Shirley Freriks: Here’s to plastic-free Christmas | TheUnion.com
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Shirley Freriks: Here’s to plastic-free Christmas

Are thoughts of Christmas décor and presents creeping into your head? Hard to believe it is only two months away. Let’s make this Christmas one that honors the urgency of changing habits to help reverse the climate crisis the United Nations has made it clear is happening. We each can do our part and it will make a difference in the aggregate.

Plastic free: This is mostly about single-use or short-lived plastic that gets thrown away after a short use. Sadly, there are not yet facilities in California to reprocess all this waste, so it most often goes to the landfill, where it gives off methane that becomes greenhouse gases and a source of global warming that adds to climate crisis.

Instead, enjoy coming up with creative alternatives in which the whole family can participate. Make decorations together, like paper rings in strings for the tree, maybe made from last year’s cards, and ornaments that will carry sentiment for years to come rather than a commercial plastic bauble.



A creative natural wreath is, well, a natural here in forest country. As is a natural live Christmas tree. Ah, can you smell that pine scent? Oh, yes, what is better than popcorn strings?

To minimize plastic, start by thinking of what can be made or re-purposed before buying. Make a conscious decision that is good for your loved one or friend, and good for the Earth, and saves money!




Consider one statistic that estimates an average of 9% of the amount paid for a product is the cost of packaging. Sometimes it is greater than the cost of the product inside.

Think first about a gift from the heart, like up-cycling or refashioning old things into something meaningful instead of throwing them away or buying a new item when our society is already overstuffed — and buying it locally instead of online.

This community needs our support. Start at the farmers markets in Grass Valley and Nevada City. Local craft fairs are fun and full of many unique gifts. Locally sourced gift baskets are fun to create.

Toys are a big category of plastic usage that can be avoided with a little thought. Maybe give experiences instead. Take the kids to a special outing or show — they get you in addition to the experience. Or find toys that are not plastic and especially without batteries. Batteries can be problematic when the child is finished with the toy and it is headed for the dump. They are known to catch fire. Non-plastic ideas abound when you look for them.

Give the gift of yourself or something you can do for another, like three hours of cleaning, or fixing something, or promise Mom to fix a meal a week for a while. Lots of possibilities here.

Giving the gift of life and life-saving support through a charity is a wonderful gift. Or planting a tree with our local TreeSisters organization that is doing its best to reforest many denuded places in the world and alleviate poverty. This truly gives a tree of life since it can become a source of income.

Many stores have plastic packaging-free or minimalized items, although it can be an adventure to find them. Why pay for packaging that just gets trashed and becomes pollution in waterways, air and bodies?

Make it a happy holiday for the Earth, too.

Shirley Freriks lives in Grass Valley and is part of the WasteNOT team.


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