The holiday season brings joy, but also often excess waste and carbon emissions. This year, challenge yourself to celebrate more sustainably and minimize your environmental impact. Small changes to gifts, travel, decor, and gatherings can reduce your carbon footprint and support local communities. Follow these tips for an eco-friendly holiday season.

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Small evergreen tree in a tea cup.

Zero-Waste + Eco-Friendly Gifts

1. Craft Homemade Gifts

Get crafty this holiday season by making your own gifts and avoiding purchasing mass-produced items. Upcycling materials into unique handmade gifts like ornaments, knitted scarves, or handmade bookmarks not only reduces waste but also showcases your creativity. These sustainable and thoughtful presents generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions than store-bought items, making them a positive impact on the environment.

Homemade cookie ingredients in a glass jar with label.

2. Shop For Sustainable Gift Materials

When crafting gifts or buying locally made artisan wares, prioritize sustainably sourced natural materials like FSC-certified wood, organic cotton, recycled metals, and upcycled components. By supporting local artists and businesses that follow ethical production methods, you contribute to the well-being of your local community and reduce the exploitation of the environment.

3. Support Local Shops and Markets

Make a conscious effort to skip big retailers and shop small, local businesses for your holiday gifts. Supporting your community’s economy has a much lower carbon footprint than purchasing from massive warehouses. Explore unique and sustainable options in your area, and consider gift certificates to local restaurants or concert tickets as the perfect gifts for your loved ones.

4. Gift Experiences and Quality Time

Consider giving the gift of experiences rather than physical items. Tickets to local events, restaurant vouchers, or activity passes create lasting memories without contributing to the accumulation of new items. By choosing experiential gifts, you not only reduce the pounds of wrapping paper waste but also encourage sustainable tourism and support local businesses.

5. Avoid Excess Gift Packaging

Cut down on wrapping paper waste by using recycled, reusable gift bags and wraps. Upcycle colorful scrap fabrics, newspapers, and maps for creative, eco-friendly wrapping. Curb packaging waste by gifting unwrapped items.

Holiday gift wrapped in kraft paper with fresh flowers on top.

6. Choose Eco-Friendly Gifts

Wrap your presents creatively using sustainable materials like recycled newspapers, magazine pages, or fabric scraps. This easy way of wrapping gifts showcases your thoughtfulness and reduces the need for plastic bags or glossy disposable paper. Don’t forget to add reusable embellishments like ribbons or your own reusable tote bag.

7. Wrap Creatively

Get inspired wrapping gifts creatively in recycled newspapers, magazine pages, scrap fabrics, and other upcycled materials instead of glossy disposable paper. Add reusable embellishments like ribbons.

Christmas gift wrapped in linen fabric with dried oranges on top.

8. Give Charitable Donations

Consider donating to environmental charities or carbon offset programs in the recipient’s name. These meaningful gifts align with the spirit of Earth Day and have a lasting positive impact on the environment. Alternatively, gift certificates that allow your loved ones to plant trees or support sustainability organizations are wonderful ways to celebrate the holiday season while being eco-friendly.

9. Purchase Digital Gift Cards

Opt for digital gift cards sent by email over plastic cards to reduce waste. Support local shops, restaurants, and experiences. Set gift card amounts to cover green upgrades.

10. Ask For Eco-Friendly Wish Lists

Encourage gift recipients to provide eco-friendly wish lists of experiences, donations, memberships, and sustainable products they’d love. This prevents needless unwanted items.

Energy Efficient Decor

11. Use Energy Efficient Decorations

Opt for LED holiday lights, which consume up to 90% less electricity than incandescent bulbs. Not only do they save energy and dollars, but they also contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. LED lights are a more sustainable option that can be used year after year, minimizing waste and excessive consumption.

12. Decorate Sustainably

Create holiday decor from nature using responsibly harvested magnolia, pinecones, leaves, and evergreen boughs. Avoid plastic decorations that end up in landfills. Upcycle and repurpose items around your home into decor year after year.

13. Rent Festive Decorations

Rent or borrow holiday lights, lawn inflatables, and other decorations to avoid purchasing new ones each season. Many lighting stores offer installation and take-down services too. Renting reduces waste and storage space needed.

14. Use Responsibly Sourced Trees

Instead of opting for a fake tree made from plastic or a cut real Christmas tree, think about investing in a potted tree that you can enjoy all year long and plant outdoors afterward. Potted trees are the most sustainable way to celebrate the holiday season while still having a beautiful centerpiece in your home.

Live Christmas tree in a basket with decorations on the branches.

Go Green For Gatherings

15. Send E-Holiday Cards

Instead of sending traditional paper cards, opt for stylish email digital holiday cards through services like Paperless Post to avoid paper waste. Include a personal message and family photo, spreading holiday cheer in a sustainable and eco-friendly way. Digital cards can be sent earlier in the season, reducing the need for rush deliveries.

16. Use Reusable Serveware

Host eco-friendly holiday parties by avoiding single-use plates, cutlery, and cups. Instead, opt for washable serve ware, cloth napkins, and table linens. Set up clearly marked recycling bins for guests to properly sort waste, encouraging a more sustainable gathering.

Place setting of white plates with a natural linen napkins and gold cutlery.

17. Cook Proper Portions

Carefully plan your holiday menus and quantities to reduce excess food waste. Get creative with repurposing leftovers into tasty new dishes instead of tossing excess. Compost unavoidable organic food waste to minimize your environmental impact.

