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How to have an Earth-friendly holiday season

Presbyterian Hunger Program offers suggestions on employing more sustainable holiday practices

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

When baking or cooking, help make your holidays sustainable by considering where your ingredients come from. (Photo by silviarita via Pixabay)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Hunger Program is offering advice for people who want to engage in more earth-friendly holiday celebrations this year.

Jessica Maudlin Phelps, Associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care Concerns for PHP, offered several practical tips during a recent episode of “Join the Movement,” a virtual series focused on the work of the various Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Jessica Maudlin Phelps

Maudlin Phelps was asked about how to put sustainable holiday practices in place during this time of year when there’s a lot of pressure to buy gifts and gadgets that aren’t always needed and it’s tempting to use a lot of disposable products, such as wrapping paper.

Here are some tips (and a great graphic):

Decorations: Use decorations that are locally sourced, perhaps something made by a local artisan, or that has come from nature. You could hang strings of popcorn and berries instead of manufactured tinsel from a big-box store. Locally-sourced pumpkins and corn stalks can be used to create a fall harvest vibe.

Gifts: PHP “has a large list of vendors that offer fair trade gifts,” such as jewelry, bags and wooden craft items, Maudlin Phelps said. “Seek out fair trade stores or vendors so that you know” that “much of that profit from that item is going back to the producer to help support their families.”

(Go here and click on Marketplace Partners for information about vendors. Additional information about fair trade can be found here.)

Festive gatherings: Looking for an alternative to a traditional holiday party? Consider participating in a local volunteer activity, such as a neighborhood cleanup.

Ingredients: When it’s time for cooking and baking, think about where your ingredients come from. Consider turning to local farmers for things like eggs. Also, vanilla, sugar and cocoa powder all can be sourced from fair trade outlets or from stores that sell local products.

Think about giving a family heirloom, or another item that could be repurposed as a gift, instead of something brand new. (Photo by congerdesign via Pixabay)

Repurposing: Ask yourself, “Are there gifts that we can give that might be family heirlooms or things that are already in existence that can be repurposed as a gift for someone else?” Maudlin Phelps said.

Togetherness: Consider giving the gift of time. Are there ways you could spend time together instead of buying the shiniest and newest items?

Large stockings are an alternative to using wrapping paper. (Photo by Erica Marsland Huynh via Unsplash)

Wrapping paper: “You can make your own out of spare material that you have lying around,” Maudlin Phelps said. Try recycling newspapers or covering the present with pieces of wrapping paper left over from last year. “You get a thing that looks like a patchwork quilt a little bit.”

She also suggested using one of her mom’s techniques: filling very large reusable, cloth stockings. “All of our presents went into those.”

Christmas trees: If you decide to go with an artificial one, “just make sure that you are purchasing the best quality item that you can,” with the goal of not having to repurchase one for a few years, Maudlin Phelps said.

“If you’re in an area where you can get a real tree and if your allergies or your children or your pet situations allow for that, that’s obviously a little better for the environment, particularly if you are getting your tree from an organization or a farm that is local and then also doing tree replanting so that we’re reforesting what we’re cutting down and using.”

More tips: The Environmental Protection Agency is another place to get tips. Among other things, it suggests setting your table with cloth napkins and reusable dishes, drinkware and utensils.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. It is supported by your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

Other resources:

“Considering Our Treasure: A Reflection on Embracing God’s Economy”

“Just Living”

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