How did our GREENER Christmas go? 10 Ways We changed.
December 29, 2019
It has been hard to silence the siren call of consumerism during the holidays. But on December 7, I declared on this blog “My plans to have a GREENER Christmas season,” and listed concrete actions we were planning on taking https://drplasticpicker.com/drplasticpicker-is-not-judging-anyone-my-plans-to-have-a-greener-christmas-season-just-do-what-you-can/ So how did our family do? The above picture is of a garbage bin I snapped while Mr. Plastic Picker was driving around lost. I only picked up 5 plastic bottles and 2 aluminum cans during our Christmas vacation trip. I focused mostly on reducing our trash footprint while we were is Utah’s beautiful aspen forests. It is so easy to be wasteful on vacations. We tried to treat this vacation destination like our own home and continued our waste reduction efforts.
So this is how we tried to reduce our Christmas waste footprint this season at home and on vacation. Ten Ways We Changed.
- No New Christmas Decorations: We reused our artificial Christmas tree that is a hand-me-down and an artificial wreath. All the decorations we have are from years past. They get carefully packed and unpacked every year by my wonderful father-in-law. We did not purchase any new Christmas decorations.
- Office Gifts: We had 2 white elephant exchanges. One was for the our middle management group. For that one, I purchased a $15 customized gift ornament from a high school friend. All funds went to a local children’s ballet group. For our clinic’s white elephant exchange, we had a regifting option (which with my managerial power I put in) in our attempts to be eco-friendly. I dug out brand new plush animals that Mr. Plastic Picker had bought years ago. They were still in new packaging and I think were liked. We had so many laughs when someone opened up a cardboard box of dove soap samples! Someone just wrapped the box they had in their office. I think we all cleared our sinuses with the mucus that came out of our nares bilaterally. See, decreased sick call for the organization!
- Teacher Gifts: We had planned on Starbuck’s wafers in gift-tins and Godiva chocolates in a non-plastic boxes. I know chocolate in general is bad for the environment, so trying to reduce as well https://grist.org/food/a-guide-to-ethical-chocolate/ Otherwise we bought Barnes and Nobles Gift Cards as Mr. Plastic Picker wanted to support one of the few remaining book stores around. For the actual cards, we used cards we already had in the house purchased a few years ago.
- Family Gifts: We kept gifts to a minimum for just the children and 2 adults.
- $150 worth of Jewlery from Local Vendor, this was in minimum packaging in a paper box. Purchased 3 customized jewlery pendants from a local vendor who is also a parent of a patient. I bought matching pendants for our daughter and her cousin. They really loved it. I told her I would plug her site in my attempts to support local business. She is #CharmingLocketsByAline.
- $50 Barnes and Nobles Gift Card, again this was Mr. Plastic Picker’s call. This was for our nephew.
- $20 for Two Beenie Boo Shoulder Bags: We caved on these. They were so cute and the 2 recipients really loved them. They wanted a puppy but their parents can’t get them one. So we got them puppy shoulder bags. This was to put the gift cards in and didn’t require any more packaging. Again, we caved on these two.
- $40 Yeti Coffee Travel Mug: Gift to a high powered family member who was very kind to us and gifted us one of his time-shares. Hoping this will be a status symbol item at his work now and permeate through his subordinates.
