Plastic-Free for the Holidays

By: Environmental, The Oceans

The holiday season is here! Although I am enchanted by the pretty lights decorating the ships in the harbor, this time of year is notorious for its waste. Household waste increases between 25-30% between Thanksgiving and New Years, and a large portion of it is plastic.

Whatever happened to “Peace on Earth and good will toward manatees?”

This year is the year to see past the flash and consider the impact of our holiday traditions on the world around us. While that glitter-covered snowman wrapping paper is magical, where does it go after the twenty seconds it took your niece to rip it off to reveal her new favorite video game? Our ribbons, tape, tags, packages, boxes, and bags are all riddled with plastic, as are many of the products we are wrapping.

I’m getting dangerously close to sounding like the Grinch, but my intent is not to steal the holidays from you. Here are some easy ways to avoid plastic this season.

When it comes to gifts, choose experiences over things.

The holidays are about gratitude for the ones we love. The best way we can show we care is to share our time. What if instead of the latest gadget you purchase tickets to see your brother’s favorite hockey team, or wrap up a gift certificate to further your girlfriend’s sailing education? The fewer products we buy, the smaller our plastic footprint.

Get rustic with your wrap.

You can still wrap up those Penguins tickets so your brother has something to open. (That’s a hockey team, right?) Instead of shiny wrapping paper and bows (neither of which are recyclable), what if you get a little creative?

Explore your home and backyard for items you could use for gift wrapping: strings and twine, pine cones and branches, holly, newspapers, dried orange slices and strung cranberries, paper grocery bags, reusable fabrics and ribbons can be both cost-efficient and festive. Check out this visual guide for some inspiration.

Plastic free holidays

Try zero-waste gift wrapping this year.

Choose local over online.

This is a huge one: In the last three years alone online holiday shopping has soared over 50% in the United States. The resources it takes to package and ship products all over the world is neither merry nor bright for the ocean.

Choosing local goods reduces the environmental impact of your holiday shopping list and will help give back to your neighbors’ businesses. Take a walk around town and you may even discover a treasure you’ve never heard of in your own community!

Show you care with craftiness.

Homemade and upcycled gifts are an underdog of the holidays but they are making a comeback. I’d rather receive a homemade jar candle or a funny video montage of my scuba trip in Key West than a sweater from the mall with the tag “accidentally” left on it.

Choose quality over quantity.

It would be naive to think you can eliminate buying gifts altogether, but we can be more practical about what we buy. If your husband has been wearing the same PFD since the Reagan era, it may be time for a new one. Opt for high-quality items that are built to last- not having to fix or replace something is the gift that keeps on giving! Check out ASA’s holiday gift selection for the gear-lover in your life.

Spread the plastic-free cheer.

Spread the word with your friends and family that you are reducing your plastic waste this season. Kindly ask that they forgo the plastic fuss when gifting for you. This may even expand your impact to those you love.

Let simplicity ring.

This time of year doesn’t have to be complicated. The pressure to send cards, buy gifts, and turn our homes into winter wonderlands is not worth the hassle and certainly not worth the waste. Allow yourself to enjoy a more peaceful and less plastic end of the year.

Do you have any tips for a sea-friendly holiday? Tell us in the comments!