Now that Christmas has come and gone, many are gearing up for that last big event of the holiday season: New Year’s Eve.
I confess that of the two, New Year’s is usually the one I prefer the most. If Christmas is all about trying to be perfect or at least create the illusion of perfect, then New Year’s is all about letting loose and having some well-deserved fun. (I rationalize it by reminding myself that I am relatively good 364 days of the year. Everyone needs to let their hair down once in a while.)
However, even when the goal is fun, I am still careful about the effects of my behavior on those around me as well as the environment.
While it may seem odd to mention the former at all consider this: the holiday season is a period of extreme wastefulness. As Sheherazade Goldsmith points out in her book, A Greener Christmas, an estimated 3 billion tons of garbage is generated worldwide during the holiday season while many of things we buy to help us celebrate the holidays—i.e., decorations, cards, and even gifts to others—end up in landfills.
However, there are ways to cut down on the amount of waste you generated that doesn’t take a lot of time, effort, or money.
Read on for five tips to celebrate the New Year in style without hurting mother earth:
1. Celebrate close to home.
While many dream of traveling to NYC’s Time Square to see the ball drop or dream of sipping champagne in Paris and ringing in the new year with a lover, the fact is traveling results in a carbon footprint whether you get there by plane, train or automobile.
Granted, sometimes long-distance travel is essential, but if you are only traveling to ring in the new year, then think twice about it.
If you’re set on going somewhere, see if it is possible to at least multitask—make it a working vacation, see family or friends you were planning on seeing, etc. It makes much more sense to stay a while longer and do more things than merely arrive and return within 24 hours.
Plus, as someone who has gone long distances and returned in 24 hours or less, I can say from first hand experience it isn’t the most relaxing way to ring in the new year.
2. Beg, borrow or recycle an old outfit rather than buying a new one.
I know a lot of women who buy a special dress for the office Christmas party and a separate one for a New Year’s celebration. Ask yourself if that is really necessary. Will anyone really care or remember if you turn up in the same outfit you wore for another holiday party?
While clothing is cheaper than ever thanks to discount retail stores, the truth is your “cheap” outfit isn’t without cost. The clothing industry has a huge carbon footprint, and the majority of clothing is manufactured in factories with less-than-ideal working conditions.
If you simply must have a new outfit, consider borrowing one or buy a secondhand one from a thrift store or online.
If you’re going to a costume party, the thrift stores can be an excellent place to find a truly original, outrageous outfit and accessories. After the party, don’t throw it out, but give it to a child for the dressing up box where it can continue to have years of use.
3. Go local when it comes to food and drink.
Eating seasonal and local whenever possible is another great way to show your love for the environment.
If you are hosting a party, you are going to need food, so see what your local stores or co-ops have in the way of seasonal, local food. If the offerings are slim to none, then consider organic if you can afford it and try to buy foods that come in no packaging or as little packaging as possible.
If you are serving alcohol and live in an area with a local wine industry, check out what is available. One thing to note, though, if you live in a state like I do (Virginia) which has local wine but does not have the climate that naturally supports the growing of wine grapes, then consider organic instead. Unfortunately, this is one case where local may not be better if, in order to grow the grapes, a ton of pesticides and artificial fertilizers are needed.
4. Decorate with natural and recyclable materials.
I get a kick out of kitcshy New Year’s Eve decorations, but many of them are made of plastic which is a non-renewable resource. (Even a lot of confetti is made out of plastic nowadays.)
If you like to decorate, use natural or recyclable materials whenever possible. Plastic plates and cups may make for easy clean up, but can they may sit in landfills for hundreds of years before they start to disintegrate.
Also, try to use objects you can use year after year rather than toss into the garbage the next morning. Over time, these objects—say a big glitter ball or cutout stars—can even become your New Year’s Eve party trademark.
5. Have an object swap as part of your festivities.
The end of the year is a great time to have a massive cull. A good tip is to discard anything you haven’t worn or used in a year.
You can either host a separate swap or if you are hosting a party, ask your guests bring anything they want to get rid of and have a swap before the party gets underway. Anything left over can be given to a charity shop in the new year.
In conclusion, going green for New Year’s is great for the mind, body and wallet. The best thing about these tips are that they don’t require a lot of sacrifice. Also, they can be incorporate well beyond the new year.
Here’s wishing you a happy (and green) new year.
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Editor: Cat Beekmans
Photo: Wikimedia Commons