It’s easy to have an eco-friendly Christmas that both adheres to your Christmas budget AND creates less waste. 1 in 5 Americans go into debt around Christmas, and Americans throw out 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and Christmas than any other time of year.
That’s literal money getting tossed into the garbage, and that garbage is sitting in landfills emitting methane, or heading into the ocean to mess up some poor turtle’s afternoon.
How can we be eco-friendly for Christmas? We’ve got seven ideas that will reduce your waste, increase your savings, and help you have a much more enjoyable holiday season.
Follow the Buyerarchy of Needs
The buyerarchy of needs is a guide to shopping that helps you reduce the amount of brand new items you purchase. It’s a pyramid that is based on a “buy new only after exhausting every other option” model, with the base being “use what you’ve got”, followed by “borrow” and “swap.” At the very top is “buy.”
We can apply this to our eco-friendly Christmas gift giving very easily! You can swap children’s clothing with people in your neighborhood, and then gift your kids the new-to-you-clothes. This is especially great for kids that are growing rapidly; those pants will be too short for them in a matter of months, and getting them free from a swap helps you save money!
Eco-friendly choices will always start with using what is already available to you, so follow the pyramid as you assemble your holiday gifts.
Reduce Presents and Give Experiences
It’s memories over stuff this year. (And maybe every year?) Instead of giving each member of your immediate family 3-6 gifts, explore the idea of sharing time together as your present! Cold weather themed outings could be anything from ice skating to tree lighting ceremonies. You can also arrange to spend time volunteering as a family.
You can even push back the experience, by taking a family summer vacation as your holiday gift. For Christmas day, you can open envelopes with post cards of your destination in them, to get excited about the upcoming trip and have a fun, small item to open.
Opt for eco-friendly decor
Have you seen the videos on how to turn dried oranges into beautiful holiday garlands? I’m mesmerized by them! And I’m a total sucker for holiday decor, so I’m always looking for ways to decorate my house without creating a whole bunch of trash.
This ideas is eco-friendly holiday decor because you can compost the oranges after the holidays. It’s a zero-waste holiday hack!
Other eco-friendly home decor ideas are to forage for pine cones and use them as table centerpieces or as ornaments. You can also repurpose old candle jars and breath new life into them! Grab some paint and ribbon, and decorate the old jars with a holiday theme, then pour new wax into them and boom! You’ve got a holiday themed candle ready to keep the dark evenings bright and merry.
Plan more plant-based dishes for your main holiday meal
In the US we’ve got a sort of strange relationship to meat. If meat isn’t served at every meal, many people think it’s not a “real” meal.
Around the holidays meat is seen as a traditional dish, and if it’s part of your culture I totally understand why it’s included. But with rising cost of living, especially at the grocery store, making a vegetarian entree for some of your holiday parties is a way to stick to a Christmas budget and still enjoy a tasty meal.
Remember tha you can easily make a lot of popular dished vegetarian. Something like lasagna is an easy switch; skip the meat sauce and opt for a veggie one instead.
Other main dish ideas can be a mushroom risotto, a vegetarian chili over baked potatoes, or a baked ziti and a hearty winter salad on the side.
Reduce food waste
Speaking of food, an eco-friendly Christmas is one that sees less food end up in the trash.
Americans waste between 30% and 40% of the food supply each year, but that amount increases by 25% during the holidays, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
We work so hard to afford food, and then to cook it and serve it, only for it to end up in the trash? No thank you.
Reduce food waste by buying less, asking folks specifically what they enjoy eating and what they don’t, and by freezing any leftovers.
Clothes: rent, borrow, shop your closet
Why is it that we never seem to have the *right* thing to wear? Is it the endless advertisements we see daily, telling us how unfashionable we are and making us dissatisfied with our looks and clothing. Maybe! (Definitely).
If you want to spruce up your look this year but don’t want to be a part of the disaster that is fast fashion, try a clothing rental company. You’ll have lots of options, but return the clothes when you’re finished.
You can also ask friends or family if they have anything you can borrow- I’ve personally done this several times for weddings!
Travel: rideshare, public transportation, walk
Flights are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, so if you can avoid stepping foot on a plane you’ll be well on your way to an eco-friendly Christmas.
There are trains in the US- you can train from Boston to Washington DC for example, or from Seattle to Portland, OR.
Carpooling, walking, and ridesharing as great ways to get around locally as well.
If you’re just totally over the holidays, opt outside. Get back into nature with a long hike, or an overnight camping trip. No one said that the only way you can spend your holidays is inside covered in wrapping paper with a belly full of mashed turnip.
Opting outside has become more popular, especially with younger couples who don’t have kids. Taking a year (or a few years) off of the whole holiday rush might be the best thing for you, your Christmas budget, and your loved ones.