Use This, Not That! (Holiday Edition)

By Katrina Bussiere-Venhuizen

This holiday season, you want to be more ecologically mindful but, between thinking about whether to serve holiday meals on real or paper plates, mulling over the debate of whether to buy gifts from the store down the street or from Amazon’s one-click simplicity, consider some of these “Use This, Not That!” options for a Greener holiday!

  • Bring some flair and smiles to your morning mint hot chocolate or coffee routine by carrying your favorite new mug everywhere you go.  Ask for a hand-made mug from a local artist this holiday season to boost the local economy and cut down on waste we all create each day.  Or go for something like Kleen Kanteen’s insulated travel mug and slap on stickers from your favorite breweries, coffee shops and businesses.  You’ll never want to leave home without it.
  • And speaking of buying local, even though it’s super convenient to order everything online these days, consider bringing cheer to friends and family with locally sourced gifts.  Maine has a wealth of talent at it won’t take long to find something your picky sister will love.  When you shop locally, the local economy is boosted, and there’s less tricky waste to deal with.
  • Now, let’s talk about food.  You will probably have lots of leftovers from meals with friends and family.  Don’t let it go to waste!  Did you know it is cheaper and healthier to bring your lunch to work or school?  But how can you get that leftover ham sandwich/fruit salad/granola and yogurt/hummus/chocolate-covered cherries there?  Luckily, there are so many options, between Rubbermaid, Pyrex, and others to help you transport your vittles anywhere you need to go, even on a horse-drawn sleigh picnic!   Just don’t forget any necessary utensils and a cloth napkin or two! 
  • How green is your wrapping game?  Do you buy wrapping paper each year or do you use leftover comics, fabric or reused tissue paper?  I keep a drawer of tissue paper, wrapping paper and ribbons from presents past to wrap my present presents.   When I was growing up, my favorite wrapping paper was the comics because not only did I get to have a gift, but I also go to read the funny papers.  Reusing past wrapping helps cut down on unneeded consumption this holiday season.  Or instead of wrapping gifts altogether, make gift boxes or bags from objects you might find around the house, like a cereal box!
  • Finally, why choose paper or plastic when you can bring in your own cloth bags?  Do you love history?  Find out if your local history museum has a bag for sale.  Do you support Maine Audubon and conservation?  Join as a member and get a free cloth bag (mine doubles as a purse, hiking bag, beach bag, etc.).  These bags are easy to wash and can be incredibly useful this holiday season when you’re out shopping locally.  They also make great gifts!  Seek out a couple bags that are from organizations you love, and you will love to tote them around. 

These are just a few ideas of how we can all do a little something to be more sustainable this holiday season.  Go one step further and challenge yourself not to go grocery shopping or to the coffee shop unless you have your bag/mug in-hand.   It will not take long to train your brain to adopt even one of these Use This, Not That tips.  And check out our video tips for sustainable holidays! Soon, you will be on your way to saving endless amounts of oil, trees, electricity, air pollution and even some money (as discounts often apply when you bring in your own coffee mug and grocery bags!). 

Happy holidays, my reduce-reuse-recycle friends!