4 Eco-Friendly Ways to Celebrate This Holiday Season | Part 1

  • 5 min read

‘Tis the season for warm drinks, cozy vibes and of course – gift giving. As we anticipate the arrival of the holiday season (however you & your family celebrate), things can suddenly feel overwhelming. Time can seem to fly by twice as fast as its typical pace, and the to-do lists can seem to grow exponentially, by the minute.

Before we all get caught up in the excitement (and chaos) of the season, we wanted to remind you of some of the ways we like to stay grounded, while avoiding waste, amidst the holidays – 

  1. Slow down & take things as they come
  2. Focus on quality, not quantity
  3. Limit plastic, whenever possible

In part 1, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite ways to reduce your impact, when it comes to decoratingsetting  gifting  boundaries. For us, it’s all about getting creative, while emphasizing quality and longevity. 


1) Invest In Decorations That Last Or DIY Your Own

Every new holiday brings along with it the urge to buy shiny, new decorations. As you walk through your favorite big box store, remind yourself that you don’t have to buy new decorations every year. Before you buy new, take inventory of what you have – maybe you’ll rediscover some decor in the attic or garage that brings you that same spark of joy. Also, if you have heirloom decorations that were passed down to you – those add an extra touch of meaning to your space.

Other ideas include incorporating natural materials – pine boughs or pine cones are great options – and getting creative with fabrics or materials you have on hand.

If you want some DIY ideas, here’s 10 Easy Eco-Friendly Christmas Decorations To Make At Home from Pebble Magazine. And if you still feel the craving to add some new flair to your annual lineup, always try to avoid plastic when possible. 

2) Choose A Less Wasteful Tree

Choosing a tree can be a big annual decision. According to the Natural Christmas Tree Association, approximately 25-30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. every year, with many of them ending up destined for landfill. On the other hand, the sales of artificial trees (predominantly made in China of synthetic materials) have been on the rise, reaching 44% of all tree sales in 2017, according to TIBCO. The real vs fake tree debate has been happening for years, with layers of perspectives out there. Whatever is best for your family, it’s important to think about your tree’s end of life – and it’s exciting to see some companies offering some fresh takes on Christmas trees.

  • Rent A Living Tree  →
    Companies like  Rent A Living Christmas Tree or  The Living Christmas Company offer real potted trees that you can rent for the holiday season, and then return when you’re done with them. 
  • Buy A Real Tree From A Local Grower →
    If you like the experience of picking out a real tree, find a local grower to support. Also, make sure you’re thoughtful about how you dispose of the tree (more on that below). 
  • If You Have An Artificial Tree, Use It For As Long As Possible →
    Using what we have and taking care of it is the most sustainable thing we can do. If you already have a faux tree, take good care of it and use it for as long as possible.


3) Dispose Of Your Tree Thoughtfully

If you opt for a real tree, the most important step is thinking about how you dispose of it, once the season comes to an end. The intention should be to find ways to keep it out of the landfill.

  • Turn It Into Mulch →
    If you live in an urban area, often a public works department will gladly take your tree and turn it into wood chips for gardens and parks.
  • Recycle It →
    Companies likeHome Depot provide Christmas tree recycling – just make sure to call your local store to ensure they offer the program. If you’re not sure where to go,Earth911 has a search option to find Christmas tree recycling options for your area.
  • Put It Outside → If you live in a more rural area, leave your tree in the backyard for the birds and animals to enjoy. But before doing so, ensure you remove all ornaments, lights and mistletoe.


4) Set Boundaries & Expectations For Gift Giving / Receiving

Before we share more on gift ideas, it can be helpful to establish boundaries and expectations. This is one simple way to help reduce holiday stress, as well as waste. Here’s some ideas that can help set you and your family up for a positive experience:


  • Discuss amongst your family how you’d like to approach gift giving each year, ahead of the season’s arrival. Be open and honest about your wishes, but sensitive to others thoughts, as there can be a lot of emotions connected to gift giving and receiving.
  • Align on how many gifts you’d all like to give / receive (this can be helpful to reduce over-consumption for you and others).
  • If your family is working toward a more minimal lifestyle, help family members understand your lifestyle intentions and how an overflow of presents may not be in line with your family’s goals.
  • Have your kids create wish lists that can be shared with relatives. 
  • If there are specific materials you like (wood, for example) – highlight those or suggest options that are made with them, as guidance. Offering options is a great way to help simplify shopping for family members, while suggesting items you feel comfortable welcoming into your home.
  • It’s really fun to open all the presents, but it’s challenging to find all the places for them. Talk to kids in advance about how stuff can feel overwhelming so they can recognize how it makes them feel. This can ensure everything doesn’t fall on the parents’ shoulders.
  • Start the discussion early with your kids about having less and paying attention to what you actually love and use.
  • We can’t always control everything that comes into our homes, but we can control what stays. Welcome the option to sell things on Nextdoor, Offerup or Facebook Marketplace or give things to a school/classroom when you are ready to part ways with them, to make sure it gets used and someone can enjoy it.
  • After the holidays, pull out all the new toys, and let your kids share their favorites with you. 

As mentioned earlier, the holidays can be an exciting and somewhat chaotic time – take it day by day, and above all, remember to enjoy the special moments with family and friends.

Stay tuned – next week, we’ll be sharing more eco-friendly ideas and recommendations aroundgift-giving and cookie-making.

Written by: Kestrel Jenkins, responsibility consultant & host of theConscious Chatter podcast.