The holiday season is a big time for traveling, family, and celebration.
Being eco-friendly might not be top priority during this busy time, but it’s not difficult to make sure we’re being as green as possible.
To be more eco-friendly during the holidays, it’s important to look at the waste we’re generating and what we’re buying. If you’re traveling, reducing the amount of driving you do alone is also important.
Eco-friendly tips for this holiday season
Being eco-friendly during the holidays can be split up into five categories: gifts, food, travel, waste, and decorations.
While waste is its own category, it’s also present throughout the holiday season.
Every time you think about buying something, ask yourself if you need it and how long you’ll use it for. If you aren’t planning on using something for long, check if there’s an eco-friendly alternative or if you can borrow it from somebody else.
Shopping responsibly is another mindset to abide by. To be an ethical shopper, reducing your consumption is a must, and that goes for gift-giving as well. While a pile of presents might look amazing from the outside, how many of those gifts will be used or even wanted?
How to choose eco-friendly gifts
Gifts alone can be quite wasteful, especially when factoring in transportation and wrapping paper.
To be green, look for sustainable and environmentally friendly gifts by reducing the amount of plastic or petroleum-based materials in them. Reusable gifts or gifts intended to be used over a long period of time are better than one-use or easily forgotten presents.
When planning gifts for others, ask yourself these questions:
- Will this gift be used by the recipient?
- Can I get this gift locally?
- Is there a more eco-friendly alternative I could buy?
- How will I wrap this gift?
Look for what your recipient really wants and would enjoy.
A bookworm will appreciate a personal recommendation or the completion of a series more than any old book you picked out because it’s popular right now. Somebody sporty will make more use of something relating to their hobby than a fitness tracker.
Wrapping paper contributes a lot of waste, especially at Christmas, and almost all of it isn’t recycled. Some wrapping paper isn’t recyclable at all due to glitter and other materials.
Instead, use gift bags that can be reused, brown wrapping paper, old newspaper, or forgo the wrapping entirely.
If you can’t think of a physical gift to suit the recipient, look for experiences instead.
Maybe you could donate to a cause in their name, buy a ticket to something they’d be interested in, or buy an experience for the two of you to share.
Buying a gift for multiple people can also reduce the amount of waste produced by gifts. Experiences are especially good for this, allowing your friends and family to go out and do something they’ve always wanted to.
Gift cards and memberships can also give them an excuse to go out and enjoy an activity.
Buy local, organic food
Buying locally helps reduce the number of vehicle emissions, whether you’re having something delivered or searching multiple shops for what you need. It also helps support your local economy and small businesses.
Organic food also makes a big impact – the organic certification means that the food has been grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Organic food is often more nutritious and is grown sustainably.
By swapping to local, organic food you can support sustainable farming practices, which use less mechanical processes.
But you should also remember to only buy as much as you can eat.
Food waste is a major problem during the holidays because tons of food is wasted each year.
Planning your meals in advance can help you use up what you already have, and you can also take the time to plan what to do with your leftovers.
To make minimizing food waste easier, try:
- Buying loose produce with your reusable produce bags
- Take leftovers home or offer them to guests
- Don’t buy what you haven’t planned to eat
- Store wisely
- Check what recipes you can use leftovers with
- Compost your food scraps
Travel sustainably in the holiday season
Traveling sustainably seems pretty hard, especially if you’re far away from your destination. Public transport isn’t ideal in some places as well, and a whole day of traveling while carrying bags also isn’t fun for anybody.
If you’re going to a holiday event with other people, see if it’s possible to carpool with anyone. Maybe you’ll have to drive to their house, but it beats both of you driving the full journey separately!
This can help reduce your carbon footprint and help you spend time with others during the journey.
When you need to fly, try to pick a green airline to save on CO2 emissions.
Do the same when booking to stay anywhere and look for eco-friendly accommodation.
You can also donate to nonprofits that plant trees in order to offset your travel pollution.
There’s another aspect of traveling away from home that not everybody thinks about: clear out your fridge and freezer before you leave!
Use up what you can and give away anything you can’t, so you can clean out your fridge and turn it off while you’re away. This can help save a lot of food waste that you’d come back to.
Reduce holiday waste
Food waste isn’t the only type of waste that rises during the holidays.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that household waste in America increases by over 25% during the holiday season, made up of food waste, shopping bags, packaging, and wrapping paper. It adds over 1 million tons of additional waste to landfills per week!
To reduce waste this holiday season, make sure to:
- Use reusable bags (and don’t forget them at home!)
- Donate old clothes, toys, and unwanted gifts
- Reuse wrapping paper
- Recycle any e-waste you can
- Compost food waste
- Repair instead of throwing out
- Upcycle waste
- Send e-cards instead of buying paper cards
- Swap single-use batteries for rechargeable
Reuse old decorations and make your own
The more decorations you have, the more waste you contribute.
It’s an unfortunate truth for those who like to spruce up their house for every celebration, especially if you’re competing with neighbors. B
ut overdoing your decorations means you need to store more in the year, you use more electricity for lighting, and you’re much more likely to throw out perfectly good decorations.
Instead, make sure to reuse as much as possible and avoid buying new.
If you do look for decorations to buy, look in charity shops, thrift stores, and online for secondhand goodies.
Even better: make your own!
Making your own holiday decorations is a fun activity to share with others, and it’s also more eco-friendly than buying new. You can reuse these just as much as decorations you’d buy, and you can spend time going through any craft supplies you have to use up what you have leftover from other projects.