“Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.”
~ Norman Wesley Brooks, “Let Every Day Be Christmas”
With every stocking hung on the mantel, cookie baked in the oven, and ornament hung on the tree, the Christmas experience can be twice as meaningful with these simple sustainable, healthy, and ethical swaps.
1. Consider giving experiences and not “stuff.” Does anyone else feel bogged down by stuff? Most of us have more than we need and would prefer a nice dinner out, tickets to an event or concert, or a gift certificate for a new adventure.
2. Check out Cloud9Living.com, a small company with passionate people committed to offering unique and memorable experiences as gifts.
3. Reduce the number of gifts. Less is often more. Make every gift count by focusing on gifts that are valuable, purposeful, and meaningful. Check out environmentalist Bill McKibbon’s book, “The $100 Holiday, The Case For a More Joyful Christmas.”
4. Create homemade gifts. From knit scarves to homemade body scrubs to cookies, there are so many thoughtful DIY ideas available on Pinterest.
5. Don’t be afraid to re-gift. Re-gifting doesn’t have to be tacky, it can be environmentally responsible. Many of us have new, unopened, un-needed gifts that could be re-gifted to someone who would love the item.
6. Shop ethically and sustainably. If you do choose to shop for holiday gifts, consider the source. Choose gifts made out of sustainable materials. Shop locally owned businesses. Avoid gifts that require batteries. When shopping online, choose gifts that have a positive impact.
7. Give the gift of your time and presence. Think about it. Most of our fondest memories of the Christmas season involve memories of family traditions and time spent with loved ones — not gifts.
8. Consider a donation. Give money to a local charity or sponsor a child internationally.
9. Social Justice: International Justice Mission has an entire gift catalog where you can give a gift in honor of a family member or friend or make a donation on your own behalf. These gifts help with everything from freeing slaves in India to paying for medical care or even lawyers to defend the abused. Your gifts bring joy and light to many dark and painful places around the world. Start here: https://www.ijm.org/give
10. Human Trafficking Aftercare: Refuge for Women is a non-profit, faith based organization that provides long-term care for women who have escaped human trafficking or sexual exploitation. Refuge for Women offers safe housing with 24-hour-a-day staffing. The program is designed, and staff trained, to help residents recognize their goals in life, and to assist them in reaching those goals, and facilitate healing. The goal is for each woman to leave Refuge for Women with self-sustainability and a life marked with dignity and hope. Now with programs in 5 states, you can donate to help the fight against sex trafficking right in your backyard.
11. Less is more. Keeping your decorations simple, you will save on storage space during the rest of the year!
12. Invest is quality. Choose long-term ornaments that you will treasure.
13. Decorate with natural materials. Avoid purchasing store-bought plastic knickknacks and bring in natural elements like wreaths, seasonal berries, or garlands of evergreens (holly, magnolia, or pine boughs). These can be used for mulch or compost after the holidays. If you can use alive versions in pots, bonus points!
14. Choose LED lighting. When replacing light strands, choose LED bulbs. Put your lights on a timer to prevent excess energy use. Consider repairing older light strands by borrowing or purchasing a bulb tester and replacing burnt-out bulbs.
15. Choose the “greenest” tree. There is much debate over whether natural or artificial trees are more sustainable. If you choose a natural tree, try to support an environmentally conscious, local, organic grower. Consider purchasing a live potted tree that can eventually be planted outside. An artificial tree can also be a sustainable choice if you use it for many years (20+!) and dispose of it responsibly. If you are allergic to pine and need an artificial tree, look for a second hand one. Bonus: the second hand tree with have off-gassed more of its "chemical" small / VOCs.
16. Give a festive twist to everyday objects. With a little creativity, you can repurpose everyday objects! Don’t have time to do it yourself? Support small artisans such as Wendy, who combines upcycled wine, soda, and water bottles — and even mason jars— with LED lights to check twinkly, holiday decorations. Check out her shop: fireflyWineLIghts.etsy.com. 20% of her profits go to the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation (TheGSF.org), supporting babies and families affected by Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), the number one genetic cause of death in babies.
17. Skip as many disposable items as possible. Soiled paper cups, plates, napkins, and even most plastic silverware aren’t recyclable and just end us in landfills. Consider using reusable dishes whenever possible.
18. Coordinate with friends. If you don’t have enough reusable items, see if your friends attending the party want to combine dish set or glass sets to collect enough items for all the guest. It is actually can be a lot of fun! Teamwork!
20. Renting to the rescue. Local party rental stores will have napkins, plates, glasses, and silverware to use.
21. Mix-and-Match. If washing everything seems overwhelming, you can mix-and-match a few reusable items with some disposable items.
22. Consider compostable options. If you know that reusable options are just not happening, that’s fine! Another option is to look for single-use, compostable party supplies made from eco-friendly materials that will compost quickly in a backyard compost bin. This is really only an option if you or a friend has a backyard compost bin to throw everything in.
Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., Susty Party creates beautiful, sustainable, compostable party tableware and home goods. All products are made in partnership with non-profit factories who employ and empower people with disabilities, visual impairments, or support a charitable cause by donating proceeds. All Susty Party products — from paper towels and garbage bags to tableware such as plates, cups, and cutlery — are made from sustainably sourced materials.
One the simplest ways to make Christmas more sustainable is to recycle your wrapping paper! Trash from gift bags and wrapping paper makes up 4 million tons of holiday waste and most people don’t know that a majority of it CANNOT be recycled. Two simple switches change that.
23. Skip the Shine. If you purchase wrapping paper, choose paper that is matte, not shiny. It’s recyclable, whereas shiny paper almost always is not.
24. Sparingly Use Tape. Use less tape so that more paper can be reclaimed. With too much tape on it, wrapping paper must be tossed and not recycled. Bonus, your tape will last longer!
25. Think Outside the Box. You can also get really creative with what you use to wrap your gifts! Scarves, brown paper bags, fabric... there are a lot of options!
These are just a few options! There are SO MANY! So don't stress is one seems hard or overwhelming. Just look at the list as see what might work for you this year. There's bound to be one that seems doable and fun... and every little sustainable act adds up!
If you have a favorite way to make your Christmas more sustainable, share it in the comments below. We would LOVE to hear it.