Plastic Pollution
November 19 2012

Rise Above Plastics Holiday Tips

by Bill Hickman

Black Friday specials are in full swing and the joy of the holidays is knocking on the door.  Are you going to be naughty or nice when it comes to your shopping and gift giving?

The world's population is currently using 50 percent more resources each year than the earth can sustain, according to the latest Living Planet Report by the World Wildlife Fund. By 2030 two planets might not be enough.  The amount of plastic produced from 2000 - 2010 exceeds the amount produced during the entire last century and the ocean is turning into a plastic soup but there are ways to turn the tide on plastic pollution.  The holiday season is an ideal time to lead by example with gifts and actions that show your dedication to a sustainable earth that’s free of plastic litter.

No one wants to give up on the holidays or the sense of abundance that the season bestows. The only question is how to be generous without bankrupting the earth. Here are some thoughts to consider.  Give things people need and can use, rather than products plucked from the shelves simply because they look good.  REMEMBER YOUR REUSABLE BAG on any shopping trip you do need to take.

Choose gifts made of sustainable materials; organic or reclaimed/recycled hemp and cotton are good choices for clothes, post-consumer recycled paper is good, natural cosmetics along with organic, fair-trade chocolates and coffees are good options.  Recent reports show that microplastics are migrating from clothes through our washing machines then through water treatment plants to our waterways and ocean so you probably want to avoid trendy clothes made from recycled plastics in addition to traditional nylon, polyester, etc.

Buy locally made products whenever possible, as the energy used to transport goods to the stores is one of the huge, hidden environmental costs of the holidays.

Look for used things with a provenance. Old books and maps, retro clothing, antique jewelry and the like are one-of-a-kind gifts that collectors and aficionados will appreciate.

Avoid excessively packaged products. The packaging wastes resources without adding value and, if made from plastic, can release toxins after being discarded.

Give tickets for concerts, shows, museums, sporting events, outdoor activities or parks.  Consider a donation to your favorite non-profit organization such as the Surfrider Foundation!

Give a party rather than presents -- and tell your guests that the party's giftless.  Be sure to ditch the disposibles and bust out the reusable plates and flatware.  If you don't have much then thrift shops often have a wide collection.

Give of yourself.  Promise a shift of babysitting or dog-walking or a service that uses your special talents or skills, such as a webpage, a surfing lesson or home improvement help.

Most important, remember that the greatest gift of the season is the holidays themselves. It's the one time of year when society permits you -- indeed, encourages you -- to escape from the daily hurly-burly and experience the meaning and poetry of life. Don't miss the chance.

Thanks to our friends at NRDC for inspiration and some of these tips.