Are Your Holiday Traditions Impacting the Planet?

Did you know that during the holiday season, we create 25 percent more waste than the rest of the year? That’s about 1 million extra tons of garbage that goes to landfills. To reduce the environmental footprint of your holiday season, give these tips a try.


What do you get someone who has everything they need? Instead of buying more “stuff,” you could give online to a charity in his or her honor.

The average American spends $854 on holiday gifts. If you are buying items, choose items made from recycled content and with minimal packaging, which reduces waste. And when you leave the store, if you can carry your items, then decline the plastic shopping bag. Most often these bags aren’t recycled and end up cluttering landfills, communities and waterways. An even better option: bring your own reusable bag (check out all the reasons why they are awesome). Also, instead of buying “stuff” for loved ones, you could buy experiences (such as tickets to a sporting event or concert), gift cards to restaurants or give to a charity in a loved one’s honor.


If your holiday light display shines with LED lights, you’ll use 1/50th of the energy of regular holiday lights.

Use energy efficient lighting such as LED lights, which use 1/50th of the electricity of normal holiday lights. Try using a timer to reduce the time they are on or only turn them on when someone is home. You can also create your own holiday ornaments from recycled material (try our six favorite DIY ornament ideas) to put on your artificial or live Christmas tree. If you use a live tree, be sure to replant or mulch it after the holiday season.


Wrapping paper can’t be recycled, creating up to 4 million tons of waste each year.

Gift wrapping creates an estimated 4 million tons of trash each year. That’s equivalent to 5,787 NFL football fields worth of wrapping paper. Use newspapers, old maps or paper grocery bags to wrap packages (try our other wrapping tips that save money and resources). All those old holiday cards you have — they can be recycled into gift tags or into this cool ornament.

Baking and Cooking

Create less waste by using real dinnerware instead of disposables for your holiday feast.

The average American adult gains one pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and the steady availability of Christmas cookies and baked goods are partly to blame. Help out your loved ones by preparing food that’s healthy for them. Go a step further by using local ingredients (if available) that support local farmers, and package any baked goodies in reusable containers instead of disposable plates with plastic wrap. Watch your portions while cooking so that you won’t end up throwing away food (up to 40 percent of food in the U.S. is trashed), use real dinnerware instead of disposables and try composting any food waste that your family generates.


When holiday traffic looks like this, you’ll need a carpool buddy to keep you sane. Ride together with a friend or family member to save gas and money.

It’s estimated that 68 percent of Americans travel during the holiday season. Going on a road trip? Try our tips for traveling in sustainable style or consider carpooling to save gas and money while also enjoying the company of a friend or family member. If available, consider using public transportation; you’d be surprised how less stressful riding in a train can be than driving a car in gridlock holiday traffic. All these actions will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money on gas, and reduce wear and tear on your car.


Main image credit: Flickr

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