Sustainable Celebrations: Creatively Incorporating Nature in Our Holidays

Written By OutdoorAfro

Published on Dec 6, 2014

by Outdoor Afro Leader Zoë Polk
As the daughter of a fisherman, repurposing was a big part of my upbringing. Cleaned fish carcasses went into the crab pots. Outgrown t-shirts were used as rags to unhook slimy, squirmy Catfish. Driftwood was rescued and incorporated into my mother’s artistic creations. And at the end of every December, we still gather around our Christmas tree and haul it out to the backyard. My Dad walks the tree down the “plank” (also called a fishing pier) and with a quick push, into the water it goes. We always watch it submerge with smiles on our faces, thinking about how this tree would attract the fish that we like to catch in the summer months. It’s one of my family’s favorite holiday traditions.
On Saturday, Outdoor Afros gathered at Pollinate Farm and Garden to creatively repurpose nature into our seasonal decorations. Using locally grown materials, including fallen Eucalyptus and Magnolia leaves, rosemary, dried pomegranates, Juniper shrubs, dried chilies, walnuts, acorns and Douglas firs, we assembled holiday wreaths. While everyone’s creation was unique, they shared the green brilliance and the fresh fragrance of Bay Area nature.
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We were a group of longtime friends, a beekeeper, a gardener, a mother and daughter team, and individuals who drew inspiration from our environment and our family traditions. As we worked, we discussed the ways and reasons we practice sustainability during the holidays. One wreath maker reflected on her preference for DIY gifts as a way of rebelling against the mass consumption and consumerism of this time of year. Another crafter shared her longtime tradition of buying potted trees, which she replants in her backyard immediately following Christmas.
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In partnership with Klean Kanteen, Outdoor Afro is committed to divesting from single use plastics. Its a culture we live and encourage all year round and especially during the holidays. In addition to reusable water bottles, we love giving our loved ones Klean Kanteen mugs, cups, tumblers, and food containers. Instead of giving (single use plastic) gift cards, we go to our local REI with the intended recipient and thus, personalize the experience of picking out the present. When we attend holiday parties, we bring our potluck items in reusable dishes and drink eggnog and hot apple cider from reusable mugs instead of single use plastic containers. And whether it’s a gift basket or a live green decoration, we buy locally grown, natural items because, as daughters of fisherman and as environmental stewards, we are mindful of how much single use plastic ends up in our oceans.
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After we put the final touches on our wreaths, we admired each other’s use of color and integration of different materials. I got excited thinking about the way my wreath would naturally illuminate my home. And then I remembered another long standing repurposing tradition of my childhood: My Mom used (and still uses) my father’s fishing line to hang her wreaths. While my fresh creation fortunately will not have the faint smell of flounder or striped bass (no offense, Dad!), it will have the fragrance of Northern California, a recent, but beloved family connection.

Outdoor Afro Leader Zoë Polk and her Dad enjoying San Francisco’s ocean