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Eco-Friendly Kwanzaa Tips: Gifts, Food, Candles, and More

Having an eco-friendly Kwanzaa is easy with these tips. Here are five simple things you can do to make your celebration more planet-friendly.

Written by
Asha Swann

Right after Christmas ends, Kwanzaa begins. Ranging from December 26 to January 1, Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration of African-American and Pan-African heritage and culture.

On December 26, families from across the African diaspora get together to celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa over the next seven days: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

Kwanzaa is a time to create heartfelt memories and experiences with your family while connecting with your African roots. If you're looking for ways to make your celebration more sustainable, here are some tips to get you started.

5 Easy Ways to Celebrate Kwanzaa Sustainably

1. Choose Soy Candles

Candles are often made from paraffin, which comes from petroleum. And because petroleum comes from oil, it's not the most sustainable resource.

By lighting soy-based candles in this year's kinara, you're choosing a more planet-friendly option. Other natural candles include those made with beeswax or coconut wax.

2. Choose a Locally-Made Kinara or Mkeka

The mkeka mat is important—it holds the kinara and is used as a foundation. These mats are traditionally woven textiles, and if you already have a mkeka, the most sustainable option is to reuse it each year.

But if you're shopping around for something new, check out local African artisans or African markets to find a handmade option. You can also look for a sustainably-made kinara that uses natural or upcycled resources.

3. Make a Traditional Family Recipe

We all have that one family recipe that never compares to a store-bought version. This Kwanzaa, try your hand at making it.

Ask a relative to show you how to make a long-loved family recipe step-by-step. Or, surprise your family by trying to make it yourself. Making your own recipe rather than buying a store-bought version reduces food and packaging waste and makes your celebration more special.

4. Gift Experiences

Each evening of Kwanzaa, everyone gathers around the kinara to discuss how to practice each principle. This year, instead of buying your loved ones traditional gifts at the end of the seventh day, consider eco-friendly options.

Gifting an amazing experience that keeps the seven principles in mind is a great place to start. For example, Ujima is the principle of working together. Organizing a community cleanup is an impactful way to put this principle into action.

5. Search for Secondhand

Secondhand gifts are more sustainable than new. Search your local secondhand shop for something meaningful, like books from African authors.

The principle of Kuumba is all about creativity, and thrift stores are full of unique finds. You could also opt for eco-friendly wrapping paper to reduce waste.