Friday, December 23, 2022
The days leading up to Christmas are exciting and full of anticipation about celebrations and sharing love and joy with family and friends. Preparing for this wonderful time includes planning meals, decorating homes, and fulfilling Christmas wish lists. The team at Mariana Islands Nature Alliance (MINA) looks at the holidays from a sustainable lens and imagines how Mother Earth would recommend we celebrate a “Green Christmas”.
Quality Over Quantity: When buying gifts, consider buying fewer items of better quality. Investing time into picking quality items that will last a long time reduces the chances of gifts going to waste. This also can be better for your wallet. Also, consider gifting experiences for your loved ones. This will reduce the demand for physical resources and bring your loved ones together through the gift of time and shared memorable experiences.
There are many options to purchase gifts or experiences from local businesses that will reduce your Christmas footprint, such as waterpark passes; coupons or gift certificates for your favorite restaurants; tickets for a family night at the movies; or gift certificates for local retailers where your loved ones can choose the perfect gift.
Think About Materials: Look at the materials that the gifts are made from and keep sustainability in mind. Try to avoid plastic items that can’t be recycled and look for organic-certified food, clothing, or wooden toys. Table manners matter, so avoid using plastic tablecloths where possible. Instead, use fabric tablecloths and napkins that can be reused. If cloth isn’t an option, cover your buffet tables with colorful butcher paper, banana leaves, or young coconut tree fronds. Avoid using Styrofoam plates and plastic cutlery and use more sustainable options like paper plates and wooden chopsticks. Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags every time you shop.
Avoid Glitter: Glittery paper and décor look beautiful, but they contain microplastics. Choose compostable wrapping paper instead. If you haven’t already started this practice, save and reuse ribbons from previous years, and you’ll never run out! Rather than paper cards, consider themed Christmas photos and e-cards that you can keep forever.
Don’t Forget the Tree!: If buying a plastic Christmas tree, make sure that you’re going to reuse it for years to follow. If buying a fresh tree, think of ways to dispose of it once the season is over by turning it into compost or wood chips. A potted tree is a good solution as you can reuse it each year or replant it.
Think About Your Lights: More people are switching to LED lights on their Christmas trees. LED options use less energy, last longer, and look just as good. Also, switch off your lights during the day and before going to bed. It’s safer and will reduce your energy consumption.
Take Out What You Bring In: Many family gatherings are spent enjoying the islands’ natural beauty and resources at the beach. Remember that each piece of plastic that enters the ocean will eventually enter our food stream. Bring everything that will make your celebration fun, but remember to pack trash bags and take everything you brought to the celebration back home with you. Plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and cardboard should be collected separately and brought to the Transfer Station at Lower Base for recycling.
Home Visits from Niño Jésus (Baby Jesus): With the resumption of the holiday tradition of visitations by the Niño Jésus to homes around the islands, think about giving the Carolers home-made treats or fruits rather than wrapped candies.
MINA is a melting pot of people from all walks of life, creeds, and ethnicities, but one thing that we can all embrace is that Christmas and the coming New Year are times for us to release negativity and spread cheer, positivity, and good vibes. Let’s reflect on the values that we embrace as a community: friendship, generosity, perseverance, forgiveness, compassion, and respect for each other and our environment.
MINA celebrates a Green Christmas year-round by practicing and promoting environmental stewardship. Join us! For more tips, images, and stories about our projects, visit us on Facebook (@MINAPACIFIC), Instagram (@minaoutreach), and our website (minapacific.org).
By Roberta Guerrero
Roberta Guerrero is the Executive Director of the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance. A proud resident of Saipan with a heart for volunteerism, Roberta passionately serves the Marianas to preserve and protect the islands’ environment for generations to come.