It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the holiday movies, Christmas lights, hot cocoa, and gift giving during this time of year. But have you ever stopped to think about how much our holiday cheer is harming the planet? With all of our traveling, dinner parties, and decorating, we produce way more trash and carbon emissions than we typically do. However, it doesn’t have to be that way! Having a sustainable holiday season is way simpler than you may think. All it takes is a few swaps and you’re on the road to going green for Christmas. Read on to learn how to celebrate an eco-friendly holiday this year with 10 amazing sustainability tips for a sustainable Christmas.
1. Stay Home
Every year, over 100 million North Americans travel by car, train, and planes to see their family for the holidays. Tourism (which includes transportation and accommodation) has a huge carbon footprint. It is actually responsible for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This year make it an eco-friendly holiday by spending it in the comfort of your own home with the people you live with. If you are planning to travel, see if you can use public transportation such as a bus or train instead of driving or flying. If you have to fly, try offsetting your carbon emissions by calculating your travel emissions and donating to projects that aim to reduce greenhouse gasses.
While not traveling to visit family for the holidays would usually sound like an absurd idea, 2020 is the first time it’s actually better to stay home. Not only will you be helping the environment, but you’ll also be protecting yourself and loved ones from contracting COVID-19!
2. Avoid One-time Use Wrapping Paper
One of the most popular tips for a sustainable Christmas is re-thinking what you wrap your gifts in. Most of us can agree that cute, glittery wrapping paper and gift bags stuffed with tissue look amazing. Unfortunately, they’re incredibly bad for our environment. While many of us believe our wrapping paper is recyclable, this usually isn’t the case. Most paper is lined with plastic or has glitter or foil which makes it non-recyclable. In fact, over 200,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away each year! Even wrapping paper that is recycled usually ends up in a landfill anyway. This is because it’s super thin and full of ink.
Instead of using gift bags or wrapping paper that will just end up being thrown out, there are a ton of eco-friendly holiday gift wrapping alternatives! If you have leftover scraps of newspaper, wallpaper, tissue paper, paper grocery bags, fabric, or pillowcases, you could use any of these materials to wrap a gift. You can also think about wrapping your gifts in another gift! Baskets, scarves, towels, and bins can all be used to wrap your gift and it acts as a bonus present! Plus, you will save a ton of money by not having to buy traditional wrapping paper.
3. Shop Small
Shopping at local businesses in your area is probably one of the most important tips for a sustainable Christmas. There are a ton of environmental and economic reasons to buy your gifts locally. One of these reasons is reducing carbon footprint. Just think about it, when you shop at a large company one product has to be shipped multiple times (usually on planes) to finally make it to your doorstep.
When you shop locally, small businesses will either make their merchandise themselves or have it shipped directly to their store for purchase instead of to a warehouse and then to you. Also, local residents typically work at small businesses which means they’re not commuting far away and contributing to pollution. On top of environmental benefits, shopping small also contributes to your local economy. It helps to create local jobs and keeping the money in your area. Plus, you’re supporting someone’s hopes and dreams which is majorly important in a year like this.
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4. Gift Experiences, Not Items
By gifting experiences instead of tangible gifts, you’re cutting down on the need to wrap and go out and shop. Instead of purchasing a gift that has to be shipped, wrapped, and may end up getting thrown out at the end of its lifespan, an experience is a chance to spend time together and gift a memory that they’ll never forget. Everyone can try out this sustainability tips.
Some common experience gifts include sporting events, concerts, trips, tickets to museums or zoos, cooking lessons, and more. You can really get creative with this and tailor it to the receiver’s interests and hobbies. Experience gifting not only makes for a sustainable holiday season, but it also usually supports local, small businesses that may be struggling during this time!
5. Switch to LED
If your current holiday lights are in need of replacement, a simple tip for a sustainable Christmas is switching to energy-saving lights instead! LED lights use less energy than standard holiday lights do because of the way they’re made with light-emitting diodes. What this means is that they’re heatless and more electricity goes towards producing the light rather than generating heat. So, expect to use less electricity when switching over.
