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My Holiday Sustainability Guide: 6 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

1) Sustainable Gift Wrapping

Unfortunately, in many counties gift wrap is not considered recyclable because of the dyes and inks used in the paper. If you live in San Francisco, our waste management does accept Christmas wrapping paper for recycling as long as it doesn’t have any metallic finishes or plastic elements. If you do not live in SF, make sure to check out your county’s regulations on recycling Christmas wrap. Some eco-friendly alternatives to traditional wrapping paper include using old newspapers, brown bags, or brown wrapping paper instead or doing away with wrapping altogether!

2) Give Eco-Friendly Gifts

  1. Buy slow fashion or pre-owned clothing rather than clothes from fast fashion brands like H&M, Zara, and Forever21 which have large carbon footprints and irresponsible environmental practices. See my post “Fast Fashion” for some recommended slow fashion brands and a list of some of the worst fast fashion offenders to avoid.

  2. Buy family and friends gifts that will help them live more sustainably such as a pack of metal straws, a reusable coffee thermos, or beeswax wrap.

  3. Do away with material goods and give an experience instead. Some suggestions I have are a massage/spa treatment, tickets to the opera or a Broadway play, or reservations to a favorite restaurant.

  4. Make DIY gifts such as homemade soap, ornaments, bath salts, jewelry, and picture albums.

  5. Shop locally to eliminate carbon emissions and wasteful packaging from online ordered and delivered gifts.

  6. Make a donation to an organization working to protect endangered animals and ecosystems such as by “adopting” a coral through Coral Guardian, a sea turtle through Sea Turtle Conservancy, or a humpback whale through Whale and Dolphin Conservancy.

3) LED Christmas lights

With millions of people around the world putting up Christmas lights for the holidays, electric generation is a huge sustainability downfall this time of year. To counter this problem, try using LED Christmas lights like these ones. Believe it or not, LEDs can be up to 80% more efficient than traditional holiday lights, so this is definitely a switch worth making. Also make sure to unplug your lights during the day or put them on a timer so they are not sucking electricity 24/7.

4) Freeze or Donate Leftovers & Ditch the Disposable Dinnerware

Even though disposable dinnerware can be quite convenient for large holiday dinners, parties, and family gatherings, the extra time and effort put into using, washing, and reusing real dinnerware is a nice Christmas gift for the Earth, already overrun in non-biodegradable, single use plastic. If you have absolutely too many people over to use real dinnerware (although this shouldn’t be a problem this year with covid), try to use entirely compostable dinnerware like these compostable plastic utensils, cups, and plates. To further cut down on holiday waste, make sure to refrigerate or freeze leftovers in reusable containers or bags or donate them to a local shelter (safety guidelines permitting.)

5) Get a Pesticide Free Tree & Recycle It!

Growers will sometimes use dozens of pesticides and even chemical colorants on their tree farms which can leach into the soil and nearby waterways, hurting flora and fauna in the surrounding environment. Luckily, many tree farms are now selling pesticide free, organic trees so make sure to do a little research and ask around to figure out which tree farms near you sell such eco-friendly Christmas trees.

6) Buy Organic, Free-range, Non-GMO, & Locally Grown Food

Especially for big family gatherings and parties, try to buy organic, locally grown produce and free-range/non-gmo meat and dairy products. Replacing red meat main dishes such as steak or brisket with pork, fish, or poultry, and reducing overall meat and animal product consumption are a few other ways to reduce your carbon footprint at the holidays.


Harrison, Olivia. “The Worst Holiday Sustainability Offenders & How to Avoid Them.” Last modified December 13, 2019.

Small Footprint Family. “12 Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Holiday.” Accessed December 15, 2020.

Earth Hero. “11 Tips for a Sustainable Holiday Season.” Last modified December 3, 2018.

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