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How to Sustainably Celebrate the Holiday Season

Our guide for divers helps you keep your jolly without all the junk
By Tiffany Duong | Created On December 20, 2023
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How to Sustainably Celebrate the Holiday Season

Scuba Santa and his merry elves (aka the Gneiser family of Amoray Dive Resort) celebrate ways to have an ocean-positive holiday that helps the ocean.

Anna Clapper/Capps Captures

During the holidays, we’re captivated by everything that glitters; unfortunately, those glistening pixels are often made from microplastics, which are really bad for our oceans. Glitter isn’t the only offender. Plenty of other traditional year-end celebrations also cause excess waste and/or environmental harm. From single-use plastics at parties to the carbon footprint of travel, it’s no wonder the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) calls the holiday season the most wasteful time of year.

When our merriment comes at a cost to our ocean and planet, we want to do something about it. Rather than get grumpier than the Grinch, here are some ocean-friendly tips for a low-impact, high-fun holiday.

Reduce Your Travel Carbon Footprint

In the holiday rush, it’s easy to overlook our carbon footprint. However, making more conscious choices can have an impact. CBD estimates that the U.S. transportation sector is responsible for about one-third of the country’s ocean- and climate-damaging emissions. Therefore, they also call out reducing transportation emissions as “one of the most vital steps in fighting the climate emergency,” especially because viable alternatives are already available.

If you’re traveling by road, carpool or take advantage of mass transit. If you must fly, use Google Flights or similar services to compare the carbon emissions of different flights and book accordingly.

Throw Plastic-Free Parties With Natural Decorations

CBD estimates that American households create 25% more waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That’s enough to fill 140,000 garbage trucks every week! Instead, challenge yourself to throw plastic-free parties. Use real plates, cups and silverware to cut down on waste. Rather than plastic decor like tinsel, bows and glitter that end up in the trash, make traditional garlands out of branches, popcorn, dried citrus fruits and other natural materials. It’s better for the ocean and your wallet.

If you typically decorate a tree to celebrate, try switching to a potted plant this year. They look great lit up, and you can plant them to celebrate the new year. Repeat yearly for your own garden of good.

Serve Ocean-Positive Foods

Food accounts for anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of a household’s carbon footprint. Meat products require a lot of greenhouse gases to grow and produce. Therefore, reducing meat consumption helps the climate and the ocean. So, while it may feel avant-garde to skip the Christmas turkey or prime rib, it’s a notable way to lower your impact during the holidays and beyond.

What should you serve instead?

Consider kelp! Ocean-positive snacks like 12 Tides chips, Akua burgers, Barnacle Foods salsa and Atlantic Sea Farms’ salads are all made using this sustainable seaweed. Hailed as the “regenerative wonder crop,” kelp has the power to filter our waters and fight climate change. Plus, its increasing popularity is a catalyst for new jobs and stability for New England’s lobstermen and women.

Related Reading: REEF Fest 2023

Consider adding kelp to the holiday menu

Atlantic Sea Farms

If you’re offering ocean fare, follow our Diver’s Guide to Seafood to stay sustainable. When you serve sustainable foods with backstories, you also create opportunities to talk about ocean conservation and how we all can help.

Pro tip: don’t forget reusable bags when you’re doing all your holiday grocery shopping!

Give Gifts That Do Good

For many, gift-giving is an integral part of the holidays. By broadening what we consider a “gift,” we can lower our negative impact.

Sponge restoration citizen-science dives allow participants to learn more about what makes a complete, healthy coral reef and then dive in to make a difference.

Tiffany Duong/Ocean Rebels

Instead of giving something that your loved one might not use, treat them to a fun adventure—like a new scuba diving certification or dive trip with you. You could even try a citizen-science dive together, one that allows you to contribute actively to our ocean by participating in activities like coral restoration or manta surveys.

You can also make donations in someone’s honor to their favorite ocean causes: plant a coral, Adopt-the-Blue or adopt a shark.

Switch to Reusable Gift Wrap

If you still want to pick up some goodies for people to unwrap, consider these eco-friendly options in our holiday gift guide—they’re made from recycled plastics and/or support ocean conservation research.

Newspaper-wrapping: Upcycle black and white newspapers with a colorful accent for a classy and eco-chic alternative to wrapping papers.

Stock Photo

Then, make sure to skip the wrapping paper! CBD estimates that Americans cut down 30 million trees annually to wrap presents. If each household in the country swapped to eco-friendly alternatives to wrap just three gifts, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields!

If you’re going to use paper, keep it simple. Generally, the fancier the paper, the harder it is to recycle. Avoid glitter, tinsel, confetti, shiny/foiled papers and most ribbons. Instead, wrap gifts with natural materials like brown Kraft paper (easy to personalize with messages or designs), old newspapers or vintage maps/posters. These are unique and fully recyclable when done.

Even better, opt for reusable wrappings like tea towels, scarves or other fabrics or upcycle tins or boxes you have on hand. Add holiday flair with greens, pine cones and other natural materials instead of plastic bows or ribbons. Tie everything together with twine, hemp or spare fabric scraps.

Less Is More

Perhaps the most important swap we can make is in our mindset. Each of these sustainable swaps can, in the aggregate, help to create a measurable difference. Remember: Everything flows to the sea. Less is more. Refuse single use. Choose blue.

Happy low-impact holidays!

Related Reading: How Divers Around the World Are Celebrating Halloween