WE ARE delighted to share some practical pointers on how to celebrate safely and sustainably amid the unparalleled climate, plastic and health challenges facing our families and communities. These tips were contributed by our members and partners in the environmental movement.

A. To prevent and reduce holiday trash (or what we call as "holitrash"), please take these suggestions into account:

Bring a stash of reusable bags and containers when you shop and refuse paper and plastic carry bags at the checkout counter.

Select ecological, healthy and safe products with minimal packaging and buy local as much as possible.

Support plastic-free enterprises and patronize eco-stores or zero-waste stores as a lifestyle choice.

Cut down on food waste by preparing and serving only what is needed, keeping extra food properly stored, recycled or shared with others, and by turning kitchen waste into compost.

Keep household discards sorted as it should be, not mixed, for convenient reusing, recycling or composting.

Go for more austere holiday decorations such as by using past Christmas ornaments; when the yuletide season is over, clean and store used decorations properly for reuse next Christmas.

Give alternative presents such as plants, cuttings, seedlings and seeds for the plantitos/plantitas, ideally accompanied by your own write-up on how to grow them at home, and be a responsible plant giver and do not give endangered plants.

Ditch gift wrappers. If wrapping is unavoidable, wrap gifts with repurposed magazines, newspapers, shoe boxes, bandannas, hankies or fabric scraps. And save wrappers, ribbons, boxes, hampers, envelopes and cards from gifts received for use in the next gift-giving season or repurpose them for school art and craft projects.

Use reusable tableware for waste-free Noche Buena and Media Noche family meals.

Do not release balloons into the sky or burst firecrackers, fireworks and similar explosives to welcome the New Year.

For expectant mothers, give your babies a healthy start by breastfeeding, noting that breastmilk, the first zero waste food, contains anti-bodies that can fight viruses and other pathogens.

Quit or help someone else to quit smoking or vaping to reduce overall trash contributed by these harmful and non-essential products.

B. To prevent and reduce exposure to toxic chemicals:

Choose duly registered and labeled age-appropriate toys and childcare articles that are safe from harmful substances like cadmium, lead, mercury, phthalates and other chemicals of concern.

Carefully check the labeling information of a product before buying it. When there are chemical ingredients that you don't understand and when in doubt, don't buy it; beware of brands and products engaged in green-washing and pink-washing.

Break free from smoking and vaping as a Christmas gift to yourself and to the people you care about, and a resolution to a healthier 2021.

Go for non-toxic cleaning agents like baking soda and vinegar whenever possible.

Use certified lead-safe paints and avoid spreading lead-containing paint chips and dust from improper renovation and repainting activities.

Never burn discards from pre- and post-holiday cleanup as open burning yields a variety of toxic pollutants, including dioxins and furans, into the environment.

Usher in 2021 without lighting firecrackers and fireworks, or burning used tires, which can discharge health-damaging contaminants into the air and also leave a trail of hazardous residual garbage after the revelry.

C. To prevent and reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection:

Shop online rather than in person whenever feasible to avoid packed malls that are teeming with holiday shoppers.

If you need to get out of your home to shop, go to less crowded places that are well-ventilated and where basic health protocols are duly enforced such as physical distancing and the wearing of face masks and shields. Avoid buying gifts or groceries at the last minute.

Refrain from engaging in activities that pose higher risk of spreading Covid-19 such as big gatherings, parties, binge drinking and karaoke singing with persons who do not live in your household.

Celebrate, dine, sing, dance and pray with persons living in your own household, and opt for virtual celebrations with others living afar.

Instead of the traditional physical gathering, switch to Zoom, Google Meet, Messenger (online) video call parties to practice legitimate social distancing while still being able to celebrate the holidays together.

When receiving guests during the holidays, stick to essential Covid-19 protective measures: wear a face mask, clean your hands often, disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, observe non-contact greetings in lieu of handshakes, hugging and kissing, and limit the duration of interaction.

Indeed the Covid-19 crisis is requiring us to rejoice differently and keep safety top of mind. Aileen Lucero.


Aileen Lucero is national coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.