18. Donate Unused Items

Gently used decor, clothing, and other post-holiday items can be donated instead of discarded. Local charities, thrift stores, and shelters gratefully redistribute these items to community members in need, making a positive impact on your local community.

19. Host A Sustainable Holiday Feast

Plan your holiday meal with sustainability in mind. Cook plant-based dishes using locally sourced, in-season produce to reduce your carbon footprint. Compost unavoidable organic food waste, and minimize food waste by repurposing leftovers into tasty new dishes. By hosting a green holiday feast, you show your commitment to eco-friendly practices and help combat climate change.

Decorated Christmas tree inside a home.

Embrace Sustainable Travel Methods

When traveling for the holidays, consider more sustainable travel options. Minimize air travel’s massive carbon dioxide emissions by choosing to vacation locally or using ground transportation like buses and trains. Look for eco-friendly accommodations that support local communities and embrace sustainable tourism practices.

20. Carpool to Gatherings

Offer rides or coordinate carpools to minimize vehicles on the road when attending holiday concerts, worship services, parties, and events. Carpooling significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions from driving and is a sustainable way to travel.

21. Take Public Transit

Utilize public transportation like trains, buses, and subways for holiday errands and gatherings whenever possible. Public transit not only avoids carbon emissions from individual driving but also allows you to relax en route and be more environmentally friendly.

22. Choose Eco-Friendly Holiday Travel

Minimize air travel’s massive carbon emissions by vacationing locally for the holidays when possible. Take buses, trains, and other ground transport to sustainable accommodations that support local economies.

23. Adjust Thermostat

Lower your thermostat several degrees when away traveling for the holidays to conserve home energy. Programmable and smart thermostats can automatically make temperature adjustments for you, contributing to energy efficiency.

24. Bring Reusable Items

Pack reusable water bottles, mugs, bags, and food containers to avoid single-use plastics and excess waste during your holiday travels or shopping. By using reusable items, you prevent plastic pollution and demonstrate your commitment to sustainability.

Woman holding reusable travel mug.

25. Book Sustainable Lodging

Research eco-resorts, hotels, campgrounds, and cabins with strong environmental policies when booking holiday accommodations. Choose places using renewable energy, serving local cuisine, and helping communities.

Continue Sustainable Habits Beyond the Holidays

Remember that the principles of sustainable living apply beyond the holiday season. Continue to shop online sustainably, research sustainable companies, and make sustainability a priority in your day-to-day life. By integrating these habits into your lifestyle, you contribute to a greener and more eco-friendly world.

26. Recycle and Upcycle Thoughtfully

Properly sort holiday waste like wrapping paper, electronics, batteries, and Christmas trees for recycling. Check local guidelines on what’s accepted. Give non-recyclables new life by creatively repurposing and upcycling materials.

Woman writing on a card "reduce, reuse, recycle".

27. Carefully Store Decorations

Gently pack delicate ornaments and decorations for next season’s use. Store decor in cool, dry locations to prevent damage from heat and moisture. Fold and reuse boxes to reduce storage waste.

28. Set Sustainability Goals

Reflect on eco-friendly successes, and pledge sustainability resolutions for the new year. Small daily changes like limiting plastics, food waste, and vehicle use multiply to reduce your carbon footprint.

29. Shop Online Sustainably

If shopping online, look for eco-friendly shipping options like consolidated deliveries, plastic-free packaging, and carbon offsets.

30. Research Sustainable Companies

When planning vacations, investigate cruise lines, tour companies, hotels, and destinations with strong environmental policies. Choose places to help local communities.

31. Host a Charitable Holiday Party

Set up a festive holiday giving tree with tags suggesting donations to good causes rather than purchase requests. Research charities with low overhead costs.

32. Cook Eco-Friendly Feasts

Cook plant-based holiday meals with locally sourced, in-season produce to reduce your carbon footprint. Compost all food scraps properly.

33. Share Holiday Cheer Digitally

Use social media and email to share holiday greetings and photos with distant loved ones. Attach e-cards to ship gifts rather than sending paper cards.

34. Give Educational and Eco-Friendly Gifts

Give children gifts that encourage creativity and environmental values, like art supplies, science kits, and toys made from natural materials. Experience gifts like zoo passes provide lasting memories.

Woman wrapping gifts in kraft paper, tied with fabric ribbon.

35. Make Sustainability a Priority

Pledge to make sustainability a priority in the new year. Small changes multiply into real reductions to your carbon footprint over months and years.

Have a meaningful and eco-friendly holiday season! With creativity and thoughtfulness, we can celebrate in more sustainable ways that honor traditions while caring for the planet.

More Sustainable Living Posts

Final Words

The holiday season offers many opportunities to reduce waste and be more environmentally mindful. With creativity and intention, we can find meaningful ways to celebrate that align with eco-friendly values and sustainability.

Choosing locally made gifts, reusable decorations, energy-efficient lighting, and potted trees reduces plastic waste and supports small businesses and local communities. Rethinking travel plans, sending e-cards digitally, and repurposing leftovers into new dishes decrease carbon emissions and excess.

Little changes multiply for the greater good. This holiday season, give the planet some much-needed good news by making climate-conscious swaps. You’ll be surprised how easy, rewarding, and positive greening your holidays can be. Spread holiday cheer along with tips for building sustainable habits that uplift communities and conserve natural resources.

Make 2023 the year your family and friends commit to eco-friendly holidays and new traditions with less consumerism and more purpose. By next Christmas, you may find holiday shopping looks more like thoughtful homemade gifts, dining centers on plant-based feasts, and travel means unplugged local outings. A greener holiday is a happier one.

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