Image of a present wrapped in cloth

How To Be More Sustainable For The Holidays

J. O’Brien Dec 01, 2021

There’s a lot to love about the holidays, from sharing traditions with your family to spending time with your friends. But if you care about the environment, the holidays might feel a bit bittersweet. 

Celebrations with loved ones can be so meaningful and joyful, but there’s often a lot of consumption that goes into this—all of which can have a negative impact on the environment. Just think of all the wrapping paper that’s quickly discarded, or the leftovers that end up in the trash.

Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do, both big and small, that will let you celebrate sustainable holidays without having to cancel your plans or a much loved tradition. While there are plenty of sustainable things we can do in our everyday lives—not just for the holidays, read on for ways to be more eco-friendly this festive season and celebrate sustainability for the holidays.


Rethink How You Travel


There’s a good chance you’re planning to take a plane so that you can gather this holiday season. However, air travel is one of the least eco-friendly options out there. Trains have a significantly lower impact on the environment, so it’s worth exploring if you can travel by rail instead. 

If you absolutely have to travel by plane, be sure to offset the carbon emissions from your flight. A number of airlines will let you do so when you purchase a ticket, but if you don’t have the option, you can use a service like myclimate to calculate and compensate for your flights’ carbon emissions.


Sustainable Wrapping Ideas


Most wrapping paper can’t be recycled because it’s coated in glitter, foil, and microplastics. You could opt to use recyclable paper instead. Or, go an even more sustainable route. Furoshiki is the traditional Japanese art of using wrapping clothes instead of paper. You can also use everyday items like a thrifted scarf, bandana, or tea towel to wrap a present, then make the wrapping part of the gift.

Giving a gift that’s particularly tough to wrap? You could use a Bar Bag to hide the present in, or, if the object is small and cylindrical, a Kitsack.


Choose Sustainable Gifts


When shopping for presents, don’t choose items that are single-use or readily disposable. Instead, look for gifts that are made to last using either recycled or surplus materials, like the Ski N Hike backpack. Vintage and antique stores are another great option. If you can, shop locally, and avoid shipping to reduce the toll your gift takes on the environment. You might also consider giving experiences—like a subscription to Netflix or a walking tour, or making presents yourself.

You could also forgo gifting altogether and make donations to your favorite non-profits instead.


Think About Food Waste 


Over-indulgence at the holidays is a thing, so this year, try to plan ahead and only buy what you need. Try to incorporate more vegetable-based dishes into your planning too to cut down on meat consumption. Make sure you plan for how you’ll use your leftovers too and avoid packaging them using clingfilm or plastic. Use wax cloth and glass containers to keep things fresh.

If it’s you or a family member cooking, gift them a subscription to a local composting service - or if you can, set up your own composting bucket. This will help any food waste go back into the ground in a sustainable and safe way. 

Donate any unwanted cans or other foodstuffs and hygiene products to your local homeless shelter or pantry. Check out their website before donating to see what items they’re looking for. 


Sustainable Holiday Hacks 


If you have lots of Holiday lights, put them on a timer so they’re not wasting electricity.

Use fabric tablecloths and napkins instead of disposable ones.

Make your own advent calendar that you can reuse every year using fabric sacks or wooden drawers. It’s a lot more fun, and you can pick whatever gifts you like to put in them.

Try thrifting for decorations. You never know what you’ll find in thrift stores.

Make your own holiday cards. It’s a fun activity and even more meaningful to recipients. Better still, add a little pack of seeds to each card to encourage people to get planting in Spring.


What are you doing to be more sustainable this holiday season? Let us know by tagging us on social media with #LifeUnzipped.

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