A Sustainable Guide to the Holidays in Florida

Survive this holiday season with less-waste, better gifts, and a happier global footprint.
By
Christian Huerta
Menorah

Well, holiday shopping has already begun folks. And with our growing populations, emissions, and landfills, it's important we're trying our best to not have a wasteful end to 2019.

You may think this article isn't necessary, but here are a few facts that might change your mind:

  • In December, the U.S. produces an extra 1 million tons of waste than other months
  • 50% of plastic waste is from packaging 
  • Only 9% of all plastic ever created has been recycled into other plastics
  • Plastic bags and styrofoam take ~1,000 years to decompose
  • With a lot of our waste ending up in our aquatic ecosystems, we're consuming micro-plastics 
  • Wealthier nations' wastefulness impacts developing nations' people, land, and animals disproportionately and unjustly

Some of these problems are from our individual negligence - littering, for example. However, most of these is because our waste is not handled properly. Especially since China no longer has the need to buy U.S. recycling. So, many people around the world have started taking matters into their own hands. If we can't trust our products to be recycled responsibly, we're going to stop using them. This movement is called zero-waste, or the adapted version: low-waste. And its growing popularity manifests here in Florida, too. 

Thus, I'm here to help you skate through to the new year, hassle free, while adopting some low-waste practices. I've broken this down to two main parts: preparation and gifts. But first, I would like to point out that these practices are not uncommon. For decades, folks have celebrated holidays sustainably, simply by trying to save money. I recognize that this article comes from a place of privilege, because those who haven't had the luxury of buying new, don't see the point in reading these tips. However, since our wasteful habits seems to be more normalized every year, it's important we remember the value in making gifts, repurposing items, growing your own food, forgoing lengthy flights, and more. 

 

Preparation

pine wreath on door
Erwin Hesry/Unsplash

 

Decor

  • Use secondhand: yard sales, last year's decor, thrift shops, LetGo, Poshmark, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc.
  • Make some: natural materials from your yard, leftover ribbon around the house
  • Christmas people, let's talk trees
    • Rent a tree
    • Plant the tree in spring after the holiday- check out this nursery that has Florida friendly Christmas trees 
    • If you can't replant and you buy new, then compost it! Or, give to someone having a bonfire (not ideal, but, eh). Putting it out with the trash is the worst option.

Travel

  • Use public transit or carpool whenever possible
  • If you have to fly, consider mitigating your emission damage by paying a carbon tax

Self

  • Visit an eco-friendly salon when primping yourself for holiday parties
  • Ask your family members to gift you low-wasteNothing is worse than when you've worked to not buy/use plastic and then receive 7 days of gifts smothered in bubble wrap
    • If you need some help, my ask is going to look something like this: "Hi friends and family, I'm so excited to spend time with you this upcoming holiday season. You might know, I'm passionate about the environment and its health, so I'm asking for a favor this year. If we are exchanging gifts, please gift me something without single-use plastics or paper. You don't even have to wrap it 😀 I really appreciate you accommodating this request, and it'll be easier than you think, I promise!"

Food

  • Buy from local or organic groceries if you can afford it
  • Buy in bulk, with your own containers, to eliminate unnecessary packaging
  • It's too late to grow produce for your 2019 holiday feast, but not for spices and herbs. Plant some window-sill herbs to add fresh, waste-free flavor to your meals.
  • Bring your own tupperware if you're planning on getting leftovers, goodbye ziplocks and tinfoil 👋
  • Want to really freak your family out? If the holiday host doesn't compost, bring a big bucket or tupperware and ask to take the food scraps. Keep them in the freezer throughout the day so they don't smell, then toss them in your own compost pile later
  • Offer less meat-y options: cranberries, latkes, yams, bread, mazoa, salad, pie, you're basically there!
    • Try not to advertise your dishes as vegan/veggie. Food is delicious, and I've found that giving it labels can deter certain people who otherwise wouldn't have thought twice about eating it

 

Gifts

thrift store
JulienPier/Unsplash

 

Between Hanukkah, Christmas, and general shopping after Thanksgiving, loads of material goods are purchased. Unfortunately for you shop-o-holics, our consumerism isn't ideal for the environment, or your wallet... But I understand the traditions that ensue this time of year, so let's get your shopping craving filled correctly.

  1. Buy second-hand. Buying new is usually the worst option, try to resist the urge.
    • Poshmark, thredUP, used book stores, vintage boutiques, or a thrift store 
  2. Gift experiences instead of things
    • Kayak or airboat tours, museum tickets, Florida State Parks pass, membership to botanical gardenscooking class, movie tickets, concert tickets, zoo pass, theme park fast pass, tickets to a trampoline house (only for kids...of course), an afternoon of foot golf.
    • Sponsor someone's month of: Spotify, Netflix, yoga, gym trainer. These might go a long way for those who 'have everything' (and aren't plastic gift cards!).
  3. Make presents at home 
    • Crafty: needlework, wreaths with natural debris, paint/draw a creation, sugar cube scrubs, and, of course, knit scarves and socks
    • Handy: repurpose furniture, make wooden ornaments, build a garden box
    • Kitchen savvy: mason jar soup mixes, bake their favorite dessert, homemade jams 
    • Easy: make a mixtape- this takes time, but the thoughtfulness will shine through, virtual slideshow, gift basket with their favorite things (shred old paper for the filling), press flowers or leafs to make wall art or a bookmark 
  4. If you have to buy new (okay, underwear, I see you), buy from the below Florida businesses that are crushing the sustainable business game

 

checking out at a store
Blake Wisz/Unsplash

 

Where to Shop, by region

Not all of these are clothing stores- some are grocery (for your gift ideas and menu), some are restaurants (gift cards and date nights)

 

 

 

I hope you've learned something from this sustainable guide. Let's end 2019 by not buying single-use plastics and saving money for 2020.