I love the word ‘sustainable’ because it has a couple of meanings; it can be used in terms of environmental topics, and it can be used as another word for keeping on track with something long-term.
In the case of this post, I am talking about sustainably enjoying the holiday season using both definitions: eco-friendly and long-term or maintaining.
This post comes at a good time in my humble opinion, because I can already see the stress and anxiety, the running around, the multiple parties/events, and the panic on getting the ‘perfect gift’ in people around me. Oh, and let’s not forget the never-ending to-do list.
It’s during this panic-inducing time where it’s easy to throw out our low/zero waste and minimalist lifestyles out the window, and revert back to habits that feel comfortable, but maybe aren’t necessarily aligned our values any longer.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
The great news is that by implementing some of these practices now, you not only get to enjoy the benefits this holiday season, but you can carry them forward with you for the rest of the year. And by the time the next holiday season rolls around, you’ll be armed and ready to take on any resistance or road block you meet.
In the above zero waste hierarchy, you’ll notice the first and second level are: refuse and reduce.
I feel like if I were to preach a slogan loud and clear, it would be ‘refuse and reduce’. You can apply it to so many things in life and come out feeling better and/or making a difference on the other end.
So what exactly should you be refusing and reducing? That’ll depend on you and your values, or, what I should say is what doesn’t align with your values. I’ll share some of the things I have refused and reduced this holiday season to give you some ideas, but before I do, let’s quickly dive into values.
What if you don’t know what your values are?
Let’s take a quick diversion. I’ve got a couple of excellent resources for you.
How to find your core values:
- 100 Things List – this is a great journaling exercise to help figure out what some of your main values are. You can do this for the holidays or simply in general. Bonus: it only takes about 20 minutes!
- Intentional Living 101 – The What, The How, and the Why – I talk about all you need to know about finding
yourwhy and how to do it in this post.
- Want to hear my talk about this topic? Check out the interview I did for The Sustainable Minimalists podcast.
Ok, let’s get back on track here. If your values have anything to do with the ones I mention below, you’re in the right place!
I mentioned I would share how I use my values in order to shape my sustainable Christmas.
First, let’s look at three of my core values:
- The environment
- Time for myself
So how do I take those and apply the reduce/refuse aspect? Find out below:
In my post on simplifying the season, I go into great detail about this topic, so I won’t get into too much here. But by refusing and reducing things in my life, I have truly simplified my Christmas season.
Saying no is probably the biggest change I’ve made. Easier said than done, but oh so worth it. I have saved so much of my precious time, energy, money, and gas (less emissions) by not saying yes to everything because I feel like I have to.
I have also enjoyed more cozy winter evenings cuddling with my family and relaxing by the Christmas tree, dinner with friends, and lazy weekends spent reading than any other holiday season before.
So how can you achieve this? Look for things you can say no to – in person and on your to-do list. You’ll feel so much better in the long run. I promise! Check out my tips on how to say no
Shift Your Focus
Our society paints a pretty specific picture as to what the holidays ‘should’ look like. I’m sure I don’t have to paint the picture for you. But you know what I found? That ‘picture-perfect’ holiday left me stressed, anxious, and spending way more money than I wanted. And behind the scenes I was creating a ton of stress on the environment through over-consuming and creating a ton of waste. Not at all what aligned with my values!
So I made the decision to refuse what I’m ‘supposed’ to do for the holidays, and switched my focus from that to what the holidays actually mean to me.
To do this, I chose to focus on traditions and giving back/paying it forward. I wanted to make sure this was the focus throughout the entire holiday season, so I created a traditions/kindness activity advent calendar. This way, each day we do a small activity that brings meaning to the holiday season. It helps us not get distracted (which is easy to do!).
What do the holidays mean to you? What brings you the most joy? Find a way to keep those things in focus, which will help keep you aligned with your values.
Zero Waste Christmas
As you may have guessed (and because I already told you), the environment is one of my core values. Because of that, I feel most aligned when I’m doing what I can to help protect it. For me, that is through low/zero waste living.
Side note: one of the things I love about zero waste living is that it is an easy way to get you into the ‘reduce and refusing’ mindset, which can leach into other areas of your life, which in turn, has many benefits!
In relation to the holidays, I wrote a HUGE guide on having a zero waste Christmas, which you can check out for all the zero waste info you need to know (also, see more links from fellow sustainable bloggers at the bottom of the post).
The guide contains information about:
- Gift Giving
- Dressing up/party attire
- Wrapping paper
- Holiday Cards
- And more!
…and how to keep these categories zero/low waste.
The best part is most of the tips in the guide are applicable for the rest of the year too, so I would definitely recommend checking it out!
An even better part? So many of these zero waste tips are also applicable to a minimalist lifestyle – so if you align more with that, you can find some tips as well.
Gift Giving and Receiving
At complete risk of sounding like ‘Captain Obvious’, gift giving and receiving is a huge part of the holiday season. So much so that I wanted to have it as a separate category in this post.
Over-consumption is a big strain on our environment. Think of all the resources that go into a product before and during production, not to mention after the product is ‘complete’.
And don’t we often hear or say we have enough or too much ‘stuff’?
Refusing and reducing our gift giving is a really great way to make an impact – even if you’re a gift lover like me.
Here are some quick tips:
- Follow the rule ‘something you want, something you need, something you wear, and something you read’
- Spend time with family and friends instead of swapping gifts with them
- If you do exchange gifts with anyone, consumables, experiences, or zero waste items are great options
Check out my ultimate gift guide with over 125 items that are minimalist and zero waste friendly (and that I regularly shop off of).
If you’re new to zero waste or minimalist living (or could use some additional tips), I wrote a post all about gift giving while falling in line with those lifestyles. Check out Zero Waste & Minimalist Gift Giving 101.
All of the above tips focus on ways you can refuse and reduce in order to make your holiday season align more with your values. But the idea of refusing and reducing could not be more important if you’re struggling this holiday season.
The holidays are not always jolly for everyone, and the pressure we unknowingly or knowingly put on others (or the guilt) for not acting like we think they should this time of year can be extra debilitating. If this is you, or if you know someone who is like this, check out my post with 10 tips to cope through the holiday season if you’re feeling sad, and know that you are not alone.
The holidays don’t have to be stressful. They don’t have to fly by with you feeling like you didn’t have a chance to enjoy them. By adopting the mindset of refuse and reduce, you can say no to things that don’t bring meaning, in order to make more time for those things that do. And remember, you can bring these tips forward with you into the new year and through the next holiday season as well.
Looking for more sustainable holiday posts? Check out these amazing posts from fellow Ethical Writers and Creatives members (an amazing group that you absolutely should check out):
- The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for the Socially Conscious Consumer by Lindsay Dahl of the blog Lindsay Dahl
- Easy Eco-Friendly DIY Christmas Tree by Kira Simpson of the blog The Green Hub
- The Ultimate Guide to an Eco-Friendly and Zero Waste Christmas by Kathryn Kellogg of the blog Going Zero Waste
- Zero Waste Baking | Candy Cane Kiss Holiday Cookies by Jen Panaro of the blog Honestly Modern