For all the snow falling outside, there’s no shortage of green during the holidays — from wreaths to mistletoe to the Grinch. So, why not consider ways to be a little kinder to the planet while we’re celebrating a season dedicated to the best of human nature? Unlike the aforementioned misanthrope — who confiscated gifts in the hopes of crushing festive spirits — we believe you can make impactful eco-conscious choices without robbing anyone of the season’s revelry. Remember that while such staples as glittering garlands and sweet candy canes may be eye-catching, they can also be tough on the environment. Fortunately, it’s easy to greenify your holiday essentials. Best of all, your heart doesn’t need to be three sizes too small.
Why you should care about the impact of the holidays
We don’t mean to sound a tad Grinch-esque, but the planet could breathe easier if there was less stuff being made, sold, gifted, and trashed. Unfortunately, it’s not just the abundance of holiday-related waste that’s an issue. There’s also the increase in carbon emissions associated with travel, shopping, tree production and harvesting, and overall energy consumption. For example, decorative holiday lights consume the equivalent of the annual electricity consumption of more than 800,000 homes. But don’t let this dim your holiday spirit. There are many ways to enjoy the festivities while also being environmentally responsible. From sustainable ornaments to digital holiday cards, keep reading to see how you can help make this season a greener one.
Thrift your ugly holiday sweater
In the market for a fresh ugly holiday sweater? Skip buying a new one — it probably won’t have what it takes, anyway. Instead, rummage around to find out what lurks in the closets of older loved ones. And if they don’t have something sufficiently awful to borrow, shop online for secondhand alternatives. After all, buying a new garment when you’re only going to wear it a few times doesn’t sound very sustainable, does it?
Say goodbye to plastic garland
Traditional garlands are often made from PVC or other synthetic materials. So, while they may be visually appealing, they are derived from non-renewable fossil fuels. And because they are non-biodegradable, they won’t break down naturally. Not to mention the production of PVC involves the use of harmful chemicals which emit toxic pollutants. Instead of supporting these practices, use real cedar garland or craft your own from dried flowers, pinecones, or citrus slices. This DIY approach offers a personal touch while reducing reliance on plastic decorations. However, if you have old garland already, by all means, keep extending its lifespan by using it again and again. Sustainable living, after all, is about using what you already have.
Consider your tree
No holiday season is the same without one, but be conscious of what kind of Christmas tree you use. We don’t recommend buying a new plastic tree from the store. Instead, buy one secondhand or keep using the one you already have. If you want a natural tree, you might opt for a potted tree that can be replanted after the holidays. Some areas even offer Christmas tree rentals where you can rent a living tree and simply return after the holiday season ends. Then, the tree will be planted and cared for without having to be chopped down for short-term use.
Go digital with your cards
The holiday season is tough on trees — from wrapping paper and Christmas trees to holiday cards themselves. Instead of buying cards, send e-cards as a modern alternative. If you really want to send a physical card, choose plantable cards embedded with seeds. Once received, these cards can be planted to grow into flowers or herbs. At the very least, choose those cards made from recycled paper.
Choose organic candy canes
Peppermint lover? Then you’ll probably enjoy a candy cane or two this holiday season. But even this requires some thought. Regular candy canes use synthetic dyes, non-organic sugar (which requires more water and pesticides), and artificial flavor. So, for an easy holiday swap, choose organic and sustainably packaged candies from eco-friendly brands. You can find these guilt-free treats online and at stores like Whole Foods.
Choose energy-efficient lights
The holidays wouldn’t be the same in the dark. So, unbox the festive lights, untangle the cords, and illuminate your living space. Just make sure you’re using energy-efficient LED lights, which consume less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs. If possible, try to use solar-powered lights outside. Not only it is eco-friendly, but it will help keep your energy bill manageable during the holidays. Other ways to conserve? Remember to switch off the lights and decorations when you don’t need them. And you can always supplement them with candles to create a warm, holiday atmosphere.
Get crafty with ornaments
Let your creativity run free! Craft ornaments from recycled materials such as cardboard, wood scraps, dried fruit, yarn, or repurposed fabric. See some handmade ornament ideas here. You can also choose handmade ornaments from local artisans or fair-trade sources. And remember to reuse ornaments year after year — they often become family heirlooms that last for generations. So, pop open that old box of decorations and soak up decades of family holiday history.
Shop for gifts locally
And speaking of supporting local artisans, why not do most of your holiday gift shopping locally, too? This is one of the most effective ways to embrace eco-friendly alternatives during the holidays. You’ll be boosting your local economy as well as giving your money to smaller businesses that have a much smaller carbon footprint. Besides, there’s something special about shopping in person rather than online during the holidays. So, get out there, grab a coffee, and enjoy some holiday shopping in your own downtown.