A Greener Holiday

As the seasons change, people everywhere begin preparing for the holiday festivities. From food to gifts to travel, the holiday season uses resources, and often results in waste, emissions, and consumption. The amount of household garbage in the U.S. increases about 25% between late November and late December, from four million tons to 5 million tonsi - in just one month! While the holiday season is a special time, festivities do not have to impact the environment so severely.

There are countless options for greening your holiday season!

Christmas Bulb

Holiday Parties:

  • Try creating your own decorations for parties. Invite friends and family, and create new holiday decorations from old ones, or from materials you might have lying around, such as flowers or cranberries.
  • Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Not only does this save energy, but it also helps your lights last longer — and have a bigger effect when turned on at night!
  • Think sustainably while shopping. Try to purchase items that have less packaging, or those made with recycled content.
  • Consider how durable a gift is before you purchase it. Less expensive items are sometimes less durable wear out quickly, and thus create waste early on. Items that embody the concept of reuse are longer lasting, and can be reused in the future.
  • Donate older materials to charities. 35% of Americans have unused gifts collecting dust at home — give them away to those in need!ii
  • BYOB — Bring your own Bags when shopping.
  • Wrap gifts using recycled or reused paper or newspaper. Did you know that if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields?iii
  • Deliver baked goods in reusable or recyclable containers for homemade gifts. When cooking or baking, try to utilize farm boxes or local farmer�s markets, using ingredients that are in season, and, consequently, impact the environment less.
  • When hosting a dinner party, use reusable cloth napkins, dishes, glasses and silverware. There are many options for renting formal tableware if you are not ready to purchase.
  • Compost leftovers.
  • After parties, load dishwashers to capacity before running them. This saves energy, as fewer cycles are needed.



  • Consider taking public transportation or carpooling with friends or relatives. Not only will this save you money, but also time, as there is more traffic during the holiday season.
  • If you are traveling, make sure holiday lights or decorations are unplugged while you are away to conserve energy.
Christmas Tree

Decorating the Home:


  • If you decide to purchase a tree this year, buy a living tree that you can plant outside or keep as a houseplant after the holidays. Having green space in the home is proven to reduce stress and enhance indoor air quality.
  • Buy a tree that was grown locally, saving transportation-related energy costs.
  • Buy a smaller tree �there is less to dispose of when you take it down.
  • See if your town has a tree chipping or reuse system.
  • Buy an artificial tree! These last for years.
  • Use LED lights whenever possible.

Don't forget that many of these holiday tips can be extended throughout the year. Always use reused or recycled materials whenever possible, turn off electronics when not in use, take public transportation, and bring your own bags! Every little change makes a big difference to a happy holiday season and a sustainable new year!

i https://www.epa.gov/students/holiday.html

ii https://www.vanderbilt.edu/sustainvu/resources/greening-guides/sustainable-holiday-greening-guide/

iii https://www.vanderbilt.edu/sustainvu/resources/greening-guides/sustainable-holiday-greening-guide/