Connecting Community During the Holiday Season

Local Christmas Cookies

Christmas cookies from Iowa bakery Larita’s Cakes N More

During the holidays, eco-minded individuals may find themselves overwhelmed with the environmentally wasteful customs of the season. Recapture the magic by creating new traditions that make meaningful connections for you, your family and friends.

Rethink the tree. In the world of tree buying, the question “real or artificial?” is going out of style as quickly as “paper or plastic?” It takes 7 to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree and artificial trees are manufactured outside of the U.S. and made with PVC. This year, consider a potted tree from a local nursery or a rosemary plant. Recycle the traditional bulbs for LED lights or make a bigger impact by illuminating your home with soy-based candles from local vendors. If you’re willing to give up the tree, use household items and natural foliage to turn your holiday green.

Open your doors to new friends. Create community by hosting a sustainable holiday party. Invite friends and neighbors to bring an interesting person that is new to the group. In addition, ask everyone to make a dish featuring locally sourced ingredients and include copies of the recipe to share. This is also the perfect time to use the “real” plates and bowls and educate guests on recycling and composting.

Bring back the stocking. Set expectations for sustainable gift giving and others will follow your lead. Start by asking yourself if the gift supports local businesses. Is it meaningful, useful, or consumable? Will it fit in a stocking? Food or wines are great gifts because many are produced and sold locally. Also, consider gift certificates for local entertainment, dining, and memberships to green organizations and CSAs.

When buying for children, purchase only what will fit in the stocking with the exception of one gift. In addition to buying local, avoid toys made with PVC plastic, and look for recycled and battery free items.

More information on local resources can be found at Urban Ambassadors and at Buy Fresh, Buy Local.


– Suzet Nelson is on the board of directors with Urban Ambassadors.

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