LED bulbs emit less greenhouse gases than standard light bulbs. They actually last 50x longer than standard bulbs which means you won’t have to throw away and replace them as often. LED bulbs are better for the environment and your wallet. Therefore, it is pretty much a no brainer to switch when you’re in the market for new lights.
6. Buy Local Food
Similar to buying gifts from small businesses, try getting your holiday dinner from local food markets. Buying locally grown or sourced food has a ton of benefits for the environment. First and foremost, buying local food reduces food miles. This results in less air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and our dependence on fossil fuels.
Purchasing locally grown produce also ensures that local farms are there to stay instead of possibly turning into commercial or industrial buildings. Also, farms act as a home for many different animals and insects. Lastly, many local farms and food markets tend to stay away from using harmful pesticides and chemicals when growing their food because they know their consumer understands how their food is being grown, unlike food grown thousands of miles away.
7. Get Creative
Another tip for a sustainable Christmas is to get creative with your gift giving! Make it a more sustainable holiday season by making homemade and DIY gifts. With the help of the internet, there are tons of DIY gifts ideas like candles, soaps, blankets, scarves, body scrubs, and literally anything else you can think of. Giving homemade gifts helps out the environment, costs you less, and feels more personal than gifting something you bought from a store.
8. Buy Less
If you’re not the DIY type (which is totally understandable), try buying big gifts instead of multiple little ones. Sometimes it can feel more special to be able to open up a bunch of smaller gifts, but that contributes more to your consumption and they’re more likely to get thrown away sooner. Buy one or two larger items as opposed to several less expensive gifts and the receiver will be just as or even more excited!
9. Reduce Food Waste
In Canada, it’s been found that we throw out nearly 900 pounds of food per person every year making us one of the biggest food wasting countries! And because the holidays are a time when people usually come together to eat big meals, this is a crucial time to cut down on food waste. Reducing food waste is an easy way to try going green for Christmas.
If you’re looking to celebrate a sustainable holiday season, your first step is to stay away from single-use utensils, plates, napkins, and cups. While it’s definitely a hassle to have to wash all of the dishes, single use plastic creates so much waste and a lot of it is non-recyclable. When buying food for your feasts, try not to overbuy and only get what you know you’ll eat. If you have leftovers that you won’t eat, try giving it back to those in need or if it’s gone bad, compost it! Essentially anything to keep food out of the landfill is a win.
10. Reuse or Recycle Your Tree
Believe it or not, buying real Christmas trees makes for a more eco-friendly holiday than artificial ones. While you would think cutting down real trees every year is less green than using the same artificial one year after year, it’s actually the opposite. It’s even been found that you would have to own your fake tree for 20 years for it to be more sustainable than a real one.
The reason for this is because many artificial trees are shipped overseas to North America from China. This results in an increase of carbon emissions. Because fake trees are made out of a special kind of plastic, many are non-recyclable while real trees are easy to re-use or recycle. Also, buying real trees supports tree farms who keep their land covered in a healthy forest habitat! It’s basically a win all around. With this easy sustainability tip you are on your way to going green for Christmas.
If you decide to opt for a real tree, see if you can buy one that’s locally grown. That way it doesn’t require much transportation. Once the holidays are over, search for a local tree drop-off center in your area. The trees recycled here are usually put through a chipper to be used as mulch.
If you’d rather make personal use of your tree, you could totally do that as well! You can make mulch for your yard out of the needles, chop up your tree for firewood, create DIY coasters, and really anything else you can think of using wood! Recycling or re-using your tree is the perfect way to end your sustainable holiday season.
Use These Tips for a Sustainable Christmas
Let me know if you have any suggestions to add to this guide to going green for Christmas. I hope it will help you celebrate a sustainable holiday season using these sustainability tips. Please share these tips for a sustainable Christmas! You might also like to read about Ways to Start to Live More Sustainably.