Go Green, Live Rich: Green Your Celebrations

Holidays, birthdays, graduations, going-aways are about celebrating with people, yet we spend an enormous amount of money on one-time use decorations that may be cheap, but end up in the landfill.  Let's change the way we celebrate!

If you have ever walked into Party City, you know what I am talking about.  There is a plastic plate for every possible occasion along with matching plastic utensils, plastic cups and plastic table cloth.  When we buy these, we don't often think about where it ends up.  We're happy to use them because it fits our dream theme.  Usually, after the celebration, everything gets swept in one swift motion into the trash.  There is a convenience to a lot of these disposable items.  I get it!  No cleaning necessary.  No storage needed after the fact.  Sure, the decorations were only a few dollar each, but when you multiply this over how many celebrations you have in a year, it adds up.

With US Independence Day, July 4th, coming up, this is an opportunity to change our habits. Perhaps this is the year we buy or re-use an actual table cloth.  Perhaps this is the year to stop buying plastic Solo cups and offer re-usable mason jars or tin cups.  Independence Day comes once a year, but when you think about how long all of that plastic lasts in our landfill, in our oceans, the impact is not trivial. 

I encourage you to take a look at how you celebrate.  In what ways can you go green, reduce plastic and really get more out of the celebration?  A lot of success with going green is to think ahead of about what's coming up.  It may be July, but it's not too early to start thinking about Christmas, about the next birthday.  Get creative with your decorations, with your wrapping paper.  

I'm ashamed to admit that I have a box of disposable plates and cups in our kitchen as well as a box of wrapping paper.  When I bought these 3 years ago, I thought we would be having parties all of the time which is why I bought in bulk.  I never thought about the consequences. Didn't care really.  I didn't even know that most wrapping paper are made with petroleum based dyes that makes them difficult to be recycled as it requires specialty recyclers.  I'm not sure what I will do with them at this point.  They'll end up in the landfill at one point or another and that doesn't sit too well with me.  

A few Christmases ago, I asked my family not to do presents.  It was a strange thing to not have to shop, to not have to worry about getting enough for others.  Instead of us spending time unwrapping presents only to leave them to the side a few minutes later, we ended up chatting and talking more around the tree.  In the Christmases after that, I still felt guilty sometimes not bringing gifts and putting them under the tree.  It was a tradition that we had and I didn't want to take it away, but we were able to start new traditions like gifting experiences and being to travel and experience more during the holidays.  It was a strange feeling, but it felt more meaningful.  As my parents get older, I feel like time spent with them becomes more important.  I no longer worry about wrapping paper or decorations at Christmas time or during birthdays.  I spend more of my money on experiences and less on things now.  I realize younger children will be shocked at this and I'm not sure how I would do this when I have kids of my own, but I want to have traditions that have more meaning and less about stuff and waste.