15 Ideas for
Sustainable Holidays

Meaghan Weeden | November 10, 2021 | 5 min read

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. But have no fear! You can make plenty of wonderful sustainable Christmas memories while having a lower environmental impact.

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


eco friendly gift wrap

1. Use Sustainable Holiday Gift Wrap

What looks beautiful under your tree, is decidedly less so elsewhere: most mass-produced wrapping paper and gift bags are printed with unsustainable inks and coated with shiny foils — which are not recyclable. Get creative and wrap gifts with materials you have around the house, like old maps, comics, or even original artwork. You can also use any pretty, clean fabric like scarves, bandannas, or dish towels for a totally reusable wrapping. Create your own bows from strips of colorful paper and accessorize with twine, pressed leaves, and pinecones.

christmas dinner

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 those who may have been hit by or are still recovering from COVID-related economic shutdowns.
Finally, a local, sustainably farmed roast or ham is much better for the environment than factory farm meat grown 1,000 miles away. 

christmas tree farm

3. Get a Real Tree

Why? Real Christmas trees are more environment friendly than fake ones, which are made from plastic and 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 seller 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 healthy forests. 

christmas lights

4. Switch to LED Holiday Lights

While Christmas lights don’t use as much electricity as other things, 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 DOE, if everyone in the US replaced their conventional string lights with LEDs, it would save about 2 billion  kWh of electricity each month.

christmas gifts

5. Give Sustainable Christmas Gifts

Keep your holiday footprint small by purchasing locally crafted gifts from family 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 awesome tree-inspired apparel to the smoothest bourbon and beautifully produced sustainable headphones, there’s sure to be something for everyone on your list.

homemade christmas ornament

6. Make Sustainable Christmas Decorations

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

one tree planted christmas card

7. Send a Tree Card!

As the holidays draw near, many wish to send a card to commemorate the season. And this year, when most of us won't be seeing each other face to face, sending a greeting card may feel especially important. But as appreciated as they are, many cards get thrown away once the 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!

concert goer

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!

christmas gift basket

9. Handcraft Some Awesome DIY Gifts

With supply chain issues looming large, 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! And the best part? Homemade gifts can be as fun to make and give as they are to receive.

christmas donation

10. Donate to Charity

Having trouble finding something for that certain person on your list that has everything?
There are so many awesome nonprofits and charities out there, so find one that resonates with them, 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 some trees in their name!

clothing swap

11. Do a GIFT SWAP

Socially distanced, of course. 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 hanging around collecting dust. Set some ground rules, arrange safe drop off points, and get some friends together for a virtual swap! You’ll clear clutter after the holidays — and you never know what you might end up with!

riparian restoration recycled christmas tree

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. 

christmas stockings

13. Ditch the Cheap Stocking Stuffers

Often, stockings are filled with cheap plastic items that end up broken, lost, or in the garbage 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!

christmas pajamas

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 if you have a fireplace. Play board games, tell Christmas stories, and take advantage of this chance to slow down and be together with your immediate family and pets. That's what the holiday season is all about, right?

egg nog

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!

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Gift Trees

Gifting a tree in someone's name is a heart-felt and everlasting way to show your appreciation. Make someone smile with delight knowing they are helping to create a healthier planet! Choose an image below, write your message, and gift a tree. Learn more

By gifting a tree, you will help to:

  • Reforest areas affected by environmental disasters
  • Restore native biodiversity to protect holistic ecosystems
  • Boost the liveliness of local communities
  • Trees play a very important role in our lives; they clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, and provide habitat to more than 80% of the world's terrestrial biodiversity. Not to mention, forests provide jobs to over 1.6 billion people, absorb harmful carbon from the atmosphere, and are key ingredients in 25% of all medicines.
  • The trees you are helping to plant will create an incredible positive impact for nature, people, and wildlife. Since the need for reforestation is global and always changing, we will distribute your donation to a project where funding is most needed now.
  • Both you and the giftee will receive a personalized tree certificate (see gallery) with the recipient's name to thank you for your donation. The giftee will get a custom e-card created by you on your date of choice. We will also send you updates about this project, so you can track the impact your trees are having on the community and environment.
  • In order to maximize the impact of your donation across our multiple projects, we will plant a variety of tree species native to the area that we are reforesting. For example, we plant Polylepsis trees in the Andes since they have adapted to the extremely high altitude. We sometimes plant fruit trees in Africa for agroforestry in order to generate long-term benefits for local communities. In India, Avicennia alba mangroves are planted along the coast as they are resistant to the impact of lower tidal currents.

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