As the Christmas season approaches, so do opportunities to buy, consume, and throw away stuff. This year, we’re inviting you to be mindful of ways where you can reduce the waste, be thoughtful about where the gifts you buy are coming from, and think about the health of the planet when you’re planning your holiday gatherings.
Looking to opt out of the wastefulness of the season and embrace a more conscious and eco friendly Christmas? Here are some ideas to help you find new, fun and sustainable traditions!
Gifts are a huge part of this holiday season, and a huge contributor to waste. Every year in this country, millions of gifts are given and then promptly thrown out because they didn’t fit, weren’t needed, or broke. This year, why not focus on conscious gift giving and avoid the waste!
Shop locally whenever possible. Not only is this good for the local economy, but it also prevents a lot of packaging waste! How many boxes and sheets of bubble wrap have you thrown out in previous years? Shopping at small, local businesses means you can see, feel, and smell exactly what you’re buying. It also means that you won’t burden yourself or the planet with emissions from shipping or a whole pile of packaging.
When buying physical gifts, look for quality. The best gift for your loved ones – and the environment – is one that lasts. Search your local craft markets for high-quality, handcrafted gifts, or peruse small independent shops and bookstores for personal gifts that won’t go to waste.
Choose items that the person will use daily, when possible—a handmade mug, beautiful tea towels, stationary, or a piece of art they will really love. Avoiding fast fashion items or novelty pieces is a great way to ensure longevity in your gift. As a rule, when it comes to gift giving, try to get into the habit of buying less and buying local.
There is sometimes an imagined pressure to give a lot of gifts just for the sake of it. If we all opted out of this mindset, we could save a lot of money, a lot of waste, and a lot of energy! A great way to achieve a ‘buy less’ Christmas in a large family or other group is to draw names for Secret Santa. That way, each person only gives and gets one gift, which makes it easier to give thoughtfully.
Looking for sustainable gift options? Check out these 50+ Great Sustainable Christmas Gift Ideas (that aren’t from Amazon).
When it comes to wrapping gifts, think about reusable or recyclable materials. Brown paper and twine are great choices as they can be recycled, but you could take it a step further by wrapping gifts in scarves, towels, or other functional fabric. And if you’re into the idea of fabric but want a more done-for-you option, check out Wrappr for a range of reusable (and really quite beautiful) wrapping fabric. It’s a beautiful, sustainable wrapping option.
A great, eco friendly Christmas gift idea that requires no wrapping at all is the gift of an experience. Consider gifting tickets to a show or concert, a yoga or dance class, membership to a local museum, or a gift card to a movie theater or restaurant they will enjoy. Or, make a donation in their name to a charity they like. They’ll feel good about the donation and you can avoid giving a gift that will end up being thrown out—it’s a win-win! Give creatively and create a new, sustainable Christmas tradition that doesn’t involve owning more stuff.
There are many ways to decorate in a sustainable way. With a little bit of creativity, you can make your space feel festive while sticking to your eco friendly Christmas goals. Search for secondhand decorations, peruse your local Christmas tree farms for pine boughs, and look for handmade goods on Etsy* or MadeTrade* rather than loading up on cheap and flimsy decorations on the high street. Look for DIY craft projects (you’ll find some great ideas in this post) that will add a personal touch to your décor, and rethink how to use decorations you’ve already got in new, exciting ways. An old wreath collecting dust can be repurposed into a beautiful centerpiece for your holiday table. Jars and vases can be repurposed with pinecones, candles, or other festive touches. And if you usually use a disposable advent calendar, consider choosing a beautiful, reusable one instead.
When it comes to your Christmas tree, there are many ways to embrace sustainability without sacrificing festivity. Did you know you can rent a Christmas tree? This is a great way to save storage space during the rest of the year for your artificial tree, and you can avoid the wasteful practice of cutting a real tree. Or, you could even decorate a large houseplant or potted indoor tree instead of bringing in a brand new Christmas tree.
And, of course, when putting up your lights, make sure that they are LED lights. You will enjoy spending less on your electric bill and the planet will thank you as well.
Instead of crackers filled with pointless plastic and other throw-away items, why not leave little favours or these great ‘hats for life’* at your table settings.
