Giving back to Wildlife this holiday season

Once again the most beautiful time of the year is upon us, the Christmas holiday season! And with it, comes an abundance of love, community and togetherness. The holiday cheer often extends to our environment and more often than not, our practices during this time does the ecosystem and wildlife species more harm than good. With the current threat of extinction on a number of wildlife species, it’s up to each of us to make this holiday season and every subsequent one a sustainable practice. In this way, the magic of Christmas spreads throughout our home here on earth. Here are some of the ways you can give back to wildlife this holiday:

Responsible travel

The holidays are a perfect time to head out of our comfort zones and see the world. As a tourist, you play an incredible role in preserving the culture and nature of the places you visit. Choosing the most eco-friendly means of travel based on your circumstances helps reduce our travel-based carbon emissions. This subsequently reduces climate change which is the biggest threat to species diversity.

Research the activities you plan to take part in. Some useful questions to ask yourself include;

  • Does the activity involve wild animals bred in captivity?
  • Are we directly harassing or harming the animal in any way ? For example, tourists going too close and over-crowding around an animal?
  • Does the activity interfere with the animals’ natural behavior? For example by luring them with bait?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you can pass on these activities. Usually, there’s plenty of other activities that allow you to enjoy nature and wildlife without causing them any direct or indirect harm. Tip: if you plan to use the services of a tour operator, seek out one that supports and protects wildlife and cultural habitat.

Wildlife are not souvenirs! Buying products made from or belonging to local wildlife inadvertently supports the growing marketplace for wildlife trafficking, an industry responsible for the death of millions of rare and endangered species every year. Instead, get some souvenirs crafted by the locals. This provides sustainable sources of income for locals and supports local cultural heritage.

Tourists picking out local hand-made baskets in Mallorca

Lastly, the only thing we should leave behind as we travel is our footprint. Think about how you use natural resources, say no to single use plastics and respect the natural environment by minimizing waste and pollution.

Re-think your holiday shopping

Holiday shopping is a major tradition in millions of households worldwide. Let’s be honest, with all the amazing retail discounts, it’s hard to resist a cheeky shop. Unfortunately, billions of goods bought during this period end up in landfills as consumers send back damaged, used, or unwanted gifts that retailers cannot put back on the shelves. All the waste we create largely contributes to the climate change crisis that in turn contributes to the mass extinction crisis our wildlife is facing. Our Christmas shopping usually does not involve wildlife species and its negative drawbacks shouldn’t either. Luckily, taking a few eco-loving steps greatly reduces waste generated during the season.

Consider getting gifts made in sustainable and ethical ways and are package free. This way, little to no waste is created in the making of your gift and no package waste will be created when the gift is used. Instead of getting gifts that may just add to clutter in the house, consider thoughtful, meaningful gifts such as a trip to an animal sanctuary, a forest conservation group activity or even re-usable mugs and bottles. Skip on wrapping paper altogether or if you must, get creative with reusable materials as gift wrap.

Additionally, its not just about what gift you get, think about how you get it. Offsetting carbon emmissions caused by the gifting cycle is a great way to give back to wildife. You can do this by pre-planning your gift-shopping hence making it possible to get your gifts in less trips. If you plan to order your gifts online, ordering earlier allows you to use ground shipping or in-store pickups. You can also re-gift an unwanted gift instead of sending it back or give gift-cards when you are unsure of what to get someone.

Lastly, what’s christmas without the big tree and the lights? As they are a big part of the christmas tradition, it can be useful to think about what kind of tree, lights and decorations you use. Buying a live tree is probably the most sustainable option as they are grown for several years and act as a carbon sink during this time. If you buy it in a container with its roots and some earth, you can replant it and use it for many years to come. Alternatively, disposing of your tree in a chipping facility is a good option as it will be returned to the environment in an eco-friendly way. Consider using energy efficient LED string lights and re-using last year’s decorations to save energy and waste. You can also create decorations using sustainable materials and make it into a fun family DIY activity.

Recycled bottles used to make a Christmas tree.

All in all, the best way to say I love you this holiday and every other holiday, is to give our loved ones the promise of a future on our home here on earth. Taking care of our planet not only ensures our survival, but also the survival of other species that call earth home. Every conscious decision we make to love our planet contributes to the bigger picture. Happy holidays!