Committing to a Low-Waste Holiday Season

Guest blogger: Hannah Shultz, a third year at Candler School of Theology (Emory University), pursuing her Master of Divinity.  
December is my favorite time of year. I love going home for the holidays, seeing friends and family, baking cookies, and decorating the Christmas tree. I must admit that I get into the whole Christmas craze! For the Christian church, advent is also a time of preparation for, and anticipation of, the birth of Jesus. We take time to reflect and pray and “be present” as we prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas. This year, I’ve been thinking about how to physically prepare for the holidays in ways that reflect my heart’s cry for justice, hope, and peace. Despite my love of all things Christmas, I have a growing concern about the waste generated in this consumer-driven holiday season. I’ve made three commitments to myself this advent season to stay “low-waste” during the holidays:

  1. Wrapping Paper. It’s festive and fun but definitely not “low-waste.” Even though you can recycle most wrapping paper (as long as it passes the scrunch test and isn’t covered in glitter) my family creates so much paper waste with the amount of wrapping paper we use. This year I’m committing to wrapping gifts in old magazine pages, newspaper sheets, or reused paper bags.
  2. Food and Drinks. I love going out to eat at the holidays. It’s a great time to catch up with old friends and it’s fun to order festive holiday drinks. This year, I’m going to reduce waste when I go out by taking my reusable metal straw with me instead of using the plastic ones at the restaurant and I’m bringing Tupperware containers with me for leftovers. This will encourage me to bring home any left-over food and will prevent me from having to ask for plastic (bad) or Styrofoam (very bad) “to-go” containers from the restaurant.
  3. Gifts. When I go shopping this year, I’m going to be intentional about what I’m buying. Instead of ordering gifts online (which creates waste in processing and shipping) or buying mass produced products that come in a ton of plastic packaging, I’m going to try to find gifts that are either organic, local, or fair trade. Christmas markets and small stores are a great place to shop for these things! I’m also committing to taking my reusable grocery bags with me when I shop so that I don’t leave each store with a new plastic bag.

These are just a few easy and simple ways that I’m going to be intentional about my consumer habits and waste production during the holiday season.
Hannah Schulz is the co-president of Candler School of Theology’s environmental group, Candler Creation Keepers (CCK).  Earlier this month, she helped coordinate a low-waste workshop for the Candler community.  Additionally, CCK offers monthly hikes around the state of Georgia and maintains an on-campus garden.  She currently serves as Oxford College Assistant Chaplain.  Hannah is a 2014 graduate of Juniata College in Pennsylvania