How to Practice Sustainability Around the Holidays

Sustainable Holiday Ideas

Illustration by Lindsay Tatis

Hi everyone, Jess (the other one) here again–

It feels like every year the holidays creep up even faster than the last — can you believe we’re already welcoming December?! While decorating the house, gift giving and eating lots of food are some of the best ways to get into the spirit, and some of my favorite, they also can be super wasteful too. Usually, this time of year is accompanied with lots of excess overall, so here are some of my easy tips to be a little more sustainable this holiday season:

Decorate with perishables

I’ll be honest, some decorations you just can’t replace. For me, that’s the ornaments on our tree and our stockings. But other than that, one of my favorite ways to decorate is with natural elements that can be found right outside! Ferns, twigs and pinecones can be foraged and used for a charming and zero waste alternative to fake greenery. Plus, once the season’s over, compost them or toss them back out in the yard… no need for bulky storage. There’s a bunch of inspiration for chic, easy holiday decor over on our Pinterest page

Wrap with care

While there’s a lot to be said for the aesthetic look of glittery and printed paper, I’ve also had a lot of fun being more creative with wrapping gifts during the holidays. There are plenty of supplies already at my fingertips that don’t require a wasteful purchase! Newspapers, brown paper bags, magazine pages, old linen clothes and other items are perfect for recycling in this way. Decorate your wrapped package with twigs or a stem of pine or rosemary and you have a wrapped gift with no extra waste. Plus, your gifts will certainly be the most unique under the tree.

Gift more thoughtfully

One of my favorite things to gift, especially when I have a lot of people to give to, is something homemade. A gift that requires your time can definitely mean a lot more than something that only requires your money. Make your own soy candles with essential oils and mason jars, or bake cookies and other treats. One of my personal favorites is to make infused olive oil for cooking. My favorite is garlic and rosemary, but this recipe for roasted garlic infused oil sounds delicious too. Divide into anything from old salad dressing jars to empty wine bottles and there you have it. Outside of the time element that comes with making a DIY gift, you can also control the ingredients in and process of creating your product, meaning no toxic ingredients or excessive plastic waste. Win/win for you and the gift recipient. If you aren’t a DIYer, look into finding gifts at vintage shops. How cool would it be to gift a vintage denim jacket, belt or decanter?! I love referring to Lauren from Trash is for Tossers for inspiration, and her zero waste gift guide definitely has me motivated to gift more consciously this holiday!

Be responsible with food waste

Did you know that overall, about 50% of all produce in the U.S is thrown away?! While composting is my first recommendation when it comes to food waste all year round, sometimes you may not have the means or resources to do so, especially as a guest in someone else’s home during the holiday sesaon. My suggestion is to see how unwanted food can go to use: sure, taking leftovers to eat (for days) post holiday is a must, but what about unopened or perfectly good unused items? Donate them. Beef bones and/or veggies scraps going into the trash? Save and freeze them until you can make a big pot of homemade stock.  Often times we throw away food out of habit, when we could really be getting so much more out of what we have. Think proactively before tossing and see how much more you can do with extra food this season.

Would love to hear any other tips you have for practicing sustainability during the holidays.

5 Comments

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  1. Devi says:

    Love these tips! In addition to the great ideas above, I love gifting experiences (like massages for my mom) or making donations to causes that the gift recipients care about.

  2. Emily says:

    Great ideas!! Using a reusable shopping bag while running Christmas errands helps with sustainability too! Reusable bags also make a great gift. In addition, reusing ribbon for friends and family keeps it in circulation and out of landfills.