We all enjoy sending and receiving Christmas cards, but after the holiday is over, most of these are thrown out, along with their envelopes. Instead of sending out a paper card, think about more sustainable ways to send your holiday greetings. Try sending out an e-card instead. That way, your recipient can choose to print it out if they’d like, or they can just enjoy the card without using any paper. You’ll save money sending out the cards, and you’ll help reduce the amount of waste thrown out on Boxing Day.
Or how about these super adorable handmade cards* that can be planted as they’re embedded with a mixture of seeds; sweet alyssum, poppy, baby’s breath and basil.
Food and Drink
When it comes to festive food and drink, you have many options for sustainable Christmas refreshments. Generally, focusing on plant-based foods is a smart idea. Consuming less meat means that less resources are used to produce your food. When possible, go meat-free. Look for vegetarian and vegan variations of traditional foods, choose organic as much as you can, and look for local foods to create your Christmas spread.
Try to buy the right amount of food for your guests to cut down on food waste, and be ready to save and reuse any leftovers after the holiday.
Pro tip: To make sure you’ve got space for any leftovers after the holiday, focus on eating the food in your freezer ahead of the holidays so that you’ve got room when you need it.
There is a range of fair trade and organic wine, beer, and spirits* available in shops. Or, shop for local drink options to support small businesses in your community. With so many people choosing to focus on sustainability, you will find no shortage of holiday food and drink options! You can truly enjoy your holiday meals while protecting the planet.
Not enough glasses or plates for everyone you’ll be feeding? A great option is to borrow or rent items instead of using disposable plastic ones.
Getting dressed up for Christmas, many people want to embrace the fun and festivity of the season. The good news is that you can still look smart while embracing sustainable fashion practices.
First, I’d encourage you to think about ‘shopping your closet’. Can you reuse what you already have in your wardrobe? Could you pair things together in new and unexpected ways? Or, think about adding an accessory to an outfit you’ve worn before to make it feel new. A new belt, scarf, or jewelry can give new life to your wardrobe. Doing a clothing or accessory swap with friends or family is one of my favourite ways to get new items without having to buy a thing.
If you do choose to go with something new, think about renting it, buying second hand or handmade. Look for great quality so that what you buy will last a long time without needing to be replaced.
If you do buy something new, choose to buy from a small local business, or look online for handmade pieces to support an artist. You can also choose to buy from stores that are devoted to sustainability, such as The Good Apparel* (bonus: 10% off if you use the code ECODESK10) and Know the Origin*. Avoiding high street fast fashion goes a long way to avoiding contributing to harmful and wasteful production practices. You can feel good about your choices – and look amazing too.
Lastly, avoid clothing with glitter or sequins, as these materials are often made of plastic and are bad for the environment.
We can’t talk about the holidays without talking about travel. Of course, air travel is the most environmentally harmful way to get someplace, and should be avoided whenever possible. If you are able, plan on giving yourself more time to get where you are going so that you can travel by bus or train. While shopping, use public transportation as much as possible. If you do need to drive, why not try to arrange joint shopping trips with friends or neighbours?
Another great thing you can do (and not just for the Holidays) is to get a smart meter to monitor your energy use during the holiday season. Christmas lights and decorations can use a lot of energy. Think about using timers to reduce the amount of time your Christmas lights are on when you are not at home.
During the Christmas season, try to reduce your purchases and packaging as much as possible. When you can’t reduce, recycle. Reuse holiday food creatively for meals after the season, and recycle all paper wrappings and other packaging. Whenever you can, find new ways to use what you have and anything you receive.
When you first begin to think about sustainability, it may seem overwhelming. But there are so many little things that you can do that will save you time, energy, and money that also benefit the planet. And because we have so many businesses and people offering a sustainable Christmas guide, we can access many ideas and tips with little effort.
My advice to you: start where you are. Try not to get overwhelmed, and just keep trying to be more sustainable than your past self. This is a journey, not a sprint.
Focus on one or two areas of sustainability this season, and then do a couple more next year. With a little practice, these actions will become second nature to you and will carry over into the rest of the year. Making small changes can really add up to a big positive change.
*Disclosure: We only recommend products we would use ourselves and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links (denoted with *) that at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission. See our full disclosure policy here