An Ethical Christmas

Or whatever holiday you see fit to celebrate. No matter what your creed or preference is, the winter holidays are difficult to navigate while maintaining your usual ethical considerations such as energy efficiency or fair labor use.

As always, I can’t claim to have all the answers, but I do have some ideas for social and environmental consciousness during the holidays.

Energy is obviously a big one. Many people travel during the holidays. There are shopping trips, parties, and gatherings. We use more energy in our homes, too, including for light displays and other decorations.

So far this holiday season, I’ve tried to consolidate my travel time. I don’t go out to buy one last-minute gift. Not unlike the rest of the year, I bundle a lot of errands whenever possible. And you can help others, too. Maybe offer to pick some items up for friends and family if they’re having trouble finding the time. Or plan a shopping trip together–then you’ll have some company during the Christmas chaos. In a similar vein, consider carpooling to holiday parties and other gatherings. If you do drive long distances, drive for optimal gas efficiency instead of just speed.

Meanwhile, at home, you might begin using LED lights for your holiday displays. Don’t forget to run them on timers. And instead of overdoing it on a lot of electrical pieces, go in for more ribbons and garlands. A little creativity goes a long way. And, if you can, cut down on other electricity use during the holidays to create balance. Use your entertainment system and other high-voltage electronics a little less. If you watch a movie, do it with a group and not alone on separate devices. Play boardgames. Be social!

And if you’re looking to do a little good this Christmas, consider helping others with their energy costs. Many electric companies have an option for putting money towards heating bills for people in your community. If they don’t, your state likely does.

If you’re worried about waste, go for reusable gift materials as much as possible. Bags, ribbon, gift boxes, and tissue paper can all be saved for multiple uses. And while most wrapping paper is not recyclable, sturdier prints are reusable. Of course, you can have a lot of fun with recyclable options, like the comics page of your local newspaper or simple brown wrapping paper, which is easily dressed up with stamps or doodles.

It’s tempting, too, to go only for the shiniest, newest options for gifts, but used items can make fantastic presents, especially if you have friends with vintage or antique aesthetics. You also never know what you can get off of Freecycle or similar networks. Fair trade tea, coffee, and chocolate are an excellent addition to any stocking. And there are always, always, always used bookstores.

And if you have that one friend who always seems to have everything they want and need, why not go in for a donation to their favorite cause? That can be as thoughtful a gift as anything off their Amazon wish list.

I know many find the holidays stressful and ethics seems like one more thing to worry about. But there are hidden benefits to many of the above strategies–not only for your budget but for your personal wellbeing. So consider slowing down a little this holiday season. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

What are your strategies for an ethical winter holiday? Any advice?


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