Celebrating a sustainable holiday season is a holly, jolly challenge. With everything that is happening in the world right now, it’s time to dig deep, reflect and refocus on what the festive break is all about. Slow yourself down, no matter if you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Spend time (and money) with what really matters!
Eco-friendly decorations, meals and gifts will help to reduce your environmental footprint this holiday season. Yet, spending money at local shops, restaurants and brands will be sustantial to keep those you love in business at the end of 2022. How to celebrate a meaningful and green festive season? Here are our best ideas for eco-friendly Holidays!
1. Delightful Decorations
Decorations have the power to cheer up worried soul. They help us feel cozy and festive. That is to say, reusing your favorite holiday items year after year is the most sustainable way to decorate your home. Unfortunately most of the time, glitter and ever lasting greens involve harmful plastics, metals and chemicals. Here’s what you can do to celebrate a more sustainable Christmas this year:
If you’re in for new decorative holiday items this year, check your local thrift store for gently used second hand decorations first. Another option is to get creative yourself. Start with entering “easy DIY holiday decorations” in Pinterest! If you really can’t see yourself getting into arts and crafts, there are plenty of natural, eco-friendly and handmade options on etsy!
This is also the year to invest in a reusable advent calendar and avoid single-use toy or chocolate calendars. Chocolate lovers could buy little treats at the local chocolatier. And families buy eco-friendly or used little toys and books and ad them to the reusable calendar!
Candles, solar power and LED give green joy
No Holiday decoration is complete without shinning lights. There are many sustainable options for candles made from bees wax or soy. Check your local arts and crafts store or candlemaker. Even though they are significantly more expensive than the less eco-friendly versions at the discounter, they are a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.
In terms of outdoor holiday lighting, there are some greener alternatives as well! The easiest way to save energy is to create your own energy source with solar powered holiday lights. While, a small solar station collects sunlight during the day, it lights up the string of lights in the evening hours. Lowering the impact of holiday lighting is also possible with electrical lights that use energy saving LED bulbs and a timer that shuts all lights off at bedtime.
2. Do good, with sustainable Holiday gifts!
…or should we say “with A gift”? Because “less is more” when it comes to environmentally friendly holiday gifts. Here’s to choosing one (or two…ok, ok) big, useful and fun gift(s), instead of multiple ones. Pick a gift that lasts, such as equipment for your loved ones’ favorite sport, a living plant, locally handmade jewelry or an annual subscription of your favorite surf or snowboard magazine. For all little elves, opt for plastic and battery-free, multi-use toys.
This year the “lazy”-label of gifting a gift card officially takes a break! Actually, gift cards are a fantastic way to support your local shops, restaurants and brands.
This year the “lazy”-label of gifting a gift card officially takes a break!
What ever you decide on getting for your loved ones, support local businesses, or order at smaller online stores. With every purchase you lift a small business owners holiday spirits.
When it comes to gift-wrapping, bypass glossy and metallic wrapping paper and ribbons– we know, it looks beautiful and we know, it’s cheap, but it’s your worst bet when it comes to reducing your environmental footprint. Instead use eco-friendly gift-wrapping with reusable fabrics (think tablecloths or cloth napkins) or reusable gift bags and boxes. Explore the famous Japanese cloth gift wrapping technique called furoshiki in this NY Mag article. In the Western world we throw away 20-30% more trash during the holidays than any other time of year.
Organic & sustainable gift ideas from SWOX
3. Fake Tree vs. Real Tree
Let’s put it this way – cutting down a healthy tree to let it die in your living room or buying a 6ft piece of the worst plastic only to use it a couple of weeks every year – both don’t sound very sustainable, do they? Yet, having a decorated tree in our homes is one of the Christmas traditions, which even the most hard-core environmentalists find difficult to break with. But you wouldn’t be reading this article, if we wouldn’t have some alternatives for you!
In the past studies found, that you will have to keep your fake tree for 12-20 years in order for it to have a lower environmental footprint than real trees in all those years. However there’s a shining light at the end of the fake-tree-lover’s tunnel: trees made of recycled plastic! They are a bit pricier, but might be a great option for you, if you plan on keeping it for years to come. In case funds are an issue, you could always give a second-hand fake tree a new home, which really is your most sustainable option of all – what are you waiting for.
If you love the natural smell of a real pine tree in your home, look into renting one this year, ideally locally. Many tree nurseries offer a rental service for Christmas trees with delivery and pick-up. The trees are kept in neat pots and are replanted after the holidays. Lastly for all houseplant fans, there’s the option to decorate an already existing plant in your home or to purchase a new plant, that can serve as a Christmas tree in December and as beautiful houseplant throughout the year – Who said a ficus or a monstera can’t be a festive tree after all?
That said, make sure to consider where you live when shopping for a real tree. If you have been living in a drought all summer, chances are that the tree you are buying had to be transported from afar or watered with water your region shouldn’t really spend on a pine tree farm.
What’s your favorite sustainable Christmas tree?
4. Eco-friendly holiday & new years wishes
Sending well wishes and festive greeting to friends and families near and far is one of the most meaningful things to do during the annual holiday party mayhem. Showing your Auntie abroad that you think of her, summing the year up for your best friend from school who can’t make it home this year, might not only make their day but has the power to make a difference for them all year.
To get started, getting your family photos taken by a local photographer supports a small business during the pandemic. Caring for the environment starts when you make a conscious decision about whether or not it is really necessary to print those photos onto a shiny card. E-cards are an easy, cheap and very sustainable way to send warm wishes to everybody this year. Creating a fun and festive video of you and your family and uploading it on a private channel is another one. On top, you could opt for homemade cards or get plantable holiday cards. After reading and enjoying the card, plant it, water it and watch it grow!
And if that’s all not for you, hearing someone’s voice and chatting with them means connecting on a whole different level. No time or money to send out cards or ecards – pick up the phone!
5. The most sustainable Christmas dinner/lunch
When you start planning your Christmas dinner, keep in mind that the most eco-friendly ingredients are the ones that are locally sourced and organic. The most traditional dinner recipes might ultimately be the most sustainable, since back in the days only seasonally grown veggies and ingredients were available. Also keep in mind where you buy your drinks – think local, too!
While prepping for the big feast, make sure to plan reasonably, so you can cut down on food waste and ideally munch up all leftovers before they go bad. At last, and you can read all about why below, consider a meat-free meal. Shifting your diet is the single best way to adapt to a more sustainable (and healthy) lifestyle.
6. Eco-conscious New Year’s resolutions
Once the holidays are over, we are fast to go back to our old habits and our routines kick in. Keep up the sustainable Holiday spirit! Reuse or recycle all gift packing materials, ribbons and bows. A great way to reuse boxes is to store your holiday decorations in them.
Now call your favorite people, then turn off the lights and enjoy a good dose of the outdoors. You may want to stop by your beloved restaurant or coffee shop and grab some treats!