Whether it’s holidays, birthdays, or other special events, gathering and spending time with loved ones is always a joyous occasion.
But it can often feel like our celebrations lend themselves to waste: disposable plates and cups, wrapping paper used just once before it’s thrown away, so much food that it can’t all be eaten. U.S. households throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than other times of the year: over 1 million extra tons of garbage, mostly packaging. How can we celebrate while lessening our environmental impact?
Read on to learn AMC’s top tips for honoring the special things in life sustainably.
Giving gifts is a way we express our love or pride in someone. But, too often, we throw away items we don’t want or need, contributing to the growing issue of waste on our planet. Instead of giving a new item, consider one of the following:
- Exchange an experience: Experiences can range from overnight stays at a new place to cooking classes, depending on the person’s interests. Or gift your own time trying something new or doing a favorite activity together. AMC has a range of destinations and guided adventures for you to try!
- Find secondhand presents: Whether it’s at a thrift shop or online marketplace, look for like-new items that already exist.
- Make a gift: Are you a painter? A knitter? Even if you don’t consider yourself “crafty,” you can still make a collage or photo album or bake something like cookies. Using your skills to create something offers the opportunity for a meaningful, one-of-a-kind present. Bonus points if the craft materials come from a secondhand shop!
Put Away the Packaging
You’re probably used to wrapping your gifts in colorful paper or plastic. It’s a fun tradition, but it can be wasteful. Instead of new wrapping paper, consider:
- Making your own: Old magazine pages, newspaper, or brown paper can be repurposed into unique gift wraps. Try taping them together to make large sheets and adding stamps or drawings to elevate plain paper.
- Using part of the gift: wrap items in a colorful dish towel or blanket, making the packaging part of the gift itself.
- Re-using what you have: Save and reuse bags and boxes instead of buying them. If they’re not ripped, torn, or otherwise marked, they’re as good as new!
We often buy specific decorations for special occasions, but this can pack a wasteful punch when the event is over. Many decorations are plastic or plastic-based, which has a serious impact. According to the National Resource Defense Council, we produce 300 million tons of plastic each year, and 91% of all plastic is never recycled.
- Look to the thrifts: Instead of buying new decorations from the store, try finding them secondhand. Thrift stores and online pages often have like-new decorations looking for a new home, available at a lower cost and without the environmental impact of purchasing something new.
- DIY: If you’re feeling creative, try making your own decorations. There are plenty of crafty DIY options, like a cheery garland made out of dried orange slices or streamers from pieces of cloth. Many DIYs can be made with natural or secondhand materials, reducing their environmental impact. Plus they add a personal touch!
One of the best parts of any party is the food! Thinking about what we eat and how we eat it helps us celebrate more sustainably.
- Go plant-based: Try vegetarian or vegan snacks, sides, or even a main dish over a traditional roast or steak. Studies show that eating less meat and dairy significantly lowers our carbon footprint, with vegan diets emitting 75% less greenhouse gases than meat-eaters. Trying new foods can be a fun experience, and plant-based swaps are easier than you realize. Don’t know where to start? Our Real Trail Meals cookbook has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options and ideas.
- Re-use: Opt for reusable plates, cups, cutlery, and napkins over single-use disposables, which end up in oceans or landfills.
- Think ahead: A whopping 70 billion pounds of food is sent to the landfill every year, so thinking ahead is imperative to avoid food waste. Try adjusting recipes to limit leftovers and cater to your guest number. You can then freeze extra food or send home leftovers with guests. Planning for extras can help to reduce food waste.
Dress to Impress
When we celebrate, we want to do so in style. Too often, we buy clothes for a party or event only to wear them once. There are a few ways to celebrate in sustainable style.
- Outfit repeat: It’s ok to wear the same thing to more than one event! Using what we already have is always the most sustainable option. You can also try to “upcycle” what you have, which means mending, altering, or adding to your clothes to give them a style facelift.
- Borrow or swap: If you have a friend or family member who’s the same size as you, look for something appropriate for your event in their closet. Borrow from them, or trade some of your items for it!
- Rent or thrift: If you don’t have something you need, try a thrift or consignment shop, or look online. Renting is an especially great option for formal wear, which doesn’t get used very often.
- If you buy, buy with intent: Sometimes we can’t find any secondhand alternatives. If you need to buy clothing for an event, aim for timeless items. Ideally, the garment is something you’ll wear for multiple occasions, in a classic style that will stand the test of time.
Celebrating special events doesn’t have to mean buying new things or creating excess waste. With just a few extra considerations, all our events can be more environmentally friendly.