As a mission-driven company, we're always looking for ways to be more sustainable. To fight the climate crisis, we need to lower our individual carbon footprints as well as reduce local, national, and global dependence on fossil fuels. The winter holidays often drive waste and excess, so we asked ReVision employee-owners for their own tips on how to make this time of year festive, fun, and sustainable.
An estimated 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper ends up in landfill every year. To reduce this environmental impact, instead of using traditional gift wrap, try recycling old newspapers or paper shopping bags. If you want to get even craftier, you can sew holiday bags out of fabric (which is also a great way to recycle clothes you haven’t worn in some time or are too damaged to wear).
"I have sewn gift bags with scrap fabrics since my kids were little. Now that they are older it requires that I confiscate the bags back after they open their presents, but it works well as they know the drill. For other family members, they love keeping the bags and reusing them or using them to wrap gifts of their own the following year." -Judy N., engineering
"If you've got a person handy with a sewing machine in your family, my mother-in-law made a bunch of differently sized cloth bags with ribbon drawstrings that we've used in lieu of wrapping paper for the last number of years. Plus it makes wrapping a lot easier." -Andy B., engineering
A staggering 90% of fake plastic holiday trees are produced and shipped from overseas, leaving huge carbon footprints in their wake. Buying a local, sustainably cut tree has a much smaller footprint than that of an artificial tree. Additionally, when it’s ultimately time to take holiday decorations down, many local farms will repurpose natural trees to feed to their animals, helping to reduce tree waste and support local farm health at the same time.
"We get our tree from a local farm, most recently from Celebration Tree Farm in Durham, ME (they also have a ReVision solar array there!). They ask that when you cut a tree you leave 3-4 feet at the bottom so that a new tree can grow from it (this practice is called "coppicing"). After Christmas we try to take our tree to a goat farm so they can eat it." -Allison B., development
"My kids have never known a Christmas that we didn't tromp out deep into the Two Echo woods and find a tree, cut it down, and drag it back to the house. They are often 'Charlie Brown' trees and I've gotten really good at adding branches to the many bare spots, over the years. And after Christmas they go either to the Two Echo goats or to Scattergood Farm / Growing To Give farm's goats. (Growing To Give grows organic veggies for Soup Kitchens and Food Pantries using local volunteers donating their labor.)" -Chris B., thermal
"We have been utilizing our large fiddle leaf fig house plant as our Christmas tree for the past two years." -Tess J., engineering
Decorating with LED bulbs in lieu of incandescent bulbs is better for the environment because they require less energy to run. You can even go one step further and have these lights be solar powered. Not only is using renewable energy better for the environment, but it is also kinder on your wallet – we’ve found that powering holiday lights with solar is about 53% cheaper than powering them with traditional energy sources.
"We use solar LED lights on our outside trees and walkway." -Brie O., workforce development
Experiential gifts like a paint night, cooking class, sledding trip, concert, and more decrease the number of goods people own – and ultimately the carbon footprint that these goods hold. Alternatively, you can give to a local charity on behalf of a friend or family member to have a similar impact while helping a great cause.
"Instead of exchanging gifts with my in-laws, we opt for a different approach: we divide into teams of two and organize various events throughout the holiday week when we're all together. For instance, my sister-in-law and I are teaching a baking class, while my husband and his brother are hosting a murder mystery night. This encourages us to spend more present time together (and spend less money!!)" -Emma H., EV charging
"A day trip to NH including a picnic lunch and a natural history boat tour of Squam Lake. A baking class for family. A picnic and concert. Christmas day can revolve around doing puzzles together, walks in the woods, and playing games. " - Beth M., development
"We use the "something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read" as the guideline for how many gifts and what type. (And a book Christmas Eve.)" -Caitlin B., marketing
About 65% of small business revenue comes from the holiday period, making this a vital time of year for these shops. Shopping at local small businesses reduces the carbon footprint because goods don’t have to travel as far. It also stimulates the local economy and invests in the community so that it can continue to benefit from small businesses.
"For the adults, we gave up on presents outside of immediate family members and moved to a Yankee Swap book swap a number of years ago. Each person wraps a book they have read during the year and puts it in a big wooden bowl. There are usually ~10 of us. We go around Yankee Swap-style and pick out books, and trade (according to whatever rules your family plays by). It results in learning about all sorts of great books to read and interesting conversation... and a "new" book!" -Anna F., commercial operations
Much like shopping from local small businesses, buying food from local farms is much better for the environment and local economy. About 78% of farms sell their food within a 100-mile radius, keeping food fresher and carbon footprints smaller.
"Source holiday food from local farms. Give a gift of homemade granola, or a homemade mix for pancakes or muffins." -Beth M., development
Using paper or plastic plates, cups, and silverware at holiday gatherings may make for a quicker clean up, but they also create waste that using reusable dinnerware does not. When it does become time to clean up, ensure that you only run your dishwasher when it’s full to save water and electricity, and consider letting dishes air-dry to further cut your dishwasher’s energy usage.
We know the holidays are all about giving – so why not give back to your community? Whether you volunteer at a food bank, clean up litter in your neighborhood, or collect goods for local charities, there are many ways to give back, and a lot of organizations looking for this type of support during the holidays.
"On Christmas, after my kids open gifts and have breakfast, we all go for a hike or a walk in our area and do a little clean up picking up litter along the road or at the beach. It's a little thing but we love the tradition." -Bridget S., marketing
"On one side of my family, we gift to each other's favorite charity." -Steve H., legal
Tinsel is often made of fossil-fuel-based plastic, like PVC, and is not recyclable. It also takes about 450 years for a single strand of tinsel to decompose in a landfill. There are many ways to get creative and make a tinsel alternative – recycled paper or dried fruit garlands are some of our favorites!