Planning for a Green Holiday

The holidays are approaching really quickly. Far more quickly than I would like, in fact. And along with the parties and the treats and the annual photo of the kids with Santa, I am thinking about the environmental impact of all of this celebrating. When you consider the presents, the packaging, the gift wrap and the energy (both electrical and emotional) that go into the holidays, you can see how quickly it all adds up.

In an effort to reduce my environmental impact this year, I am doing a few things to make the holidays a little greener. I’m starting now, because some of them require a little planning ahead. Here’s how I’m planning to make my holidays more sustainable:

  • Forgoing new gift wrap – Over the past number of years I have amassed a large collection of re-usable gift bags. I also save tissue paper, colorful boxes, bows, paper and other festive items that could be used to wrap gifts. By doing this I have all the materials I need to wrap presents without buying anything new.
  • Going handmade – This year I am making some of the gifts I will be giving. I knit and I sew, and I also bake and make jams and jellies. Many of the items I don’t make myself I buy at local craft fairs or on Etsy. These gifts haven’t been shipped from a large factory overseas. Not only do they have a smaller carbon footprint than a mass-produced item, but they’re one-of-kind gifts with heart.
  • Eating local – When local fruits and vegetables are in season, I preserve them for later use. This means that when it comes time to cook that holiday dinner I have pumpkin puree, berries, vegetables and cranberries in my freezer, waiting to be turned into pies and sauces and soups and more. By buying local and in season I am reducing the number of miles my food has to travel, saving money, and supporting my local economy.
  • Choosing experiences over things – A lot of us don’t really need more stuff. My life is already overflowing with stuff, thanks to my two small children. At the holidays, choosing to spend time together is more important to our family than buying lots of new things. I know many older people who opt to go out for a nice meal or attend a play instead of buying more knick-knacks and home electronics as gifts. Not only is this a great way to connect with those who matter most over the holidays, but it’s easy on the earth because these sorts of gifts don’t require fuel to transport or scads of wasteful of packaging.
  • Cutting back – I find that the holiday season can get pretty crazy if I don’t make a conscious effort to keep it in check. So I keep the holidays manageable by doing less. I might not attend every event that I possibly could. I might not give particularly lavish presents to everyone on my list. But I’ve found that most people understand, and have similar goals. When we do less over the holidays we consume less, which is good for the planet, our wallets and our sanity.
  • How about you? What are you doing this year to plan for a greener holiday season? I’d love to hear some more ideas!

    :: :: ::

    When Amber isn’t hoarding gift wrap, she’s writing about her daily adventures over at

    4 Responses to Planning for a Green Holiday
    1. Shannon
      November 16, 2009 | 9:01 pm

      These are all such wonderful points! One cool thing my parents did when we were kids is they’d get us 1 nice present- to share from Santa. Then we’d have a few other small things like a new set of jammies or some socks. I loved the holidays growing up. We were the family that had people over and went christmas caroling in our neighborhood.
      This year, I am planning to get small sized grocery bags from whole foods- they are pretty and can be reused. this will be my gift wrap. Inside the bags, I would like to make breads and cookies, maybe give folks some maple syrup or some small something that is useful and special.
      Last year I gave everyone bird feeders, suit and bird food. I liked that too since I was also giving back to the environment.
      I love Christmas though and I really love thinking of nice thoughtful things for the folks that I love the most…. which is a lot of people.

    2. sonomabuzz
      November 17, 2009 | 2:37 am

      I really appreciate your comment about choosing experiences over things . We live in such a materialistic society , we need to get away from having things and start having lives.

    3. Jen
      November 19, 2009 | 9:58 pm

      We plan to decorate with as many natural materials as possible. We also have a stash of gift bags so we will be using those, except for the little kids because they love ripping into presents. So we will have to find a creative way to wrap their gifts.

    4. Marizela (Potspoon!)
      December 4, 2009 | 9:07 pm

      This year (since I paint bags for a living anyway) I decided to paint up a few mini canvas bags to be used as reusable gift bags. While I do reuse other gift bags, they eventually break or tear and many cannot be recycled. The canvas bags can even be washed and is like two gifts in one! I hope it goes over well!