Photo: Adrian Portugal / UNDP Peru

During this time of the year we usually focus on the best gift for those special people in our lives. However, we rarely think about our own existence, our quality of life and those collective goods such as the oceans or biodiversity.

This holiday season can be different. The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) inspire us to think about the impact that each person's act has on the economic, social and environmental realms. It is important that this holiday season encourages us all to reflect on our habits—and not only our consumption patterns. This is a time to think about other people’s well-being, even those we do not know. Consuming responsibly helps guarantee human rights and environmental sustainability. It is important that we think before buying: “Do I really need this? After I finish using it it where will it end up later?”

This is what we know as a circular economy: to buy or consume while thinking about where this product will end up, once we’re done using it.

Take single-use plastic bags, for example. At an annual accumulation rate of 10 million metric tons, our consumption patterns will lead to more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050, measured in weight.

Electronic devices are another example. Yes, these gadgets, so appealing to adults, children and adolescents. The world generated almost 45 million metric tons of electronic waste, equivalent to almost 4500 Eiffel Towers, in 2016, according to a United Nations report. The study estimates an increase of at least 15 percent in e-waste generated in the next two years, considering the increase in number of cell phones and other information technology products, whose replacement cycles are getting shorter and shorter.

Consumer behaviour in many countries is still linear, which means that we buy, use and dispose of “stuff” not really engaged in its life cycle, not aligned to the circular economy. The repercussions to human health due to the inadequate disposal of waste are alarming. Waste ends up deposited in the environment and it returns to us, either directly or indirectly. No one wants to end up eating microplastics, but this is already taking place, because of the indiscriminate waste of plastics in natural environments, which end up in oceans and rivers.

With this in mind, here are 10 tips for happy holidays aligned to the 2030 Agenda:

1. Use reusable bags

2. Use non-disposable bottles for liquids, like water.

3. If food is going to be consumed in outdoor fairs, it is necessary make sure the packaging is eco-friendly, preferably using compostable materials.

4. When we buy “stuff”, food or any other items, it’s crucial to think about how much waste we are producing and its consequence to the planet: will end up on our coasts, rivers and beaches, and back on our tables?

5. For outdoor parties, especially for those in the Southern Hemisphere where it’s summer, purchase biodegradable or compostable cups, plates and others.

6. Buy local products that help the local artisans. This not only promotes income generation and local jobs, it also contributes to reducing emissions from transporting products.

7. Properly dispose waste for recycling. For example, recycle the gift wrapping papers (and try to use recycled materials), recycle glass, aluminum, plastics, everything you can.

8. Donate everything you don’t need, many of our things can be refused and shared with others.

9. In Costa Rica and in other countries around the world, the holidays are also a time in which domestic violence spikes. Celebrate without intrafamily violence, without mistreated women, without children and girls in hospitals due to pyrotechnic accidents, with elderly adults cared for and protected. Let us promote a reflection on the importance of peace and justice in the world.

10. Finally, always keep in mind people who are going through complex life situations such as those who live in poverty, or who are displaced by migration and those who are abandoned.

Let us live our lives guided by the ideals of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. This time can be a time to raise awareness, to take care of the planet, to help those who are most at-need and leave no one behind.

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