Oh, man! I love this time of year; each new season feels like a reset and the shift in nature and its beauty always makes me happy. But the holidays come with lots of purchases from decorations, gifts, travel, and everything in between. Today I’m going to give you a whack of eco friendly holiday tips to help survive the holidays naturally!
Tips to reduce waste at holiday parties
1. Turn your heat down before guests arrive
People naturally give off body heat and when people are enclosed in a house together your home is bound to get hotter. Reduce your thermostat by a few degrees and by the time all your guests arrive your house will be naturally heated throughout the duration of their visit.
2. Cook meals with zero waste in mind
When cooking food for your guests try to plan as best you can to utilize the food you have. If you plan on cooking a turkey or a ham for the holidays, make sure to utilize any bones for soup broth the next day and leftover veggies can be saved and used in any sort of soup or recipe you plan to use. A huge part of being eco-friendly, especially during the holiday is avoiding food waste and you can easily achieve this by considering zero waste recipes.
3. Eat in-season produce
A good rule of thumb is to always eat food that is in season, by doing so you cut back on the overproduction of fruits and vegetables that farmers make. If strawberries are in season that means that they are naturally produced and likely come from local farmers if it’s out of season they are imported in and that means chemicals on your fruit to make it last longer in transportation.
4. Use eco-friendly food storage
Holidays = food and lots of it and with food comes leftovers, which can lead to a lot of plastic waste. Try swapping out your plastic wrap with beeswax wraps, these are the perfect switch because they can be hand washed and reused! Another food storage swap to consider is plastic free storage containers like upcycled glass jars or high-quality glass containers.
5. Use eco-friendly cookware
Avoid using pots and pans that are Teflon (thank you DuPont), this is any non-stick cookware that is made from polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). PTFE is hormone-disrupting and carcinogenic, to make things worse once it is in the environment it never leaves. Go for an eco-friendly cookware option like a cast iron pan, I recommend Finex (they have wonderful other cookware options) and xtrema if you are looking for the best bang for your buck. They specialize in glass and ceramics.
6. Rent a dress for holiday parties
Both you and your spouse could have holiday parties for your workplaces and on top of that, you could be invited to other parties that require you to have multiple dresses, this holiday season try renting a dress! This promotes using a dress that someone likely wore to one event and hung on the hanger and didn’t wear again, renting a dress also cuts back on the impact of the environment from textile waste.
7. Avoid glass bottles during the holidays
Wine is a staple at the holidays, but did you know that glass bottles are four times as damaging to the environment as plastic? It’s hard to believe I know, but it takes far more energy to break down glass than it does for plastic. For your upcoming events try eco-friendly alternatives to glass wine bottles like buying canned wine, great for BYOB and if you don’t want to use your wine glasses or even boxed wine. Cardboard is much easier to break down and can be used in your compost… a bonus here is one boxed wine is usually 4 bottles.
8. Sustainable Alcohol
There are some really great companies out there doing what they can to cut down on their environmental impact. There is a hefty carbon footprint that comes with the production of spirits, the elaborate packaging, and distilling and then transporting the liquor takes a large toll on the environment.
Consider a company like Two Drifters Rum, Nc'Nean whiskey, and Discarded Spirits. Each of these companies finds some way of reducing their impact, two drifters have a carbon negative footprint, Nc’Nean handcrafts its whiskey using only local and organic materials (their packaging is also 100% recycled glass), and Discarded Spirits turns wasted ingredients and turns into spirits.
9. Use real dishware
I get it, the holidays are hard enough without washing loads of dishes after the company comes over but using plastic cups and paper plates is just not a great option! Try using the dishware you already have, or you can even thrift cutlery and plates if you’re worried about something happening to your everyday dishware items.
Eco Friendly Holiday Tips for Décor
10. Thrift your décor
Okay, I am a sucker for cute décor and anything that can bring some sort of resemblance of the holidays to my home but what I don’t like, is the price and the fact that I might use it for a month. The holidays come and go so quickly and if you’re buying something new every time one rolls around, you’re leaving a hole in your wallet, and you could be harming the environment.
