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How to Have a More Sustainable Christmas

by Meaghan Weeden December 19, 2023 4 min read

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How to Make Your Christmas Green

It's no secret that we love this time of the year. The snow is falling, the forest is quiet, and we're ready to do ALL of the winter things. But you may be wondering, how to make your holiday celebrations more sustainable and eco-friendly? After all, with everything you need to accomplish in time for giving season, the thought of crossing all of the sustainable Christmas gifts off of your list, preparing an eco-friendly meal, greening up your decorations, and more, may feel unattainble.

At One Tree Planted, we choose to celebrate Treecember, a month-long celebration of trees and forests. We take this time to honor the important things in life, like friends and family, giving to others, and appreciating nature — in other words, all the makings of a green Christmas and a wonderful sustainable holiday season. 

17 Ways to Have Eco-Friendly Holidays

1. Cross Off Our Sustainable Holiday Checklist

We know that during the busy-ness of the season, figuring out how to have a sustainable holiday can feel next to impossible. This is where our Sustainable Holidays Checklist comes in! From DIY wrapping paper to LED Christmas lights, we’ve gathered some of our favorite tips to help you stress less about your Christmas footprint and focus on the important stuff.

2. Gift A Tree Planted in The Great Outdoors

Feeling stumped about someone one your list? Consider gifting a tree! Why? Trees truly are the gift that keeps on giving: they absorb carbon, provide a home for wildlife, clean our air and water, hold the soil together, and so much more.

And when you gift trees, you'll be able to customize an awesome e-card to show you care. 

3. Start Planning Your Sustainable New Year

The week between Christmas and New Years is the perfect time to slow down and reflect on everything that has happened over the past year — and begin planning for a more sustainable new year. So what are you waiting for? Set aside a little time, put pen to paper, and dare to dream!

4. Gift A Cozy Beanie

From downhill + cross country skiing to good old fashioned snowball fights, the winter months abound with outdoor recreational opportunities. And as long as you have the right equipment to stay warm and dry, the possibilities for winter fun are endless!

Help them stay cozy with a classic One Tree Planted Beanie that plants treeswhere they are needed the most!

5. Plan Ahead to Avoid Food Waste

Roughly 1/3 of the food produced around the world for human consumption gets lost or wasted. Single-use plastics are also a problem — they frequently don’t get recycled or even make it to a landfill.

Plan ahead to eat all of the food that you make, enjoyed from real plates that can be washed and reused! By buying exactly what you need, you can save money, too!

6. Put Up a Real Christmas Tree

Real Christmas trees are more eco-friendly than fake ones, as most come from local, sustainable farms where more trees are planted than cut down each year. When you’re done with your tree, it decomposes naturally.

In contrast, fake trees are made from fossil fuels and will pollute the environment for many years, adding no benefits.

7. Switch to LED Christmas Lights

Not to be a grinch, but all those twinkling lights wash out stars in the sky, disrupt  nocturnal wildlife and waste energy.

So if you do put up Christmas lights, consider putting timers on them so they shine for a few hours but shut off automatically after everyone has gone to bed. And if you can, make sure those lights are energy efficient LED’s.

8. Upcycle Things You Don't Use

There are 300,000 items in the average American home, with a collective average of 1.2 trillion dollars spent every year on nonessential items.

Put that excess to work and try one of the thousands of awesome upcycling projects that can be made with everyday items to create unique decorations and gifts. The best part? It's a chance to clean up the clutter while giving new life to your stuff!

9. Get Involved in Your Community by Volunteering

Give your time by volunteering at a food shelter, nursing home, hospital, or other community function. These organizations do great work all year round but they could probably use an extra hand during the busy holiday season.

Your presence is priceless — and you can share ideas for the sustainable use of materials or eco-friendly activities!

10. Explore Nature’s Rhythms No Matter the Weather

There’s always something to appreciate in nature, even if the temperatures are cold outside. Step out for family hikes, visit your local forest, go skiing, glide around a skating pond or rink, or just sit by a fire with a mug of hot chocolate and watch the snow fall. Not only is it great to appreciate the outdoors, but your health will benefit too. Any fees for local parks also support environmental stewardship.

11. Make Sure Your House is Well Insulated to Save Energy

An insulated home is more energy efficient and eco-friendly. It’ll also save you money.

The EPA estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs (or an average of 11% on total energy costs) by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces, and accessible basement rim joists.

12. Give Gifts That Inspire Sustainability in Others

Lecturing friends and family on sustainability isn’t going to get them on board, but gifts that are fun, interesting, or informative might just inspire them to see things in a new light.

Maybe it’s a book about crafting with recyclables, a set of reusable travel cups, or a work of art that provokes conversation. Find a balance between something that person is already interested in and the theme of sustainability.

13. Keep Your Carbon Footprint Low While Traveling

Whether you’re driving or flying, there are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Bring along your own snacks and food containers to reduce your waste from packaged foods you might otherwise purchase. Travel less if you can, or use electric or hybrid public transportation methods if available. And of course, plant trees to offset your carbon emissions!

14. Give Gifts That Don't Create Waste

Waste is a huge global problem. Every 2 hours, we throw away enough stuff to fill the world’s largest container ship with trash. That’s 12 container ships every single day, and 4,380 container ships in one year.

Even with your best intentions at heart, there's a good chance that some of the gifts you give may end up as waste. Gift waste-less gifts instead!

A trip, outdoor experience, or delicious edible gift are all great alternatives.

15. Make Your Own Eco Friendly Wrapping Paper

Most wrapping paper has little to no recoverable value when it comes to post-consumer recycling, while 4 billion trees — or 35% of the total trees cut around the world — are used in paper industries on every continent.

Save newspaper and magazine paper, paint or decorate it, and use that as wrapping paper instead. Craving a more uniform look? Try wrapping gifts in fabric, which can be reused in sewing projects.

Sustainable Christmas Checklist

And of course, there are many organizations that are doing awesome work and would hugely appreciate the support. Whether it’s trees planted, land conserved, wildlife protected, or political efforts empowered, every action matters. Find an organization that's doing something meaningful to your recipient, and make a donation in their name. 

We hope you have a happy, healthy holiday however you're celebrating. And don't forget: the ultimate eco friendly gift: plant a tree!

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Meaghan Weeden
Meaghan Weeden

Meaghan works to share our story far and wide, manages our blog calendar, coordinates with the team on projects + campaigns, and ensures our brand voice is reflected across channels. With a background in communications and an education in environmental conservation, she is passionate about leveraging her creativity to help the environment!