13 Tips for a More Sustainable Holiday Season

13 Tips for a More Sustainable Holiday Season

The holiday season is here! It’s the season of giving, celebrating, and spending time with our loved ones. It’s also the season of shopping, wrapping, parties, and decorations. If you’re trying to live a lower waste lifestyle, you might be wondering how to make it through this holiday season without contributing to the most wasteful time of the year. 
It really is the most wasteful time of the year. During the holidays, Americans produce an additional 5 million TONS of waste. That’s on top of all of the regular amount of waste we usually produce. Not to mention that 4 out of the 5 million tons is made up entirely of wrapping paper and shopping bags! 
Don't fret! You can make a difference by taking steps to reduce your waste and have a more sustainable holiday season. Here are 13 of our favorite tips to help you do so!

First, Decor:

Tip #1: Decorate with Natural Elements

Bringing a little nature inside is good for the soul, and good for the environment! Get creative and decorate for the holidays with biodegradable & compostable elements such as leaves, flowers, pinecones, and berries. Here's a list of natural holiday decorations that look amazing to give you some ideas to go off of!

And if you need ribbon, go for fabric - it's more durable and can be reused year after year.

Tip #2: Reuse Decorations or Buy Secondhand

Of course the first tip with holiday decor is to continue to reuse the decorations you already have! If you don't already have decorations, or are looking for more, try your local thrift stores first! You can likely find decorations in good condition, and you'll be able to save money while reusing decorations that are already made instead of buying new ones! 

Tip #3: A Sustainable Tree

6 million Christmas trees are discarded every year. Depending on where you live, you might be able to rent a living Christmas tree. If you decide to buy a real one, make sure you compost it or recycle it properly. Check with your local authorities to find out the best way to recycle your tree in your area. Here's how to do it on Oahu. If you already have an artificial tree, or if someone you know is getting rid of one, keep using it instead of letting it go to the landfill!

Another option is to consider an alternative Christmas tree. Buy a potted plant that’s native to your area. You can decorate it similar to a Christmas tree, and then continue to enjoy it for years to come.


Tip #4: Give Experiences Instead of Things

Unwanted gifts, plastic packaging, wrapping paper and ribbons contribute an additional million tons of waste to our landfills each week during the holiday season. Most things eventually become trash, but memories last a lifetime!

Your experience gift can even be something as simple as cooking a meal together, going on a picnic, or a hike. Or something more extravagant like tickets to a future event or travel plans with your loved one. 

Tip #5: Shop Local, and/or Secondhand

By shopping local, you not only support small businesses in your community which are in great need of your support this year, but you also reduce the carbon emissions created by shipping products from another part of the world. 

Avoid the big box stores, and instead choose to support companies with a sustainable and ethical mission, to show with your dollars that those values are important to you. 

Don't be afraid to hit up the thrift stores when it comes to holiday shopping! Even thrifted or secondhand items can often make amazing and meaningful gifts. 

Plus, check out our Gift Guide  for zero waste gift ideas!

Tip #6: Homemade Gifts

Speaking of meaningful, it doesn't get much more meaningful than giving something that you've made yourself. It's highly unlikely that your homemade gifts will end up in the trash. Instead, they'll be treasured for a long time to come. Here's a list of 88 Homemade Gift ideas to get your creative juices flowing!

Gift Wrapping:

Tip #7: Upcycle

This is the perfect time to make use of any shipping paper, magazines or newspapers you have lying around the house! You can even use paper bags from the grocery store, too. Your upcycled gift wrapping is bound to be the most creative & eco-friendly of all, plus a great conversation piece!

Hot tip: if you've got the artistic spirit, you can level-up your upcycled wrapping by painting or drawing on the paper you're using to wrap your gifts. The sky is the limit when it comes to creativity and personalization of this kind of gift wrapping!

Tip #8: Reusable Wrapping

It's a gift within a gift! If you can, consider "wrapping" your gifts in something reusable, such as a reusable tote or cotton muslin bag.

Tip #9: Recyclable Wrapping Paper

If you have to buy wrapping paper this year, buy Kraft paper instead. Those shiny wrapping papers are NOT recyclable, but Kraft paper is! Plus, decorate your gifts with natural elements such as leaves, flowers and pinecones instead of shiny bows that become trash. 


Tip #10: Use Reusables

If you're having guests this holiday season, do your best to reduce unnecessary waste by using reusable cups, plates, napkins & cutlery instead of single-use ones! The planet will thank you for your extra time spent doing the dishes ; )

Tip #11: Save those Leftovers

Food waste is majorly increased during the holiday season. Reduce your food waste by being mindful of the food you already have, shopping smart, and saving and using your leftovers wisely!

Some leftovers can be frozen to be enjoyed at a later date, and others can be repurposed into sandwiches, wraps, or soups to make sure that food doesn't go to waste, and your tastebuds don't get too bored either!

Tip #12: Plant-Based Holidays

Animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to human greenhouse gas emissions, and it is a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution. This year, we invite you to consider having at least one entirely plant-based holiday meal to help reduce your environmental impact this holiday season. Besides doing something good for the environment, you'll have fun trying new recipes and hopefully find something you haven't tried before that you and your loved ones will love!


Tip #13: Shop Secondhand or Swap!

More than 15 million tons of textile waste are produced each year in the United States alone. If you're looking for some new outfits for the holidays, check out your local thrift stores, or consider doing a clothing swap with friends!

If you're on Oahu, come and join in on our ongoing clothing swap at Protea Zero Waste Store!

For even more great suggestions to help you celebrate the holiday season more sustainably this year, check out this blog post we were featured in on Redfin's blog!

Happy Holidays!


The Protea Team