Deck The Halls Sustainably This Holiday Season

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It’s that time again — the end-of-year holiday celebrations.  Along with all the festivities come a whole lot of excess in the form of increased electricity use, extravagant purchases, and food and paper waste. While it’s fun to decorate our homes, spoil our loved ones with gifts, and host lavish gatherings, these actions can take their toll on the environment.

The good news: it’s still possible to have a meaningful and fun holiday season while minimizing your environmental impact. From LED lights to eco-friendly feasts, we’ve gathered some great ideas to help make this holiday season memorable and sustainable.


According to the Center for Global Development, all the holiday lights in the U.S. use more electricity than some less-developed countries use in an entire year. Read on for a few tips on how to dress up your home and yard for the season with less impact.

  • LED lights are 80-90 % more energy-efficient than incandescent. They last longer and save you money on your electric bill.  You can go even further and buy solar-powered LED lights.
  • Connect your lights to a timer to turn on at dusk and off at bedtime.
  • Exchange tinsel and plastic ornaments for homemade decorations.
  • Craft one-of-a-kind ornaments and decor with pinecones, fruit, evergreen branches, pinecones, and berries from nature.


Ideally, holiday gift giving should be about sharing the season instead of mindless consumerism that taxes our natural resources, maxes out our credit cards, with items often ending up in a landfill. For gift giving, it really is the thought that counts. Here are a few ways to help reduce our consumption while marking the occasion with a gift.

  • Shop at craft fairs, farmers markets, and locally owned small businesses.
  • Look for eco-friendly, ethically sourced gifts made with recycled materials, produced locally, or by fair-trade.
  • Reduce gas use by shopping close to home and try to do all your gift buying on one day to avoid multiple trips.
  • Consider gifting vintage books, clothing, sports equipment, and toys, giving them a second life.
  • Give experiences instead of material presents. Gift something that can be enjoyed in the future, like tickets to a rescheduled game, comedy show, play, or concert, a fun day trip, a museum membership, guitar lessons, or even a gift card to a favorite local restaurant or business. You’ll be supporting a local business and giving your recipient something to look forward to!
  • Create your own gifts. You can make memorable gifts the special people in your life will cherish much more than a store-bought item.  Try creating a gift basket filled with homemade body care products like soaps, lotions, bath bombs, and lip glosses — or one filled with holiday cookies, infused liquors or extracts, fudge, spiced nuts, and more
  • Holiday wrapping paper is one of the biggest culprits of seasonal waste, with paper cards coming in a close second.  Get creative and wrap gifts with materials you have around the house, like old maps, comics, or even original artwork. You can also use any pretty, clean fabric like scarves, bandannas, or dish towels for a totally reusable wrapping. Create your own bows from strips of colorful paper and accessorize with twine, pressed leaves, and pinecones.
  • Re-use delivery boxes and add bows and ribbons to create festive packages.
  • Gift bags or baskets are a great alternative and can be used year after year.
  • Make your own holiday postcard to eliminate the need for an envelope. Better yet, send electronic greetings.
  • Use the cards you received last year to make gift labels.


Eating at these winter celebrations is huge, and it can be easy to forget about sustainability when planning extravagant holiday menus.  You’ll be glad to know there are environmentally responsible options available.

  • Shop Local – Support your community’s growers and farmers. Not only will fresh, local ingredients lend an extra vibrancy to your meals, the food will taste better too. As a bonus, you’ll be keeping your dollars in the local community, and supporting those who may have been hit by or are still recovering from COVID-related economic shutdowns.
  • Select organic produce grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers made from fossil fuels.
  • Choose grass fed meat as it’s healthier for you, tastes better, and reduces the amount of grain needed to feed livestock.
  • Support one of your local eateries by making a reservation for your holiday meal! Many restaurants are struggling to stay afloat because of the pandemic and welcome your business.

Christmas Tree

If you celebrate Christmas and you really want to decorate a tree but are concerned about the environmental impact, below are best practices for choosing a Christmas tree and how best to dispose of it.

  • Fake trees get a bad rap because of the length of time it takes for the plastic to break down. But if you already have a fake tree, use it and enjoy it guilt free for many years to come!
  • Look for a used plastic one (and the ornaments to hang on it) at a thrift store or flea market. Buying used is a great way to recycle and reduce spending while you’re at it.
  • If it absolutely has to be real, look for a farm that employs organic and sustainable growing practices, like planting new trees to replace those cut and not using chemical pesticides.
  • Every year, over 10 million Christmas trees end up in landfills. We know that, especially when living in an urban setting, it can be challenging to properly dispose of your tree, but many municipalities offer solutions to this. So, look into what local programs are available, like turning your tree into mulch or wood chips, or even donating it towards an environmental project like stream bank stabilization.

No matter what shape your year-end festivities take, you’re now armed with ideas to make this year’s celebrations more sustainable and less wasteful. However you’re celebrating this year, we wish you a safe and joyful holiday season. Now get out there and start making those memories! Happy Holidays!