A more sustainable season

How I have been making changes for eco-friendly holidays in 2022


Extra waste from the holiday season is a big problem in America. The average American throws away 25 percent more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday season, according to Stanford University. I know I’m part of the problem. This amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week. I love to set up decorations and find the perfect gifts for each of my loved ones. But enjoying the holiday season does not have to come with so much holiday waste. Here are some tips to make small, or big, changes to create a more sustainable holiday season. 

Wrapping Paper

Wrapping paper is often used once and thrown away. I was shocked a few years ago to learn that most wrapping paper is also not recyclable. Now, I look for wrapping paper that is 100 percent recyclable, and try and reuse gift bags and tissue paper that I was given previously. To avoid wrapping paper altogether, consider wrapping the gift in a scarf, hand towel, throw blanket, or even a table runner to give to the giftee. Use paper bags from shopping trips and draw on the outside with colors or fun designs. Instead of gift bags, try looking for reusable decorative tins or baskets. Cloth ribbons can also be used instead of plastic bows. 


I love putting up all kinds of decorations for the holidays. I put up lights, garlands, ornaments, stockings. My husband and I will be getting our first tree this year. I reuse my decorations year after year, but might change the layout for a fresh perspective. For garlands, I used craft materials that I already had at home. Twine and dried slices of oranges can make a classic looking garland that I pair with natural greenery. I have used the dried oranges for many years now, but they can be composted. Pinecones and pine tree scraps can also add to the festive look of a space. Potted plants such as poinsettias and Christmas cacti can be kept all year long and be brought into a main room for the holidays. 

Upcycled jars from marinara, pickles, old canning jars, and etc. can be used to create a winter scene. Pour in salt or sugar for snow, and add pinecones or cuts of branches to look like trees. They can also be painted or have a tealight inside to make a candle holder. Try making salt dough decorations or ornaments with friends and family. Consider adding cinnamon to make them smell good and using cookie cutters to create fun shapes. 

Shopping small and buying local can be a great way to find sustainable holiday decorations, as well. Thrift shops also often have holiday decorations out right before or after the holiday season. Whether it’s an ugly sweater for a contest at work, a wonderful Menorah, or a beautiful Nativity scene, these can all be found second hand. 



While finding great gifts that makes a family member or loved one happy is exciting, finding more sustainable options for gifts can be difficult at times. Consider buying something that they can reuse or making a tasty treat. Many local businesses have a much smaller carbon footprint than big box stores and online retailers. If getting out to shop isn’t for you, Etsy.com is full of small businesses, and they purchased carbon offsets for all the emissions caused by shipping. 

Sustainable gifting does not have to break the bank. Last year, my husband and I decided that our holiday gifts for one another would be shop small/buy local or second hand. I found him two cookbooks from the local thrift store for a few dollars each. I paired the books with candied pecans from a small business as they are one of his favorites. He loves cooking and has gotten to try a couple of great recipes from the books so far. Meaningful gift giving can come from all budgets and all different places. Gently used books, homewares, pots for plants, toys, vintage accessories, and more can also often be found at thrift stores. As long as you make sure that the items are cleaned thoroughly, and it is something the giftee is OK with, then these can make great gifts. 

Sometimes, it can be difficult for me to let go of climate “doom and gloom,” even during the holidays. I ask myself, how could the small changes I make amount to anything? And yet, the holidays are a time to come together, a time to take care of one another. I think this includes taking care of our planet and making sure future generations get to celebrate holiday traditions new and old well into the future. A community banding together to make small changes can make a big difference in the end. 


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