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15 Ideas for Sustainable Holidays

by Meaghan Weeden December 12, 2023 5 min read

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Sustainable Holidays: 15 Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Christmas

As we enter the holiday season, you may be wondering how to reduce your impact and still enjoy all of your favorite traditions while also having a sustainable holiday season. But have no fear! You can make plenty of wonderful sustainable Christmas memories and have a lower environmental impact.

From DIY wrapping paper to LED Christmas lights, we’ve gathered up some of our favorite eco friendly holiday tips to help you stress less about your Christmas footprint and focus on the important stuff, like making memories with your loved ones!

Dreaming Of A Green Holiday? Here Are 15 Sustainable Holiday Tips For An Eco-Friendly Holiday

1. Use Sustainable Holiday Gift Wrap

What looks beautiful under your tree might be less so further down the waste stream. Most mass-produced wrapping paper and gift bags are printed using unsustainable inks and are coated with shiny foils, reducing their recyclability. Get creative and wrap gifts with materials that you already have, like old magazines, newspapers, comics, or paper shopping bags. You can also use clean fabric like scarves, bandannas, or even dish towels for a reusable wrapping. Create your own bows from strips of colorful paper and accessorize with twine, pressed leaves, and pinecones.

2. Prepare an Eco Friendly Feast

While preparing all of your favorite holiday dishes, try to support local farmers that grow sustainable meat and produce. Not only will fresh, local ingredients lend an extra vibrancy to your meals, the food will taste better, too. As a bonus, you’ll be keeping your dollars in the local community, and supporting businesses that may be struggling in a post-COVID economy. Finally, a local, sustainably farmed roast or ham is always going to be better for the environment than factory farmed meat that has been shipped from thousands of miles away.

3. Get a Real Tree

Why? Real Christmas trees are more environmentally friendly than fake ones, which are made from plastic that will take hundreds of years to break down. But don’t get just any tree: some growers use up to 40 different pesticides and even add chemical colorants! Ask your local Christmas tree grower about their practices or search for a sustainable farm near you. Besides using less pesticides, a sustainable farm will plant more trees than they cut down each year. And those that they do harvest will be selectively cut in patches to maintain a healthy rotation. 

4. Switch to LED Holiday Lights

While Christmas lights don’t use as much electricity as some other decorations, switching to LED lights can save you around $50 on your holiday season energy bills because they use 90% less energy. Still not convinced? LEDs release very little heat and last about 200,000 hours, so you won’t have to replace them for a long time. And according to one study by the US Department of Energy, if everyone in the US replaced their conventional string lights with LEDs, it would save about 2 billion kWh of electricity each month.

5. Give Sustainable Christmas Gifts

Keep your holiday footprint small by purchasing locally crafted gifts from small businesses. And if you can’t find everything on your list close to home, check out our eco-friendly holiday gift guide for plenty of great ideas! Everything on the list is produced by our partners, which means that anything you purchase will plant a tree! And from top of the line skincare thats friendly to you and the planet, to stylish, high quality sustainable clothing and unique, well-made toys, there’s sure to be something for everyone on your list.

6. Make Sustainable Christmas Decorations

Get creative and use things that you have around the house to create your own unique, adorable Christmas decorations. This can be extra special, for example, if you use items from loved ones to create a memento ornament that will remind you of all the beautiful Christmas memories you have shared. It’s also a great project to keep kids busy when they’re on break from school, or a fun excuse to host a crafting party with your friends and family!

7. Send a Card That Plants Trees

As the holidays draw near, many of us may wish to send a card to commemorate the season.  But as appreciated as they are in the moment, cards often get thrown away once the holiday season is over. The solution? Send an eco friendly holiday greeting card that’s made from recycled or recyclable paper — or, choose from one of our several e-card options to go zero waste and plant a tree to boot!

8. Gift an Experience They Can Look Forward To

Gift something that can be enjoyed in the future, like tickets to a rescheduled game, comedy show, play, or concert, a fun day trip, a museum membership, guitar lessons, or even a gift card to a favorite local restaurant or business. You'll be supporting a local business and giving your recipient something to look forward to!

9. Handcraft Some Awesome DIY Gifts

With inflation affecting everyones budget this year, try creating a gift basket filled with homemade body care products like soaps, lotions, bath bombs, and lip glosses — or one filled with holiday cookies, infused liquors or extracts, fudge, spiced nuts, and more. Add some special touches like homemade ornaments, a favorite bottle of wine, or a book you loved this year, and it’s bound to please! 

10. Donate to Charity

Having trouble finding something for that certain person on your list who has everything?
There are so many awesome nonprofits and charities out there, so find one that resonates, and make a donation in their name! It doesn’t have to be a huge donation to be meaningful, but they sure will appreciate the thought that you put into it!

Have an environmentalist on your list? Consider planting trees in their name!

11. Do A Gift Swap

In the spirit of the season, sometimes we can get caught up in the excitement of buying what we think is the perfect gift. And perhaps you have a few of those “perfect” gifts in the back of your closet. Set some ground rules, and get a group of friends or neighbors together for a gift swap! You never know what treasures you might find.

12. Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Every year, over 10 million Christmas trees end up in landfills. We know that, especially when living in an urban setting, it can be challenging to properly dispose of your tree, but many municipalities offer solutions to this. So look into what local programs are available, like turning your tree into mulch or wood chips, or even donating it towards an environmental project like stream bank stabilization. 

13. Ditch the Cheap Stocking Stuffers

Often, stockings are filled with cheap plastic items that end up broken, lost, or discarded once the holiday season ends. Instead, fill them with delicious homemade treats and a few small, thoughtfully chosen gifts to round it out. Stockings are a fun part of the Christmas tradition, and with a little thought, they can be transformed from wasteful to awesome!

14. Adjust Your Thermostat

As the snow falls, we understandably respond by cranking up our thermostats. This year, get cozy with some Christmas themed PJs and a snuggly blanket by the fire. Play board games, tell Christmas stories, and take advantage of this chance to slow down and be together with your immediate family and pets. After all, that's what the holiday season is all about.

15. Enjoy an Eco Friendly Nightcap

Before you hit the eggnog with your usual gusto, look into quality local wines, liquors, and microbrews that are crafted using organic ingredients and sustainable practices. Local vintners, brewers, and distillers often use less additives and preservatives and incorporate regionally available ingredients, so you’ll be in for a special treat — and perhaps less of a post-holiday hangover. 

So there you have it! However you’re celebrating this year, we wish you a safe and joyful holiday season. Now get out there and start making those memories! And if you're already thinking about the next year, check out our tips on how to have a sustainable new year.

Looking to give a special, sustainable gift? Consider gifting a tree today!

Sustainable Christmas Checklist
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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!