The Five Rs of Gift Giving

The holidays are here, and everyone is excited for this special time of celebration and connecting with friends and loved ones! Unfortunately, it’s also a season full of excess, waste and–you guessed it–plastic. On these days of joy, we hope to fill up our hearts and our homes with laughter and love. We don’t want to fill up our landfills too. How can you do your part to protect the environment during the holiday festivities? KIDS for the BAY can help! 

In KftB Watershed Lessons, our young Environmentalists learn about the Five Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot, and Recycle) and how to practice them at school and at home. Incorporating the Five Rs into your holiday celebrations will go a long way to reduce waste and create a lasting, positive impact for your community and the environment we all share. There many opportunities to take important steps to reduce waste during the holiday season! Try practicing these methods for reducing waste: 

Refuse: Refuse the tradition of gifting material goods and instead give the gift of experiences, knowledge or time. Non-tangible gifts can be just as impactful and meaningful to receive. These can include trips to local state parks and museums, donations to environmental organizations, or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions–a wonderful chance to connect to your community and the land around you!

Refuse new materials and shop secondhand! Clothing retailers, like Lululemon, are increasingly offering secondhand marketplaces. Refuse large retailers with big carbon footprints and support your community by shopping locally! 

Give B Corp, Fair Trade, and FSC-certified goods. B Corp Certifications designate businesses with high social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. A Fair Trade Certification designates ethical and environmentally-friendly sourcing of materials and labor, and “improves livelihoods, protects the environment, and builds resilient, transparent supply chains.” A Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification designates products that come from “responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.” 

Reduce: Now is the time to be conscious of your consumption and donate the items you no longer need! Find used items on local Buy Nothing or NextDoor groups. This one comes with a bonus: Repair. Before buying new, see if you can fix the possessions you already own. Show your love by mending a loved one’s favorite sweater or refurbishing the old cabinet that’s been in your family for decades. 

Reuse: Decorations and wrapping can be costly and wasteful, but making your own can be a fun and beautiful creative outlet. Make wrapping paper out of old grocery paper bags and carved potato prints. If you don’t have the time to make your own, be sure to save your gift bags, wrapping paper and ribbons and use them year after year. You may also use a piece of fabric like a bandana, scarf, or old cut up t-shirt.

You can use a beloved houseplant as a Christmas tree and adorn it with lights, ornaments or compostable decorations (read below). Opt for a real tree if you can’t use a houseplant–it’ll absorb carbon as it grows and decompose at the end of its life. Options include cutting down your own tree from the forest (with a permit), which will contribute to healthy forest ecology, or purchasing a living tree that you plant in your yard after the holidays. If you own an artificial tree, keep it out of the landfill and use it for as long as possible. 

Rot: Make unique gift tags out of gingerbread or opt for ornaments made out of salt dough, dehydrated citrus and dried herbs. Decorate a houseplant or holiday tree with cranberry garlands, gingerbread stars, popcorn strings, Christmas spice bundles, pinecones, or dried oranges. You can also use paper to make ornaments, snowflakes or chains. After the holidays, put them in the compost and let them join the cycle of Earth once more!

Recycle: Finally, it’s always best to put the non-reusables you do use in the right bin. Do your part and keep as many materials as possible out of landfills. Many cities offer curbside tree pickup for live Christmas trees. You can also drop your tree off at a local recycling center. Check your city’s website for details on how you can recycle your Christmas tree. Use holiday cards and leftover materials to make decorations for next year! Consider donating your holiday leftovers and excess food to those in need. 

Need zero-waste gift ideas for friends and family? KIDS for the BAY can help!

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This holiday season, make a lasting, positive impact for your community. Practice the Five Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot, Recycle) while you decorate, shop and exchange gifts. Take action to reduce waste during the holidays.

KIDS for the BAY