmas.
2. Send e-invites instead of paper ones. Years ago, when internet technology was new and I’d just started using the internet, I had this crazy thought and fantasy of the world going absolutely paperless as far as cards and invitations are concerned. Now when I see people using the digital medium instead of cards, it brings me such joy. Of course, these people are in the minority today but they still are making a definite difference.
Christmas cards or any other paper invites are clutter that comes with guilt, because ultimately we are going to throw them away. That is an absolute waste of your money and harm to your environment.
I’d rather get or send an invite through text, email, or on social media than a physical card. Seriously. Skip the paper, save on stamps, and just send a digital invite. You’ll be doing everyone, and the environment, a huge favor.
There are several websites that make thoughtful and elegant cards, almost as beautiful or even nicer as paper variety, absolutely free or with a smaller burden on your bank account and the environment.
3. Ask for a charitable gift. It’s common courtesy to bring a gift for the host of a party, but if your storage is already overflowing with gifts from previous years, you can encourage your guests to bring a charitable gift instead.
Invite your guests to bring an unwrapped children’s gift for your local Children’s Christmas Fund or ask them to donate cash or a non-perishable food item for your local food bank or local charities, like your city’s Women’s Center or Humane Society. They can also make a donation to Gift a Smile project for free education of underprivileged kids.
4. Let your decor be eco-chic. Choose a real and potted tree instead of an artificial one, and get creative and make your own natural holiday decorations. Using greenery and wildflowers from outside can create beautiful home décor and tablescapes, without environmental impacts. Make sure to compost or press them after they die. Strung popcorn and cranberries are classic Christmas decorations from years past, and they make for a pretty tree! Switch your holiday lighting to LEDs—they’re 90 percent more efficient than traditional holiday lights, and they last far longer.
5. Opt for organic and locally grown food. Be sure to choose organic options wherever available when whipping up your favorite recipes. Also, consider encouraging eating as per Ayurveda’s seasonal food guide by offering foods made with what’s in season and/or locally sourced from a nearby market. Avoid processed or packaged food. If you are a wine lover, go for organic wines.
6. Cook a plant-based or vegan meal. Recently, 107 scientists presented a document to the United Nations suggesting how encouraging plant-based food production can help fight climate change. Bring your friends and family on board to reduce your carbon footprint and avoid the temptation of seasonal over-indulgence at the same time by hosting a vegetarian or vegan get-together, featuring tasty treats and other plant-based super delicious recipes.
7. Use reusable dishes and cutlery. According to the United Nations Environment Program, of the 9 billion tons of plastic produced, only 9% ends up in recycling. The rest of this plastic ends up in landfills and oceans. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic are washed into the sea each year, leading to the death of marine animals through drowning or suffocation.
Switch to metal, ceramic, or glass alternatives instead of single-use plastics. If you’re inviting a lot of people, request everyone to BYOF (bring your own fork), and make sure you have a buddy who can stay back and help with the dishes.
Alternatively, help your guests contribute to the green effort by providing clearly marked trash receptacles for different types of party waste—compostable food scraps, paper, plastic, glass, etc., so that composting and recycling can be easily done.
8. Invite a meditation instructor to guide your guests into meditation.
The environment is not just the air, plants, trees, oceans, and mountains—we are also part of the environment. How we think and how we feel affect the environment and the people around us. We pollute the environment not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. By carrying negative emotions such as anger, mistrust, greed, jealousy, and so on, we pollute the environment. If the mind is polluted with negativity, how can the environment be clean? A happy stress-free state of mind is crucial for a pollution-free environment.
Before your actual dinner starts, schedule a 20-minute meditation, and have a meditation teacher guide everyone into a peaceful gratitude meditation that can help all the guests to let off all their tiredness and be refreshed and ready for the party.
9. Think of eco-sensitive return gifts and packaging. Send your guests home with return gifts that are eco-friendly. Here, once again, you could make use of e-gift cards to gift everyone and totally avoid packaging. Your guests will definitely love you for self-care gift certificates, like for an Ayurveda massage or a yoga and meditation retreat.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Going green is a big adjustment. If you’re not used to this lifestyle yet, start with choosing one or two things to focus on this year instead of trying to do everything at once. Don’t overwhelm yourself.
Starting small can help you be more likely to choose environmentally friendly options for longer, creating lifelong habits. Those long-term habits are what ultimately helps our beautiful planet.
Starting this holiday season, be a trendsetter: make your holiday party environmentally conscious and socially responsible with these eco-friendly yet fun holiday party tips!