Sustainable Holiday: 5 Ways You Can Make Your Holiday Season More Sustainable

It’s that time of year when it's easy to go overboard with eating, drinking, and merry-making. Waste surges a shocking 25% during the holidays. Between Thanksgiving and New Years, Americans throw away an additional 25 million tons of garbage - that’s 1 million extra tons per week. However, holiday fun doesn’t need to generate excess waste. For those who want to enjoy a greener holiday season, we’ve rounded up our top 5 sustainable holiday tips. 

sustainable holiday season reuse materials

1. Reuse and Repurpose Holiday Decor

Before you go to the store for new wrapping paper or holiday decorations, look around your house to see if you can repurpose anything. 

  • Reuse old ribbons to wrap gifts. Reusing 2 feet of holiday ribbon per household would save 38,000 miles of ribbon - that’s enough to tie a bow around the entire planet.
  • Upcycle colorful newspaper or magazine pages into gift-wrapping paper. Better yet, avoid paper altogether with festive tins or baskets. Every year, 228,000 miles of wrapping paper get tossed. We'd save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields if everyone wrapped three presents with reused materials. 
  • Reuse old ornaments for Christmas trees instead of buying new ones.
  • Reduce energy consumption and light pollution by using LED holiday lights that are cost-efficient and earth friendly.
  • Look for products made from recycled or sustainable materials when shopping.

2. Sustainable Holiday Parties: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry Without Contributing to Single-Use Plastic Waste

Everyone loves a good holiday party - we're no exception! Here are some tried and true ways to spread the cheer while hosting an eco-friendly holiday season get-together. 

  • Choose to cook food at home instead of buying it premade to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging. It may be convenient to grab that prepackaged assorted veggie tray, but you'd be contributing to the 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging discarded over the holidays. 
  • Stick to reusable cups, glasses, and silverware.
  • Heading to local farmer's markets, organic stores, or co-ops for fresh produce.
  • If you're hosting a potluck, encourage guests to bring their dishes in reusable containers.
  • Plan to serve enough to feed your guests but avoid going overboard. Leftovers are great if they get eaten, but often they get tossed.  Avoid food waste by cutting back on excess appetizers and composting excess scraps.
sustainable holiday season eco friendly reusable cups

3. Gift Experiences, Not Things

There's no better feeling than seeing the happiness on someone's face as they receive a handpicked gift. But did you know over 5.8 million gifts are returned, every year? If you're looking for eco-friendly gifts that won't get tossed out, consider gifting experiences. Experiential gifts are thoughtful ways to show you're thinking of someone without adding to their growing pile of stuff. Think concert or sports tickets, reservations to their favorite restaurant, or digital gift cards to entertainment platforms. You won't have to deal with the hassle of returns, either! If you do choose to gift things, look for multipurpose, durable, or reusable items.

4. Choose Longer Delivery Times to Shop More Sustainably

When comparing e-commerce to traditional retail shopping, researchers from The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research found that online shopping generates fewer carbon emissions.

Tim Heffernan of the NYT found that “...Shopping exclusively online is about 87% more efficient than doing all of your shopping in-store, in terms of CO₂ emissions and vehicle-miles traveled. Buying goods online can be better for the environment than in-store shopping for one fundamental reason: With online shopping, a single truck or van can replace multiple car trips, by multiple households, to stores.”

It makes a lot of sense when you break it down. Traditional in-store shopping means each individual puts a car on the road driving to and from the store. Shopping online gives companies time to consolidate orders by region and make bulk deliveries, limiting the number of vehicles on the road.

To maximize your emissions savings, opt for longer delivery times. Choosing the option with the longest delivery time allows companies to fill their trucks before hitting the road, thereby avoiding smaller, more frequent runs for same-day and next-day deliveries.

5. Carry Your Holiday Gifts In Reusable Bags

If you find yourself shopping in person, remember to bring your reusable bag. Single-use plastic bags are a significant source of plastic pollution. While we wish we could eradicate them, we aren't quite there yet. However, we can help alleviate the problem by bringing reusable totes when running holiday errands. Keep a few in the car for last-minute shopping!

We hope you learned something about how to make your holiday season more sustainable! Everyone can do their part in holiday waste prevention by taking these small steps towards an eco-friendly holiday season. What sustainable holiday season tips will you be following this year? Let us know on social media, find us @turn. 


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