The holiday season will look different this year. You can already feel it. Usually by this time of year, the airways are brimming with holiday advertising - a trend we haven’t yet seen just one day before Veterans Day.
According to research conducted by Morning Consult, holiday get-togethers will be cancelled or downsized, and 68% of Americans plan to travel less for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. While most Americans are still planning to buy gifts for their loved ones, their list has shrunk and/or they are planning to spend less than before. And, the majority of purchases will happen online this year.
At the same time, many people across the country are more focused on social and environmental change than ever. A Pew Research Center report showed that 68% of democrats (and 42% of all voters) see climate change as an important issue. And another Pew Research Center report showed that 55% of Americans support Black Lives Matter (almost 30% strongly support the movement).
In this unique context of today’s world, how can businesses and individuals do their part to be eco-friendly this season? How can people’s actions support the environmental and social progress they want to see?
Here, we share 17 Eco-Friendly Tips for the 2020 Holiday Season. Some of them will always make sense, while others are unique to celebrating during a pandemic. .
TIPS FOR BUSINESSES
Plan ahead for packaging and raw materials: Since March, supply chains have been strained. And, as COVID rises dramatically across the US and the world once again, this challenge will only become worse. The manufacturing and shipping of everything from packaging to textiles to components are getting delayed from all over the world. Plan ahead and have backup options determined in advance. This will help businesses avoid making last minute, panicked purchasing decisions that don’t align with their environmental and ethical values.
Offer eco-friendly gift wrapping services: More shoppers than ever will be shipping gifts directly from stores to their recipients. Help them bridge the distance by providing beautiful, eco-friendly gift wrapping services. Great options include kraft packaging paper with hemp twine and reusable gift wrapping fabrics.
Buy from independent, values-aligned, BIPOC owned businesses: If you want to see a lasting change in how power and wealth are currently consolidated, minimize your spend in ways that make the richest people in the world richer. We know firsthand that running a business is all consuming, and finding time to research suppliers for goods you are used to buying from Amazon or Uline can be challenging. But we also know firsthand that shopping with Amazon while voting for progressive change leads to some cognitive dissonance. That feeling we get every time a package arrives to our business from a company we are proud to support is well worth the extra time spent researching.
Send packages in returnable packaging (and make returns insanely easy): Ecommerce returns are already high. This year will likely be higher - as more people will buy without the preliminary in store visit and increased budgeting means people will be less likely to let clothes sit in their closet unused. Ship in packaging that can easily and quickly be used to send orders back (and consider providing return labels in the package itself).
TIPS FOR INDIVIDUALS: SHOPPING, GIVING AND DECORATING
String lights: Holiday lights have two issues. The first is that many people run them all day and the second is that they are difficult to dispose of. Buy LED lights, put them on a timer, don’t go crazy with too many lights and find the best way in your municipality to dispose of them.
Make homemade cards: You might be sending more cards than ever before, to loved ones you typically are able to visit during the holiday season. Consider making homemade, upcycled cards instead of store bought ones. If that doesn’t make sense for you, look for card that are printed on 100% recycled paper, don’t have foil or glitter that interferes with recycling, and don’t come wrapped in plastic.
Wrapping paper: Brown and green truly are the new black. Opt for recycled, plain wrapping paper that is easily recyclable. Upcycle old newspapers. Or, better yet, use cloth wrapping that can double as a useful item afterwards.
Return things you won’t use and donate things you can’t return: Don’t forget that “reduce” is the first line of defense! If you know your Grandmother will be devastated if you return something, find a way to donate or share it with someone who will love it.
Research the sustainability and ethics of what you buy: Choose clothing made from organic cotton, hemp, recycled plastic or other eco-friendly materials. Look for materials that are recycled or sustainably grown. Consider the supply chain of what you are buying. Can you learn how well people are treated and paid and does it match your values?
Online Thrift: And consider buying used! Between Poshmark, ThredUp and Thrifted, there are a lot of ways to find stylish, awesome goods that are used (and you would be proud to gift to someone on your list).
Use the holidays as a way to inspire your loved ones to go green: Have some friends that don’t know how easy it is to make zero waste swaps? Get them a zero waste starter kit! Or that loved one contemplating going vegetarian but not yet ready to take the plunge? Get them a vegetarian cookbook and slow cooker!
Ask yourself who profits when you make a purchase: For any of us voting, donating and protesting for change, let’s take the time to consider how our spend either supports existing structural issues we are against or helps create the change we want to see.
Plan ahead: One of the hardest aspects of shopping with small, independent businesses is that they often have longer lead times and aren’t able to offer 1-2 day shipping. Aim to finish your shopping by early December so you don’t have to rush shipments or be anxious about the 5+ day lead times many small businesses are likely to have this year.
Looking for a good place to start your online holiday shopping?
TIPS FOR INDIVIDUALS: DECORATING AND CELEBRATING
Living trees, properly sourced trees: Are you going to get a tree this year? If so, consider a living tree that can be planted when you are done. Otherwise, opt for a sustainably grown tree and mulch it when the season ends.
Takeout, packaging: Single-use packaging for take out has skyrocketed since COVID hit. On one hand, ordering take out is one important way to support your local restaurants. On the other hand, it is really hard to do takeout without single use packaging. With that in mind, look for options where food is packaged in bulk, in materials that can be responsibly disposed of.
And don’t buy more food than you need: More than a third of all food is wasted, a trend that increases during the holidays.
Reusable versus single-use tableware: If you are entertaining this year, skip the reusable tableware and opt for reusable goods.