Have Yourself an Eco-friendly Christmas


During the holiday season, I love the spirit of giving.

My favorite part about this time of year, is spending quality time with my family and friends, gift giving, and we can’t forget about the decorations. But many of our beloved holiday traditions are also very wasteful. In fact, the holidays are our most wasteful time of the year with Americans throwing away 25 million more tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s! It really is a time of the year when our consumer driven mindset is magnified. We don’t give much thought to how buying, packaging, shipping, and throwing away all of these goods effects our planet.

Like many factions of my life, I have been looking to, “greenify” my family’s holiday traditions and practice a more sustainable method of gift giving.

 I’m here to give you some tips, tricks, and products that will help you give those thoughtful gifts, and have those meaningful holiday experiences, all while being friendlier to the planet.

  1. Purchase second hand decorations, seasonal attire, and gifts. They don’t say, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” for nothing. That ugly Christmas sweater you need for that holiday party, that Nativity scene or Menorah for the mantle, are all things that can be found in really good condition from your local thrift stores. As people become more environmentally conscious and Marie Kondoing our lives becomes more popular, thrift stores have caught a major come up. There are some real gems to be found that can be given new life, rather than thrown in a landfill.
  1. Hold a clothing swap. It’s like a Secret Santa, but no one buys anything. Instead, you pick an item of clothing, jewelry, books, accessory, ANYTHING that is in good condition that you don’t use and give it as a gift. We all have something in our house that we don’t use anymore, shouldn’t have bought in the first place, or used like twice that may be something that someone we know really likes. In high school and college, I swapped clothes with my friends all of the time. It honestly felt like we were breathing new life into them, and that’s a really good feeling to have.

  2. Avoid gag gifts. This one is pretty straight forward. Gag gifts are cute or funny for five minutes, but then they end up right in the landfill. I’m pretty sure our holidays could be just as funny and as meaningful without them.

  3. Oh Christmas Tree! There are lots of things to consider when purchasing a Christmas tree. First, live trees are compostable. So if you want to go the traditional route of buying a chopped tree from a lot, make sure it ends up in your compost bin on trash pick up day. If you are looking for an even better option, rent a tree. They will give it to you in a pot of soil, and when you are done using it, it gets replanted for the next Christmas. Then there is the artificial tree route. In order to offset the CO2 emissions from the manufacturing of that tree, you need to use it for 10 Christmases. If you end up wanting to buy a new tree before that, donate the one you have. Someone will have read tip #1 and chosen to get a secondhand artificial tree this year.

  4. Give experiences > stuff. When thinking about that perfect gift to give a loved one, consider getting them tickets or passes to an experience they would like. I have heard, more than once, that Millennials tend to value experiences over stuff anyway, which has been argued as one of the factors that influenced the downfall of department stores. Travel, concerts, exhibits, even restaurants, local events, shows, there are so many forms of entertainment out there. Get someone tickets to something cool they may not have heard of, otherwise. I know those are my favorite types of gifts. I am a grown up, who can buy my own stuff and I know what I like. No need to gamble, with something that may be thrown out right after its unwrapped. Invest in helping someone create memories.

  5. Donate to a cause on someone’s behalf. There are many organizations that are doing good things for the world, in all sectors. Or maybe there is a cause that someone you know is passionate about. The World Wildlife Fund offers symbolic adoptions for tons of endangered wildlife species. Instead of buying them something, consider donating to a cause on their behalf.

  6. Shop locally. I love supporting small businesses, being a part of a small business community has been really fulfilling. When you support a small business, you are supporting an actual person and their livelihood, or fueling their passion. If I spend $20 at Target, it just gets dropped into a multi-billion dollar bucket. Not to mention, the shipping of all of these goods from corporations, like Amazon, is responsible for a ton of emissions and packaging waste. Find yourself a marketplace with vendors from your neighborhood and see the gifts you can find. Also, products of small businesses tend to made with love. Gift an artisanal candle, soaps, body butter, cosmetics, clothing, or jewelry this year.

  7. Zero waste products make great gifts. What’s really cool about the zero waste lifestyle is, it has become really trendy. Becoming zero waste can help simplify your counters and cabinets, while drastically reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our landfills and oceans. Mason jars are perfect containers to put chocolates, spices, bath salts, laundry powders, etc. Bamboo toothbrushes, reusable makeup removal pads, reusable paper towels with super cute designs are all examples of gifts that can help one of your loved ones take the first step to limiting their waste. Below are some links to the cutest zero-low waste products that I think would make some awesome gifts.

  8. Christmas crafts made from upcycled, repurposed, or biodegradable materials. Every year, I like to have my kids give gifts to family members and friends that are from them. It’s important for me to teach them the holidays aren’t just about them getting presents. However, they don’t make their own money and with the added financial strain that comes with gift giving I need the kid gifts to be as inexpensive as possible. So, instead of buying them gifts and say they’re from the kids, we make gifts together. Cookies, ornaments, picture frames, air fresheners can be made from repurposed, recycled, upcycled, and/or biodegradable materials and are a great activity to incorporate during your holiday traditions.

  9. Giftwrap. Say no to cheap, single use wrapping paper! It’s wrapped in single use plastic, and it looks pretty under the tree and then it goes straight into a landfill. To truly reduce your waste, wrap gifts in fabric or scarves. There is also the option of repurposing recyclable materials like paper grocery bags or newspaper as gift wrap. I, personally, have saved every gift bag I have ever gotten and I use those for presents we hand out. I rarely ever have to buy gift bags or tissue paper for that reason.

Enjoying the holidays doesn’t mean it has to put a damper on your holiday traditions. Buy less and consciously. Be informed and spread the word! Happy Holidays and cheers to becoming eco-friendlier in 2020!