The holidays can be a hectic, expensive, orgy of consumerism that’s dangerous for our planet.
And it takes a lot of effort.
Here are six ways I’m keeping our holidays simple, and reframing my own laziness as environmentalism this season.
Fake Christmas tree. The environmental impact of a fake tree versus a real tree is actually debatable. But the sole year when we broke down and got a real tree, it turned out to be a giant pain in the ass. Getting the trunk centered in the tree stand so that the tree wasn’t lopsided was a Herculean task, which culminated in me pivoting around on the floor like a seal while my husband attempted to steady the stubborn tree. It was miserable—and messy. By the time we disposed of (ahem, composted) the tree, it had become a rabid porcupine shooting its quills everywhere. So, no thanks intoxicating smell of pine that induces warm holiday memories—we’re saving a tree this year.
Nix the holiday cards. Once a decade or so, the urge to make holiday cards seizes me. Stricken by this odd inspiration, I spend hours deciding which pictures make our family look the cutest, most active and well-rounded, before nailing down a backdrop that sends the perfect holiday vibe while maintaining an inclusive, non-denominational tone. But not this year.
The election has cast a pall over our home, dulling my senses and zapping any sense of responsibility to send dozens of cards emblazoned with pictures of my children to acquaintances. Christmas cards require an input of time, money, and paper that I just can’t get on board with. I’m getting sleepy just thinking about it. I considered doing an e-card, but can we all just agree that those are a teensy bit lame? Sorry friends and family members who were hoping to see pictures of my kids that aren’t available on Facebook—we’re conserving this year!
Regift. Don’t have the energy to hit the mall, local shops or even Amazon Prime? No problem. Simply head down to your basement/spare room/the back of your closet and find neglected items that other people have gifted you. Then repurpose them by wrapping them (see below) up and giving them to someone on your holiday shopping list. This technique meets all my requirements—it’s cheap, lazy and simple.
Reuse gift bags. Let’s face it—wrapping presents is really hard. Not to mention all the paper that gets used up, only to be shredded apart by rabid children (and sometimes adults). So I reuse gift bags that other people have given us presents in (thanks Mom!). If I were a more resourceful soul, I’d probably make my own fabric gift bags. But that would require too much time and effort, and we’ve already established my intense inertia. I’m considering taking this to the next level—the next time I give someone a gift, I just might immediately ask for the bag back. Because I care about the planet, dammit.
Keep the holiday lights on—inside only. When I drive by houses that are all luminous and lovely with glowing lights, I smile and get a special holiday feeling. Which is part of why I see absolutely no reason for putting up lights outside our home. I almost never drive by my own house, so I’d rarely get to enjoy them. I remember my dad faithfully putting up Christmas lights every December when I was a kid, and that sh*t seemed like a whole ton of work. And electricity. So while we spangle our artificial tree up quite nicely, we’re totally Bah Humbuggin’ it on the outside.
Stay home for the holidays. This is less about laziness than my paralyzing fear of airplane travel. But also laziness. And packing for vacations—that sh*t is bad news. Trying to anticipate what my children and I will need for several days in what is likely to be a different climate than we otherwise reside in just pushes me over the edge. But as you may know, air travel is also terrible for the planet. So we’ll be staying home for the holidays. You’re welcome, Earth.
Not washing sheets, towels, or my pants! This has little to do with the holidays, so consider this a bonus tip. Housekeeping is not my forte. I want to be good at it, but I’m just not. It’s way too much work that will never be publicly recognized. Whenever I read about people who wash their sheets or towels (and in my case, pants) on a regular basis, I cringe a little, trying to remember the last time I actually washed either of those things unless spurred on by illness or the overt presence of body fluids. While my family and I may be toting around thousands of varieties of disgusting bacteria that would make us light up like a (fake) Christmas tree if you doused us in Luminol, I prefer to focus on how much precious water and energy we’re saving by not washing our stuff almost ever.
May your holidays be eco-licious and slothful!
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Editor: Catherine Monkman