Mass-produced items especially around the holidays are major energy wasters and contribute to greenhouse gasses. Not to mention the waste that comes from people not buying everything that is produced. This year try thrifting your holiday décor. You can stick to a color pallet or even find subtle ways to mix in the holiday season with dishes with leaves for fall, or glasses with snowflakes for winter.
11. DIY décor
Make your own! This is a great way to involve kids or other members of your family. It’s really easy to get creative and find something to make with the stuff you already have. You can make a front door wreath from the nature around you, collect fallen sticks and leaves, grab a hot glue gun, and have fun with it! Use your kids' paints and old wood or lumber to make snowmen paintings, spooky Halloween paintings, or some cute bunnies for easter.
12. Repurpose old décor
Have some older décor items that are just not in as good of shape as they used to be? Don’t throw them out, repurpose them! If you have something that you can throw on a coat of paint to make it look brand new, do that first. Maybe you have a holiday sign that has seen better days, try sanding it down, repainting it, and putting your own saying on it.
13. Make a stocking from old clothing
If you celebrate Christmas or use stockings to give gifts, then try making your own from old clothing items you have! One of my friends has a beautiful family tradition where her grandmother makes stockings for her grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. She carefully crafts them and puts each child’s name on them. Instead of sourcing new fabric cut from pieces of old fabrics, you have from sweaters to socks, heck even jeans!
14. Buy live items
You can buy live wreaths instead of buying artificial ones and ones made from plastic. When you do this, you can cut back on your plastic intake, and you can recycle or even compost them when you’re finished. Consider decorating your home with in-season plants or fruits, you can use small pumpkins as a centerpiece and use them for later when you’re cooking!
15. Try LED lights
LED lights withstand the test of time, this is an eco-friendlier alternative to buying traditional holiday lights. LEDs are less prone to burnout and tend to last longer than regular light, they also are a lot better for the environment and can help reduce that carbon dioxide emissions from traditional lights.
16. Make homemade ornaments
This is a good time to utilize what you already have, especially good if you have kids because you can get them involved. You can use up old oranges you have and dry them out to make a natural ornament or use old craft items like pom poms, string, popsicle sticks, or even old pictures that you could make frames for.
17. Collect items from nature
There is a lot you can do with nature that surrounds you. In North America, we are fortunate enough to have an abundance of pinecones, leaves, and berries growing on bushes… so naturally, it makes it really easy to collect these things and make them into beautiful décor.
18. Reusable wrapping paper
Yes, I am considering this décor, I always aspire to a certain aesthetic when it comes to wrapping gifts and I love it when it all ties together with my holiday vibe. Wrapping paper is a huge waste of paper products in your home and no one really ever thinks to recycle it. On Christmas normally a garbage bag comes out and in goes your wrapping paper. Try using a reusable option this year like Shiki Wrap, this makes for a fantastic zero-waste gift-wrapping option!
19. Eco-friendly Christmas tree
When most people think eco-friendly Christmas tree their mind automatically thinks of an artificial tree because you only have to purchase it one time… that isn’t the case. Most artificial trees are made from PVC which is not good for the environment, PVC is linked to fossil fuels and contains several known carcinogens. Go for a real tree because there are lots of resources to recycle your Christmas tree after use or you can also rent a tree (I know you can rent literally anything on the internet right now).
20. Reusable advent calendar
I have fond memories of a child opening my advent calendar and getting a little chocolate inside it every day leading up to Christmas. Looking back on it now, it was a lot of plastic and paper waste. Try swapping out the traditional advent calendars for something more practical like a reusable one, I have seen beautifully crafted wood ones with little drawers you can pull out that you can put goodies in.
Eco-friendly Gifts Ideas
Okay so there are a number of articles on my blog where you can find eco-friendly gifts, but I will mention a few that you might not have seen yet!
21. Make something
I think if covid taught us all anything it was to value what we had more than what we needed considering it was almost impossible to go to the store and buy something or even order it online for that matter. The holidays truly are about family or time for yourself, so consider making a loved one something, it sounds cheesy but the value in knowing that you took the time to handcraft something means far more than something with a price tag.
22. Stick to practical
Stick to practical items that you know someone will use often and get as much life from them as possible. If you know that the person you’re buying for has needed a new winter coat for some time but might not be able to afford it or simply won’t bite the bullet, consider an eco-friendly option. Eco-friendly options tend to last longer and do everything they can to reduce their impact on the environment, you can also use this opportunity to give them eco-friendly items that they might not have tried before like eco-friendly cookware.