- Drove to Snowy Mountain Vacation. A generous family member gifted us one of his fancy timeshares. Yes the same one we gave the Yeti mug to. I know. I know. This is not accessible to most people. We offered to pay, but he demurred. I have dispensed >16 years of pediatric advice for their many children, so I feel that it is due to good karma? It’s more likely that everyone loves Mr. Plastic Picker. Anyway, we joined this family member and my own sister in Utah but we drove. That was the biggest decision of this holiday season. Mr. Plastic Picker is driving our trusty red Prius which averages 50 MPG on the highway. We didn’t need to rent a car. The 1500 mile round trip from our home to our mountain destination would have expelled 1.12 tons of carbon if we had flown, instead we will contribute 0.23 tons of carbon. Driving expells only 18% of the carbon of an equivalent flight according to carbonfund.org since we have four in our car https://drplasticpicker.com/food-review-driving-made-the-impossible-burger-possible/
- Cooked-at-home: Well at least we cooked in our vacation home. This is one of the longest vacations Mr. Plastic Picker and I have ever taken. We have so many vacation days banked in our organization and are relatively senior in our group. We ate out at 2 fast food places on our trip, Burger King https://drplasticpicker.com/food-review-driving-made-the-impossible-burger-possible/ and Wendy’s (food review coming soon on their chicken options). Both times drank just water and no straws and no plastic lids. We paid for 2 large dinners out at a really good Thai restaurant, and then a fancy birthday dinner for my niece at the Ski Lodge. Otherwise we ate in. We joined my sister’s family for one meal, and we even cooked Christmas dinner for our two families! https://drplasticpicker.com/christmas-dinner-drplasticpicker-family-tries-to-satisfy-the-cousins/
- Minimized Food Waste: The kids were good sports about this. We went grocery shopping while on vacation twice, and tried to buy only what we needed. But inevitably we had some extra. During our gas station breaks, the kids have been good about helping me eat down the apples we bought and other food. In general, this is healthier for everyone as there is more fiber in the food I purchased from the grocerty store than the gas station snacks. We left just 4 intact eggs and 3 Dole Ice Fruit Bars in the fridge. We figured the resort employees would probably use the eggs and the Fruit Bars are just sugar anyway, so not as much methane I think?
- Minimized Trash In General: Maybe it’s hopeful thinking, but I only took out the trash a few times and it was very little! I made sure to take the recycling down to the recycling area myself. We had two large Stouffer’s aluminum trays which I carefully washed and put in the recycling, becuase aluminum is the high-yield salvagable https://drplasticpicker.com/aluminum-cans-the-high-yield-salvagable/.
- Used Borrowed Ski-Clothing: I know this is not accessible to everyone as well. But I think you’d be surprised. We do not go skiing or to snowy areas often. We were shocked that the 2 pairs of shoes we needed and 2 ski pants required cost more than $600 at REI! Sheesh people. I could have saved 6,857 acres of marine protected ecosystem in the Ivory Coast through the Rainforest Trust instead. We will donate to them this month though. There is an opportunity cost to everything. But otherwise we borrowed or used what we had. Mr. Plastic Picker was worried we would look like ski-hobos but no one said anything. I thought the kids looked great. The honest truth is most people are so self-absorbed that they are just looking at themselves, and if they are not self-absorbed – they are likely not superficial enough to care about those externalities.
- No new Romance Novels! I am ever honest on this blog. My one vice is buying new romance novels. If it’s PG-rated and no ghost/vampires in it, I’ve probably read it. I have so many half-read ones that I made a vow to myself not to buy any this season. This would also stop me from walking into the Target door, and decrease my overall consumption. I have 2 more days but I think I can declare success! I have been reading one I purchased back in November and it’s a sweet story. I love happy endings.
So this brings us to our happy ending of the Holiday season. We had a GREENER Christmas season for sure. I have to admit that it was hard. Driving for four days rather than flying took a paradigm shift for us. But Mr. Plastic Picker is on this adventure with me and he quoted some unknown person, “If you want everything to stay the same, you have to change everthing.” He was the one who drove 4 days of his vacation rather than just purchasing a flight which he can easily afford. Greta Thunberg helped us understand that carbon-offsets aren’t going to solve everthing. We have to change our way of life, if this earth is to be habitable. And our middle-school daughter was sad on Christmas morning without the usual Christmas tree and gifts and wrapping paper. We never went crazy with gifts, but we certainly had more gifts for them in previous years. But I think the dopamine rush of that Christmas morning is being replaced with the healthier steadier gift of our time and experiences as a family. Without consumerism in our lives, we talked dear friends. We talked to our brothers and sisters. We laughed with our nephews and nieces. We told each other so many stories. We shared home-cooked foods. We lived and the time slowed down. I believe we can do this. I have hope.
Next Christmas, I am looking forward to trying to make these I saw on one of the environmental sites. I have a bunch of wine-corks. I am not sure how I got these because I don’t drink. But I have a bunch I’ve been saving for years and now I have a craft for next year! So stay tuned for 2020 Christmas season. I am looking forward to seeing how we can all further reclaim our lives and our earth by ignoring the siren calls of consumerism during the holidays!