How to Celebrate Christmas the Eco-Friendly Way, from Decor to Cards

"Having an eco-friendly Christmas is easier than you think! Here's the inside scoop on low-waste holiday decor, sustainable gifting, and more."

We love Christmas here in North America. It seems like as soon as Halloween is over, we’re all ready to blast some Mariah Carey. But cheery music aside, the holiday season has a huge carbon footprint.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans toss out 25% more trash than the rest of the year. But not even Thanksgiving, where 200 million pounds of turkey go into the trash, can compete with Christmas. Between the food waste, packaging, wrapping paper, and greeting cards, we throw away more trash on Christmas than at any other time of year.

Just because we’ve been wasteful in previous years doesn’t mean we have to continue the trend. Instead, take a look at these super easy tips for having an eco-friendly Christmas.

7 Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Christmas

1. Wrap Using Newspaper or Furoshiki


Wrapping paper is notoriously hard (if not impossible) to recycle. Even though the glossy paper looks amazing, most of it ends up in the landfill. To reduce waste, opt for eco-friendly gift wrapping options like newspaper. That way, it can easily get recycled or composted afterward.

Or, even better, skip the paper altogether! Furoshiki is an endlessly reusable wrapping cloth that’s been used in Japan for over 1,200 years. There are so many different patterns to choose from, as well as wrapping techniques.

2. Choose Secondhand Decor

eco friendly christmas

If you go into a secondhand shop right now, you’re bound to notice an impressive holiday season filled with beautiful decor from recent years and years past. (Hello, gorgeous vintage items!)

Thrifting for holiday decor isn’t just a more sustainable option than buying new. It also makes your space unique! No one will have the same wreath, ornaments, and table settings as you.

3. DIY What You Can

eco friendly christmas

DIY projects come in handy around Christmas. Not just for saving some money and upcycling what you already have, but also because it’s super satisfying knowing you made something yourself.

If you’re crafty, this is your time to shine! Homemade gifts like pillowcases, coasters, and tote bags all make for great Christmas presents. There are also plenty of projects for DIY newbies, like making your own DIY Christmas ornaments out of pinecones or dehydrated orange slices.

4. Give Sustainable Gifts (Including Experiences!)

gold and silver gift box

Sustainable gifting is a huge part of having an eco-friendly Christmas. Luckily, it’s not hard to find something perfect for your loved ones and the planet.

There are plenty of gifts to choose from. You could opt for top experience gifts (like a cooking class, museum pass, or concert), clean beauty gifts (skincare, makeup, and beyond!), sustainable gifts for men (like a chef’s kit), and more. There’s something for everyone—even the hardest to shop for.

5. Make Plant-Based Holiday Recipes

eco friendly christmas

Plant-based meals are more eco-friendly than meals that contain meat and dairy. In fact, going vegetarian can cut your emissions by about half, and going vegan can cut your emissions by up to 85%. When you’re deciding which holiday recipes to make this year, consider making some of them plant-based.

If you don’t want to make a dish entirely plant-based, consider some planet-friendly swaps. Even using an alt-milk like oat milk instead of dairy milk in a recipe can decrease your overall carbon footprint over the holidays.

6. Opt for Eco-Friendly Christmas Cards

brightly wishcloth

Christmas cards are an essential part of the holidays. Whether you mail cards to faraway family members or attach them to every gift you give, it’s a beloved tradition. Unfortunately, it’s also a wasteful one.

The environmental impact of greeting cards is a lot worse than people assume. Not only are many difficult to recycle and therefore tossed in the trash, but sending them is also an issue. The U.S. mails 1.3 billion holiday cards a year, which is the same amount of CO2 emissions as charging 22 billion smartphones or 22,000 homes’ energy use for one year.

When you’re shopping for cards, look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo. This means the paper was responsibly sourced. Also, look for recyclable options to help keep paper waste out of landfills. You could even gift a Wishcloth, which is a greeting card and reusable dishcloth in one. If you want additional ideas for eco-friendly greeting cards, click here.

7. Choose Quality Over Quantity

eco friendly christmas

Remember that scene in the first Harry Potter movie where Dudley is complaining that he only received 36 presents from his parents because he received 37 presents the year prior? While humorous (and a little bit cringe), overconsumption is a huge problem in the U.S.: we’re buying too much, and a lot of it goes into the trash.

If you’re worried you aren’t buying enough gifts this Christmas, try choosing items of quality instead of quantity. Choosing slow-produced or handmade clothing over items from fast fashion brands, for instance, ensures those items last for years to come.

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Having an eco-friendly Christmas is easier than you think! Here's the inside scoop on low-waste holiday decor, sustainable gifting, and more.

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