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7 Festive, Sustainable Holiday Ideas

The holiday season is the time for giving gifts, elaborate decorations, cookie exchanges, and festive cocktails. All of this merriment has the potential to create a lot of waste, but it doesn’t have to. This year, why not make it a sustainable holiday season?

A sustainable holiday season with less waste is a simpler, less stressful, more conscientious holiday. After all, the essence of the holidays is simple: to spend quality time with the people you love. Our sustainable holiday tips are here to help you get the best out of the holidays and focus on what’s truly important.

7 Tips For A Sustainable Holiday Season

1. Skip the cut Christmas tree.

Cutting down Christmas trees is a long-standing tradition, but it’s one that’s costing the planet. Buying a cut Christmas tree every year contributes to deforestation. Trees store CO2 and keep it out of the atmosphere. In the climate crisis age, we need to be planting more trees–not cutting them down. 

There are a lot of beautiful, non-tacky permanent Christmas tree options on the market now. You can find beautiful wooden Christmas tree decorations online on sites like Etsy for a sustainable holiday touch. 

If you buy cut Christmas trees mainly for the woodsy aroma, you can replicate it with an essential oil diffuser. Our Bliss Essential Oil blend contains cedar and frankincense oil, and an array of fruit essential oils. Add a few drops to the wooden essential oil diffuser for a festive home scent.

2. Find alternatives to wrapping paper and plastic ribbon.

Try to avoid buying wrapping paper this year. Many wrapping papers contain plastic, making them very hard to recycle. Plastic ribbons are also hard to recycle and wreak havoc in landfills. 

Swap wrapping paper with whatever paper you have lying around your home. Old newspaper, kraft packing paper, or last year’s saved wrapping paper are all great options. You can even source Furoshiki wraps, or skip wrapping entirely!

Young woman in black overalls extending a gift wrapped in brown kraft paper and tied with red-and-white yarn

3. Organize a Secret Santa gift exchange. 

Organizing a Secret Santa is a great way to reduce the amount of gifts going around, especially with a big group. Everyone appreciates Secret Santa, because it takes away all the stress, and makes gift-giving a lot more fun. Buying a gift that anyone could enjoy can be freeing. 

Have your group draw numbers from a hat, and pick gifts from a pile in order of numbers drawn. Make sure to set budget limits and sizing rules, though. That way, no one gets a booby prize or makes everyone else look bad with their super fancy gift!

4. Agree to donate money to charities of choice instead of giving gifts. 

If you want to take #3 a step further, you can nix gifts altogether and just donate money to your charity of choice. This can be a great, non-stressful thing to do with a large group of adults or grown kids. 

Have everyone in your group donate $50-$100 to a charity of choice. Go around in a circle and have everyone talk about why they decided to donate to that charity. (Brownie points for donating to environmental protection charities, like the David Suzuki Foundation or Greenpeace.)  

If you want to still give some kind of gift, just do stocking stuffers. Follow our sustainable gift guide for eco friendly stocking stuffer ideas!

Red plaid stockings with felt snowflakes hanging above roaring fireplace

5. Produce less kitchen waste. 

The holidays are the time when lots of home cooking and baking goes down. Baking lots of cookies, pies, turkey dinners, and casseroles means more plastic wrap, zipper bags, and parchment in the trash. Invest in reusable swaps for these to save garbage space and money. Make it a sustainable holiday season with these great food storage swaps.

  • Beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap

    Beeswax wraps are great for covering bowls and containers that have to rest in the fridge. They're also great for wrapping balls of pie and cookie dough, covering snack boards, and wrapping cut veggies.
  • Un-parchment paper instead of parchment paper or tin foil

    Parchment paper takes up a lot of room in your trash bin (and, not to mention, costs you a lot of money). These reusable silicone baking mats save you trash bin space and money. They keep your baking sheets clean so you don’t have to constantly wash them. They’re truly non-stick, so you don’t have to worry about stuck-on cookies. 
  • Reusable freezer bags instead of single-use plastic zipper bags

    Ditch single-use plastic freezer bags and invest in some sturdy ones that you can use over and over. They’re not limited to the freezer, and you can use them to store leafy greens, fruit, cookies, bread, and more.

6. Ditch paper napkins for the big night.

When setting up your sustainable holiday dinner table, lay down reusable, washable napkins instead of the paper ones. This will create less waste and also impress your guests. Our Cheeks Ahoy Unpaper Towels come in funky colours and patterns, and they clean easily in the wash.

7. Make homemade Holiday decorations.

This is a fun, festive weekend activity that you can do with your kids. It’s a lot more fun (and a lot less wasteful) than going out and buying generic plastic holiday decorations. 

Make sustainable holiday decorations with whatever material you have on hand. Decorate your permanent Christmas tree with a popcorn garland. Make paper snowflakes with leftover printer paper. Cut strips out of cereal boxes in different colours to make paper chains that you can store away for next year.

To save costs on energy, use LED string lights. They’ll use much less energy than incandescent lights, and you won’t have to change the bulbs very often.

Child's hand applying colourful candies to gingerbread house with royal icing

Holiday tradition

Sure, tradition is huge around the holidays, like real, cut Christmas trees and piles of gifts. But why not create your own new, sustainable holidays traditions? Ditch the old traditions that aren’t serving you anymore, and fit them into your own life. Making your own traditions is way more fun, and a great way to bond with your loved ones. 

The holidays are supposed to be a relaxed, joyous time with your family. We hope these sustainable holiday ideas give you back your precious holiday time with the people you love. 

Check out our previous sustainable gift guide blog post for more inspiration! If you’re still stumped for gift ideas, consider gifting a Roots Refillery gift card with as little as $25. This e-gift card is the perfect sustainable holiday gift for the zero waste-curious person in your life.

Happy Holidays from the Roots Refillery team!