The holiday season is upon us! With the increase in cheer (and wine) also comes a significant increase in consumption and waste. After a number of years experimenting with different ways to reduce my environmental impact over the holiday season, I wanted to share the best ways I’ve kept the planet in mind without spoiling the fun.

Here are my five favourite ways to stay sustainable over the holidays:

Try Handmade

One of my favorite ways to limit waste and overconsumption when it comes to gift-giving is to prioritize handmade gifts. There have been more successful years than others, but spending time creating a gift can not only be incredibly rewarding, but economically and environmentally practical. Some ideas from previous seasons include: soy candles in mason jars, knit scarves, embroidered tea towels, body scrubs, moisturizers, plants in a painted pot, all to varying degrees of success! 

Support Local Businesses

It is no surprise that this year has been uncharacteristically difficult for small and local businesses. With lockdowns, closures, so many out of work, and with large companies like Amazon expediting shipping time and out-pricing the competition, there has never been a better time to use our dollars to directly support small businesses. An easy way to do this is by purchasing items off of Etsy, which not only provides a marketplace for vendors but carbon offsets all of its shipping. Other options include purchasing directly from individual websites and picking up in-store if advisable to do so in your area. Pangea-alum Arti of Forage and Sustain has a yearly gift guide that you can sign up for HERE.

Opt for Experiences

Although this may be harder this year than most, investing in experiences together can be another sustainable alternative. Whether that be renting a small cabin for you and a loved one, buying an online cooking class, or signing up for a Masterclass membership, there are a lot of amazing ways to gift an experience that doesn’t require wrapping!

Get Creative with Wrapping

A great way to reduce waste over the holidays is to opt for non-traditional means of wrapping gifts. In 2017, the United States spent over 12.7 billion dollars on gift wrapping alone. Given that many kinds of wrapping paper have metallic or glitter elements, making it impossible for them to be recycled, there has never been a better time to opt-out of wrapping paper for good. Some alternatives include: using gift bags and tissue you already have (and reusing it again!), thrifted scarves or handkerchiefs, old newspaper, and pillow cases.

Try Plant-Based Foods for Holiday Dinner

Even if this year looks a little different than most, the climate crisis continues to be the most urgent and defining issue of our lifetime. An undeniable element of this crisis is the industrial animal agriculture industry, which is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all global transportation combined. An easy way to reduce your impact this season can happen at the dinner table. Limiting or eliminating animal products and swapping out plant-based alternatives has never been easier, check out Oh She Glows, The Spruce Eats, or other ideas HERE.

With all of this said, the purpose of the holidays is to show gratitude for those we love. This sentiment is more important now than ever, so prioritize slowing down and spending time (even if that means virtually) with family and friends.

Blog post written by PUERTO VALLARTA 2018 Alumna Kristen Mandala.

If you’d like to read more, check out Kristen’s blog from last December.

You can keep up to date with her on Instagram for all things sustainable lifestyle, slow fashion, and veganism!

IG: @Kristen.Mandala