The holidays are right around the corner. No matter what you celebrate, there are always ways we can incorporate more eco-friendly practices into our festivities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Stanford University, Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve per year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week! We want to give you the tools to mitigate this issue and create an even more enjoyable holiday season. In particular, we’d like to offer up some tips for reducing waste and minimizing our impact in regards to gift-giving.
Ditch the Wrapping Paper: If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. Use items you can already find in your house, like old newspapers, magazines, and reusable bags! Better yet, turn your wrapping into a gift as well. Use a decorative tin or a scarf to wrap the gift- then the recipient will receive two gifts in one!
Holiday Cards: The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high.  If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. This doesn’t even include cards for all the other holidays celebrated during this time of year. If you do buy a card, make sure it doesn’t have a glossy or foil coating, as those can’t be recycled. Instead, send an e-card, or make a phone call!
Take Your Own Bags: When shopping for gifts, make sure to take your own bags. Reusable cloth tote bags can be purchased at many local stores, including the Ashland Co-op and Market of Choice.
Be Creative: Instead of buying all new gifts, give the gift of experience or taste. Purchase a gift certificate for a massage or a spa, or buy movie or concert tickets. Take the person to a museum, on a hike, or to their favorite restaurant. Make them homemade desserts, breads, or take them to a cooking class! Gifts do not always have to be tangible, in fact, a study done by Harris Group found that 3 in 4 people between the ages of 18-34 would prefer to have the gift of experience over a tangible good. The memories that are made with these gifts will last much longer than the latest trends.
Make a Donation: Many national and international organizations, like Heifer International or the Nature Conservancy, have ways for you to make a gift donation. You can make monetary donations or donations of medical equipment, animals, or tools. Make sure you are wary of where your money is going before you donate though! You can check an organization’s transparency on the Charity Navigator website.
Black Friday: This is a term that typically refers to the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. A day when shopping for holiday gifts, especially Christmas, begins. In the past, chaos has ensued while people are shopping, trying to find low prices and the best deals on items. If you do partake in this event, we invite you to think about why you are shopping. Before buying, think, “do I really need this?” After all, this day falls right after a national holiday that is nominally devoted to being thankful for the relationships and things with which one already has. If you’d like an alternative activity for the day, REI has adopted “Opt-Outside”. This is a day in which people opt to spend the day outdoors, doing something they love, with the people they care about. The hope is that this will get people outside and reconnected with nature. REI closes their doors on Black Friday so that their employees and customers can spend the day outside. What better way to follow up a day of giving thanks than to spend a day outside, appreciating all the natural beauty in the world? (Especially here in Oregon!)
Want more ideas? Here are some good links with feasible changes you can make at home, work, school and in your community to waste less!
 Center for Disease Control. Go Green for the Holidays. https://www.cdc.gov/features/greenholidays/index.html (accessed October 24, 2017)
 Stanford Peninsula Sanitary Service/ Stanford Recycling. Frequently Asked Questions: Holiday Waste Prevention. https://lbre.stanford.edu/pssistanford-recycling/frequently-asked-questions/frequently-asked-questions-holiday-waste-prevention (accessed October 24, 2017)
 Heifer International. Give. https://www.heifer.org (accessed October 24, 2017).
 The Nature Conservency. Membership and Giving. https://www.nature.org/?intc=nature.tnav.logo (accessed October 24, 2017).
 Charity Navigator. Discover. https://www.charitynavigator.org (accessed October 24, 2017).
 REI. How do you want to #OptOutside?. https://www.rei.com/blog/news/optoutside-will-you-go-out-with-us (accessed October 24, 2017).