(Photo courtesy plasticbat/Flickr)

Many of us look forward to celebrations and gift-giving during the holiday season, but these festivities can be tough on the environment as households use more energy and throw out extra trash. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans send about one million additional tons of garbage to the landfill. Give a gift to the Chesapeake Bay this year with our guide to reducing the impact of your holiday gift exchange.

Give experiences

Research has shown that spending money on events—not material purchases—creates lasting memories and provides the most happiness. Give the gift of experiences this year with gifts like concert tickets, cooking classes, museum memberships or national park passes. You could also plan a trip for someone special to one of the many parks and public access sites across the Bay region.

Edible gifts

Homemade treats give your gift a personal touch, and by packaging them in a reusable container, you can help reduce the amount of trash going to the landfill. Bake a batch of your favorite cookies, pack a basket full of snacks or fill a mason jar with the dry ingredients needed to make muffins, soups, or hot cocoa. Monica from The Yummy Life shares her recipe for double chocolate hot cocoa mix, complete with printable labels to decorate the jars. For more ideas, check out this list from The Kitchn of 40 homemade edible gifts, from salted pistachio brittle to fruit-infused vinegars.

Handmade items

Crafting handmade items from recycled materials can give new life to things you might otherwise throw out. Try using an old teacup as the base for a decorative candle with these instructions from Little House Living, or turn an old sweater into a cozy pillow cover with these instructions from Pop Sugar. Simple crafts like these salt dough ornaments from The Artful Parent are perfect for young kids to make for family and friends.

Upcycled materials

If crafting isn’t your specialty, find a store that repurposes recycled materials to make their products. Store such as UncommonGoods sell a variety of “upcycled” merchandise, ranging from a wallet made from an old fire hose to cufflinks made from railroad nails. For kids’ toys, many companies like Green Toys use recycled plastic from milk jugs to make their products.

Waste-reducing gadgets

Look for devices that help reduce waste of all kinds—from wasted energy to household trash—for gifts that can help save money and the environment. For the tech-lover, try gadgets like “smart” light switches or learning thermostats that adjust to your schedule to reduce the energy you use. To reduce the amount of waste that goes into the trash bin, consider gifts like reusable lunch bags, grocery bags, water bottles, or coffee thermoses.

Creative gift wrapping

Wrapping paper is often used once and thrown away, and much of the shiny, metallic paper is not recyclable. By packaging gifts in creative coverings like colorful shopping bags, old newspapers or decorative cloth instead of paper, you can reduce the amount of wrapping paper that goes in the garbage. With reusable tins or baskets, you can even eliminate the need to wrap presents at all! As a finishing touch, decorate gifts with reusable cloth ribbon or even try making your own bows from recycled paper instead of using plastic ribbon.

Rechargeable batteries

According to the EPA, nearly 40 percent of battery sales occur during the holidays. But depleted batteries can be difficult to dispose of and harmful to the environment. If you’re giving a device that uses batteries, consider including rechargeable batteries and a charger with your gift to help reduce waste and prevent harmful chemicals from entering the environment.

What Bay-friendly gifts are you giving this year? Let us know in the comments!

Note: Any references to commercial entities, products or services included in this post are provided solely for informational purposes and do not constitute an endorsement by the Chesapeake Bay Program or the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

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