9 Easy Ways To Be More Sustainable This Holiday Season

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Want to be more sustainable this year but not sure where to start? Read on.

For some people, the nearing holiday season brings feelings of warmth, togetherness, and excitement. The holidays might conjure up sweet memories of family members that you only visit with once a year or baking grandma’s notorious walnut-banana bread.

For me, the approaching holiday season brings on all of those warm feelings and it feels like high stress levels, high expectations, disappointments, unspoken family tension, and waste. Lots of waste.

If you’re like me, you’re looking for ways that you can be more eco-friendly this holiday season. So below are 9 ways you can be more sustainable this year.

1. Shop local.

Resist the urge to purchase everything on Amazon. We know how convenient it can be, but please support your local mom and pop shops where you can. The less distance products have to travel to our doorstep, the better it is for our environment. 

2. Buy gift cards to local restaurants or services.

Give back to your local economy by buying gift cards to restaurants or other service-based businesses (think spas, nail salons, photographers, in-house services, and artists) that were affected by the pandemic. A lot of these industries are still being affected and would really appreciate the business.

3. Decorate with what you already have.

Do not buy new decorations each year. As a professional organizer, I’ve seen many households that waste about 50% of their storage (read: garage) space on holiday decorations that get used for three weeks out of every year. Some households have so many decorations, they don’t even remember what they have anymore, so they’ll buy new things. If they keep this up, your entire garage will be filled with Christmas decorations before you know it.

4. Save your boxes from online orders.

It may not be realistic to do all of your shopping locally. So, if you’re going to do some online shopping, at least begin to save your delivery boxes so that you can use them as gift boxes.

Here I’m wrapping a gift with the paper filler I received from an online purchase.

5. Reuse paper grocery bags as wrapping paper.

Wrapping paper kills me. Is it beautiful? Yes. Do I love the look of perfectly wrapped gifts as much as the next person? Absolutely. But do we need to purchase new gift wrap that’s going to end up in the trash two seconds after the person opens their gift? Absolutely not. Instead, use those old Whole Foods bags you’ve been holding on to (hint: they’re probably in your pantry or under your sink). Cut down the side folds to open the bag. Turn it inside out, so that when your gift is wrapped, the store’s logo is touching the box.

6. Email your holiday card instead of mailing it.

A shocking 2.65 billion traditional paper holiday cards are sold each year in the US alone, according to earthero.com. “In fact, if you stacked all the holiday cards we buy, sent, and then toss (or keep in a drawer for years!), you could fill a football field 10 stories high.” And if that doesn’t convince you, and you’re set on mailing a card out, at least choose 100% post-consumer recycled paper. If you want to try an e-card this year, a good friend of mine recommends paperlesspost.

7. Host a themed white elephant party.

Don’t get me wrong, white elephant parties are a classic. But as a professional organizer, I often spot unused white elephant gifts in people’s junk drawers, or tucked away into a hall closet. Instead of doing a typical white elephant party where people bring gag gifts, suggest a themed white elephant party, like a book exchange. Everyone can bring a book they love from their own home collection to swap with other attendees.

8. Don’t buy a gift.

Here you can take a page out of the Grinch’s playbook. No, don’t be mean and nasty to people… but maybe instead of giving someone something they might not need, you can give them a call and check in. Sometimes people just want someone to talk to, and why can’t that person be you?

9. Celebrate with an experience instead.

Still want to give your loved ones something nice? Gift an experience instead of a physical possession. Take them to see their favorite band they’ve always wanted to experience live. Enjoy a night at a comedy club or see a magic show. Most likely, the quality time spent together will be more memorable than any physical possession you could give them. 

Looking to do something even more meaningful? Take your family to volunteer at a soup kitchen or a food bank for an afternoon. Participate in a local beach clean up day. Spend a day giving back to those that are less fortunate than you are.


Have another idea of how to be sustainable around the holidays? Leave a comment below. Whatever you end up doing, have a safe and happy holidays.

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