Ocean Conservancy offers tips for an ocean friendly holiday
Make the sea-son merry and bright with four simple steps
The 2022 holiday season has meant a return to gifts and gatherings. But holiday cheer can also lead to holiday waste, and that waste can wreak havoc on our ocean.
“Between buying gifts, planning parties and decorating your home, it can be hard to remember to reduce and reuse during the holiday season,” said Sarah Weller, manager of the International Coastal Cleanup® (ICC) at Ocean Conservancy. “But the festivities can take a toll on our planet. Every year, ICC volunteers find holiday-related trash on beaches and waterways, often months after the holidays have ended.”
That’s why Ocean Conservancy is offering tips and resources on how to make these four key elements of your holiday season fun and festive for the ocean.
While holiday decorations might only come out in our homes for a few weeks, they’re a year-round problem for the ocean. In 2021 alone, ICC volunteers around the world found trashed ribbons, string lights, and even multiple Christmas trees on beaches and waterways.
For a more ocean friendly option, deck the halls with decorations that can be used for years on end. Avoid any decorations that use glitter: in addition to getting everywhere, glitter pieces are aform of microplastics, which have been found in everything from the deepest part of our ocean, to the air we breathe, to inside human bodies. You can make decorating a family affair by following Ocean Conservancy’s guide to upcylced DIY décor for a trash free holiday.
Between party looks and ugly holiday sweaters, many pieces of clothing purchased during this season are worn only a few times before being discarded. Since the first ICC in 1986, more than three million articles of clothing have been collected from beaches and waterways; and that doesn’t even account for the microplastics and microfibers that come with synthetic fabrics.
This holiday season, skip the fast fashion: buy second hand, do a clothing swap with friends, or work with what you already have. If you’re crafty, show off your skills by making your own upcycled ugly holiday sweater using Ocean Conservancy’s guide.
It wouldn’t be the holidays without gifts. But along with toys and treats come plastic packaging and waste. More than half of all the plastic ever produced has been made within the last 20 years; and much of this growth has come from single-use packaging. Toys themselves also frequently wind up in our ocean: in nearly 40 years of cleanups, ICC volunteers have collected over 2.9 million toys.
Give the ocean a gift this year by avoiding gifts with plastic packaging, gifting experiences rather than items to your loved ones, and getting creative with your wrapping paper: opt to reuse bags, wrap with reusable fabric, or even colorful newspaper pages.
As you’re gathering with your loved ones, keep a lookout for ways to cut down on party plastic. Single-use plastic foodware items are the most common items polluting our beaches: in 2021, ICC volunteers collected 1.34 million food wrappers, over 260,000 plastic straws, nearly 246,000 plastic plates, and 163,000 plastic utensils. So at your holiday party or family dinner this year, make sure to provide reusable cutlery, plates and cups to your guests, and skip the straws.