7 Ways to Have a Holly, Jolly, Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

Now, more than ever, it’s important for us to do our part in helping the environment. With the recent study that was released on the effects of climate change, there’s an even stronger sense of urgency to make drastic changes in how we consume and live on this planet.

Personally, this felt like a real wake-up call, and I’ve felt a strong pull to take action. If drastic change is what’s needed, then there has to be something I can do, even little changes I can make in my day-to-day life that will help the environment. I’ve stopped using plastic straws and began to focus on buying eco-friendly products. I’ve even been debating whether to give up my car!

The holiday season is the perfect time to start putting new practices into place—and telling your friends and family about what they can do, too. If you lead by example, you’ll be showing people just how easy, yet impactful, small changes to the way we live can be.

Here are seven actions you can take for an eco-friendly holiday season:

Donate to a worthy cause

Many organizations will match gifts over the holidays, which means that when you make a donation, it will double (or even triple) your dollars—and therefore, your impact. By giving to an environmental organization, you’re supporting the work these charities are doing while embracing the true spirit of the holiday season. Instead of feeling pressured to give a huge amount of presents, use this opportunity to cut down on consumerism and pay it forward. Here is a list of the 10 best environmental charities to donate to this year.

Use the real deal when serving

There’s so much waste produced every day, especially at parties and gatherings. In fact, six million tons of single-use plastics end up in the trash every year. This is wreaking havoc on our ecosystem and is also easily avoidable. Even though it requires a bit more clean-up, I always try to opt for using my ceramic plates, metal utensils, and cloth napkins when I have friends and family over.

Ditch the wrapping paper

This year, when I wrap the gifts I’m going to give, I’m planning to use recyclable materials, like newspaper or a reusable bag. I’m also going to tell my family and friends that I don’t want any wrapping paper on my gifts. And all the extra bows and wrapping paper end up in the trash anyway. There lots of clever ideas for wrapping a gift in an eco-friendly way, like with fabric gift wrap or even better, with a cute scarf! Pull out some brown bags and newspaper and get crafty!

Add eco-friendly items to your gift list

When I’m making my gift list, I try to think of green gifts I can give to my loved ones. Maybe it’s a beautiful cloth napkin set, stainless steel straws, or a reusable glass water bottle. Any item that they’ll use every day to prevent waste is perfect. Here are a few more creative ideas for you: reusable grocery bags, a beanie made from recycled materials, a biodegradable phone case, a yoga mat made from recycled wetsuits, and reusable snack bags.

Make composting one of your New Year’s Resolutions

By composting food scraps, you’ll help food take on a new life as plant fertilizer. You can start with a simple compost bin, like this one, and look up a composting service or drop-off site near you. Get in touch with your neighbors and see if you can schedule a weekly pick-up for your block. Or find out if one of your neighbors is already composting and you can join in. Here’s a great guide on how to start composting. I’ve ordered a compost bin and am planning to start this month. I find I’m cooking more around the holidays, so it seems like the perfect opportunity to put all the food scraps to good use.

Cut down on the meat and dairy

What we eat and where our food comes from is a big piece of climate change—specifically when it comes to meat and dairy. Livestock live on 30% of the earth’s surface and are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases, like methane and nitrous oxide. When you’re planning your holiday meals, take this into consideration and focus the meal on those awesome plant-based side dishes. There’s no need to make a drastic diet change, but if you can slowly make intentional choices with your special occasion dinners (and everyday meals), your eating habits can have a very positive impact on the environment.

Upcycle your holiday outfit

Who doesn’t love to dress up for the holidays? Whether I’m going to an office party, or finding a dress for a special family dinner, there’s something about new clothes that feels festive to me. Still, I don’t want my new outfit to increase my carbon footprint. Online consignment shops are great places to find pieces I would buy in a store, but don’t create a demand to manufacture more clothes. And since they’re used, I can usually get them at a decent price! And proving that “sustainable” can still mean “shiny and new,” more retailers are coming up with ways to provide consumers with ethically sourced items, like these statement earrings made with 100% recycled gold.

Originally published on November 29, 2018.

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Caitlin Elizabeth is a writer and creative consultant. She is passionate about equality, creative living, and wellness and has spent time in 11 countries around the world. She owns her own creative consulting business and lives with her adopted pup Tula. Connect with her at caitlinelizabeth.me.