This year’s holiday dinner table conversation may go beyond Grandma’s pies and Aunt Suzi’s cocker spaniel. We are becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental, social, and economic issues regarding the products they buy.
And, according to the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform, we are more willing to act on those concerns. Perhaps it's the millennials – the oldest ones are firmly into their 30s – who will initiate this "green Christmas" conversation in your family. A Pew Research study shows they are the most sustainability-minded generation yet.
1. Prepare a sustainable and healthy holiday meal
Bypass the overly-processed, trans-fat injected bargain bird. Instead opt for a certified organic turkey. USDA organic certification ensures the bird was raised on organic feed, provided access to the outside and wasn’t treated with antibiotics. If this purchase will stretch your budget, go for a natural turkey. While it may have been treated with antibiotics, natural turkeys contain no artificial ingredients or colors. Prepare side dishes with eco-conscious ingredients such as locally grown produce, ethically sourced herbs and Malaysian sustainable palm oil. Palm oil is the world’s first sustainable vegetable oil. Serve fair trade coffee alongside a homemade dessert, such as a simple tart made with local fruit.
2. Forgo the disposable party supplies
Put back the colorful paper plates and plastic silverware. This holiday, use the family china and silver. If you don’t have enough tableware for everyone, ask extended family to bring their favorite service from home. After the meal, spend time together washing the dishes and putting away leftovers. Hint: Guests will enjoy bringing home their favorite bowl filled with a post holiday snack. This may even become a new tradition.
3. Think usable gifts, such as sustainably sourced food or beauty products
Many families are trying to live in a smaller footprint and just don’t want more stuff coming into their homes. Instead of loading your shopping cart at the local discount store with gifts that may be soon forgotten or discarded, choose consumable gifts such as food or beauty products.
4. Look for upcycled or fair trade items
Consider where it comes from, how it’s made, how it got to you, what it’s made out of and what the recipient will do with it after it’s done. Another way to boost the sustainability quotient is to look for locally made products or shop at small business.
5. Try for zero waste
Instead of wrapping paper, which gets crumpled and thrown in the trash, wrap gifts in bags, fabric or newspaper.
6. Consider a charitable donation in lieu of gifts
Another environmentally friendly gift-giving option is to make a charitable contribution to the family’s favorite charity. Many charities even offer small gifts, such as an ornament or book which may satisfy your urge to give a little something.
7. Green up your holiday decorations
Keep it simple by not covering every square inch with red and green plastic, singing reindeers or flashing lights. Opt for natural decorations such as a pine bough wreath and beeswax candles. Consider a live tree that can be planted when the season is through. Or if artificial trees are a better lifestyle fit, buy a quality one that will last for 10 to 15 years. Replace traditional lights with LED bulbs. They last longer and use 90 percent less energy.
8. Make family togetherness the ultimate gift
Most of all, ensure the memories you make this holiday are about being together and not about who received the fanciest gadget. Instead of the gift-giving bonanzas of years past, some families are opting to vacation together. Volunteer vacations – a trip combined with a volunteer activity – can help your family remember the true meaning of Christmas. Or consider an eco-friendly adventure trip to introduce your family to pristine rainforests or other natural beauties.
Sherry Torkos is a pharmacist, author and certified fitness instructor.