23. Thrift it
Yup, you read that right, thrift the item. There are so many good finds at thrift stores these days that you could pick up something really great and spend a lot less money doing so. You also won’t be giving in to increasing the profits of billion-dollar corporations that use holidays to increase prices on typical items.
24. E-gift cards
I love this idea for the college student in your life, secret Santa at work, or when you’re doing a gift exchange with friends. I know a lot of you might be thinking “that’s impersonal” but with the current state of inflation and rising prices of items, someone in your life might really appreciate a gas e-gift card or a grocery one. Heck, I would have killed for one when I was a broke student at university.
By going the e-gift card route too you can eliminate the plastic, and if you want to give them something per se you can always print off the gift card code and put it in a homemade card.
25. Avoid big box stores
Amazon may be easy to get your stuff from, but dang do they put out a lot of emissions especially with their delivery drivers working every day, just think about how many drivers and vans they have to purchase, fuel, and drive daily for x number of hours to deliver everyone’s package next day.
Try an ethical alternative to Amazon by buying local and supporting them first, after all, they contribute most to the community, use sites like Etsy to support small businesses from other places, or reach out to friends who could use the extra money and are talented. I have a friend who makes beautiful crochet animals for kids, and I would much rather pay her than support Toys R Us during the holidays.
26. Buy something neutral
This largely applies to all things baby, if you are gifting for a baby or a toddler and you know the family is expecting again or if they will be expanding their family in the future, try buying organic baby clothes that are neutral in color or don’t have graphics on them that identify the gender. This is perfect to get the most life out of clothing.
27. Buy wooden toys
Plastic-free playtime is more beneficial than you think, plastic toys contain so many chemicals that are truly not good for your little ones, especially if they are soft plastics. Be on the lookout for ethically sourced wooden toys that carry an FSC certification.
28. Gift plants
Plants are therapeutic and they last such a long time (if the receiver has a green thumb), make sure that if the plant receiver has animals you choose a non-toxic houseplant that is safe for pets.
29. Know your gift receiver
If this person is a minimalist, give them something that you know would be a welcomed addition to their home or lifestyle. If you have a relative that loves books, give them an eco-friendly book that they can get lost in. Really understanding who you are gifting and paying attention to their lifestyle is almost like a cheat sheet of what they will like, and you can avoid that awkward moment when you know they don’t really like what you got them.
Why consider eco-friendly holiday tips?
Look, the holidays, as fun as they are, can be stressful and hectic. I will take any tip I can get to make it easier. It’s no surprise that holidays come with a ton of waste… more than you probably think, during the holiday season Americans throw out 25% more waste than any other time of year.
This is not limited to your wrapping paper that consumes your home after presents are opened or the food waste that occurs when you have parties and family feasts, this includes shopping bags, tinsel, decorations, ribbons, faux spider webs, candy, and so much more!
So, what about returns? We are all human and sometimes the things we buy for others don’t fit, or you take a gamble and get something that someone might not like, and they want to return it.
But did you know that returns take a large impact on the environment, only 54% of packaging is recycled and an estimated 5 billion pounds of returned items will end up in landfills each year.
Christmas lights are really pretty, and we have all I’m sure got in our cars or toted around to look at the pretty lights and see people's holiday displays, but I would bet that no one stopped to wonder how bad this really is for the environment. String lights produce enough carbon dioxide to fill 15,500 hot air balloons and increase light pollution by 50%.
I could go on and on about every little thing that makes the holidays not so eco-friendly, but you get the point.
A final thought on eco-friendly holiday tips
The holidays are challenging enough as it is and trying to embrace a more conscious and sustainable holiday season comes with its own set of challenges. The important thing here is that you utilize a couple of tips and each holiday try to add a couple more tips to get you to the most eco-friendly holiday season that you can. Being eco-friendly is not about being perfect, it's just about trying and making the effort.
I hope that these eco-friendly holiday tips help you out this holiday season and you can pass along your newfound tips to someone else in your life! Please give this article a share to spread the joy of going eco-friendly for the holidays!