We are capable of increasing human well-being while reducing resource consumption or, in other words, “doing better with less.” That’s the big takeaway from the UN Environment’s International Resources Panel 2019 Global Resources Outlook. That’s great news. And we must temper the tremendous momentum of decades of unfettered production and consumption to get there.

According to the same report, the resource extraction and processing needed to satisfy our appetite for stuff to date has already caused 90 percent of biodiversity loss and has contributed to about half of global greenhouse gas emissions. The report estimates that material resource extraction will more than double globally by 2060 if our appetite continues unabated.

Those of us who live in the developed world consume the lion’s share of the world’s resources per capita. That puts a lot of responsibility on us to take a look at our consumption habits and see how each of us can indeed do better with less, despite what we are told by marketers of the latest and greatest gizmos and gadgets.

As we move into a time of year where consumption has been conflated with celebration, we have an opportunity to examine what makes holidays meaningful. Is it all the new stuff? Or is it something else. If the Grinch figured it out, I am confident we all can, too.

The old axiom “it’s the thought that counts” can take us a long way toward a future of diminished resource extraction and enhanced human well-being. We can be thoughtful in the ways we celebrate one another, in the ways we celebrate together, and in the ways we celebrate our shared traditions.

I hope the ideas below and the other information from the 2019 ZERO by FIFTY Eco Holiday Guide will inspire you to rethink your holidays. 

  1. Regift and Repair

Instead of an unwanted item collecting dust or worse–getting thrown “away” aka the Missoula Landfill–regift it to someone who will put it to good use. Consider repairing a loved one’s worn or broken items instead of replacing with new. Want to do it yourself but don’t know how? Join Home ReSource and partners at tomorrow’s Fixit Clinic where volunteer coaches will share the skills to help you fix those treasured goods. After all, it turns out that events such as these promote well-being.

  1. Recharge it

Every year over 15 billion batteries are produced worldwide, and many are alkaline batteries that are thrown out after just one use. Replace your alkaline batteries with rechargeable ones. Newer models can charge in as little as 15 minutes! Save money and reduce resource consumption at the same time. Consult the guide to find out where to recycle your old batteries.

  1. Make Gatherings Zero Waste 

Instead of disposable tableware, serve food on real, reusable dishware. The Jeannette Rankin Peace Center offers a ‘dish pantry’ or lending library for forks and spoons, bowls, plates, and cups. If you must use disposable dishware, look for compostable or recyclable party kits. Consider donating leftover food to the Food Bank or composting it. Consult the guide for a list of local compost collection service providers.

  1. Use LED Holiday Lights  

LED lights last up to 10 times longer, use 80% less energy than traditional incandescent holiday lights and are ENERGY STAR qualified. They are also more durable and shock resistant because they do not have moving parts, filaments, or glass. If you do choose to upgrade, consult the guide for places to recycle your old lights.

  1. Wrap it & Pack it Eco-Style

The high clay and low-paper content of wrapping paper makes it difficult to recycle.

Instead, get creative and choose reused/reusable alternatives like comics, posters, maps, blueprints, or calendars (all recyclable), fabric, reusable paper or cloth gift bags, bandanas, etc. For shipping, replace foam or bubble wrap with plastic bags or glossy ads (the ink doesn’t smear like newspaper).

  1. Learn More

As a one-stop-shop for all things “Zero Waste” in Missoula, zerobyfiftymissoula.com provides an overview of ZERO by FIFTY: Missoula’s pathway to Zero Waste, practical tips on how to reduce, reuse, repair, and recycle in the area, as well as ways to get involved in Missoula’s growing Zero Waste movement.

While we can choose to take steps to minimize stuff and maximize meaning in all our celebrations, holiday leftovers of all kinds abound this time of year. From food to cellphones to batteries and more, download the 2019 ZERO by FIFTY Eco Holiday Guide for specific information on how and where to reuse and recycle all of those leftovers in Missoula.

Jeremy Drake is Community Engagement Manager at Home ReSource.

This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every Friday by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Upcoming Sustainability Events

Now through Dec 31. Dear Tomorrow letter to the future writing project. Dear Tomorrow is a global storytelling project focused on sharing personal messages about climate change to inspire new thinking and action. Learn more here or visit one of the kiosks to submit your letter: Shakespeare and Co, Fact and Fiction, Missoula Public Library. Sponsored by Climate Smart Missoula and Families for a Livable Climate.

Friday, December 6. Climate Strike at Missoula County Courthouse 12 - 1 p.m. Join other families, students, and small kids to stand in solidarity with climate strikers around the world. Our presence is an affirmation of the need for strong climate action, and the importance of connecting in community.

Friday, December 6. Clark Fork Coalition Holiday Party. All are welcome to join for free food, fun, and friends. Clark Fork Coalition Offices, 140 S 4th W St. 5 – 9pm. 

Friday, December 6. Five Valleys Land Trust Holiday Party. All are welcome. 120 Hickory St, 5pm. 

Saturday, December 7. Fixit Clinic. Home ReSource invites you to give the gift of repair this holiday season. Why buy new when you can fix a cherished item that has seen better days? Home Resource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. More info here.

Monday, December 9. Helena. Ratepayers rebellion rally and comment session re NorthWestern Energy’s Resource Plan. Rally is noon in front of the Montana Public Service building. The PSC takes public comments beginning at 1:30 p.m. A free bus leaves from Missoula College at 1205 E. Broadway at 9:00 am. Email David Merrill at david.merrill@sierraclub.org to reserve your bus seat or learn more.

Thursday, December 12. Climate Smart Missoula’s Year End Celebration and Smarty Pants Awards. All are welcome to this annual celebration of local climate action! Details here.

Wednesday, December 18. Reuse & Upcycling of Ornament Workshop -- workshop offered with MUD. Home Resource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St. 6 – 8pm. Info & Tickets here.