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Christmas: 10 Tips to Reduce Waste and Protect the Environment
Blog...Christmas: 10 Tips to Reduce Waste and Protect the Environment

Christmas: 10 Tips to Reduce Waste and Protect the Environment

Ecology News
Global Warming
little red car with christmas tree on top
The holiday season is just around the corner – what are some things that you can do this holiday season to take part in the fight against climate change this Christmas?
Ecology News
little red car with christmas tree on top

It’s the end of the year: lights hug the homes (or in Paris, the cafés) of your neighborhood, seasonal music and snowy-sights fill the air, holiday shopping takes up your free time on the weekend – these are all tell-tale signs that Christmas time is finally here.

During Christmas, it may not be on your radar just how much waste the holidays create. In the midst of excessive travel, cooking, and gift giving – your individual carbon footprint might be bigger than you realize. 

How can you reduce waste and protect the environment this Christmas? 

Read more to find out our top ten tips to avoid waste and harming the planet this holiday season.

How many people around the world celebrate Christmas?

Originally a Christian-based and religious holiday, Christmas has become more of a commercial holiday everywhere in the world than anything else. In other words, people all over the globe celebrate Christmas regardless of their religious obligations.

In fact, Christrmas is known as an official holiday in more than 160 countries, and almost 50% of people in the world take part in some sort of Christmas celebration. According to recent polls less than five years old, 75% of Europeans celebrate Christmas, and a whopping 93% of Americans celebrate it, too!

Long story short, Christmas has become more of a commercialized holiday for the majority of the Western World – and seen as a fun holiday rather than a religious one.

What do people usually do to celebrate Christmas?

Christmas celebrations vary depending on the family, but the parts of Christmas usually to be expected are tree decorations, putting up Christmas lights up both outside and inside the house, cooking a Christmas dinner, and buying and wrapping Christmas presents to be opened on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Many people also travel for Christmas, whether it is to a tropical place to escape frigid temperatures, or to fly home and spend time with family and friends – Christmas is known to be one of the busiest times to travel every year.

Even people who aren’t religious or subscribe to the commercial celebration of Christmas have their own traditions for December 25th. For instance, Jewish people or those who celebrate Hanukkah have their own Christmas tradition of going to the movies and eating Chinese food, as it’s often the only type of restaurant open on Christmas day.

However, the more traditional Christmas celebrations are really the true culprits of excessive waste and emissions during the holiday season. How do some of these typical Christmas traditions contribute to landfill and pollution? 

Star on Christmas tree

Is Christmas sustainable?

Similar to holidays like the Fourth of July, Halloween, and Thanksgiving – Christmas isn’t as environmentally friendly as many may think it is.

The thing about Christmas is that it’s known for gift-giving, lots of people traveling, cooking massive meals, and lighting elaborate decorations up around the house.

All of these Christmas traditions take up exorbitant amounts of energy, and can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions that pollute the atmosphere. However, the most notable part of Christmas that can create damage to the planet is the amount of waste from the gifts given and wrapped each holiday season. Therefore, in a way, the sustainability of Christmas is contingent on those who celebrate it – with how many gifts they give, how they wrap them, and their travel habits during the holiday season. 

red gifts

Our Top Ten Tips to Make Your Christmas More Environmentally Friendly

Christmas is a stressful enough time for most, and that’s why we’ve compiled our top ten tips to make your Christmas more sustainable without sacrificing the holiday spirit we all know and love. 

Christmas can prove a challenging time of year to be sustainable with the need to travel and give gifts to all of your friends and family, but just like any other sustainable effort – it can be done when extra thought and effort is given to the cause.
christmas tree near fireplace

Here are our 10 tips to help make your Christmas more sustainable:

Wrap Your Presents With Sustainable Wrapping Materials 

Plastic is one of the biggest culprits to creating waste during Christmas, especially with all of the presents wrapped in non-recyclable wrapping paper that is bound to end up in the trash. One of the best things you can do this Christmas is to wrap your presents more sustainably. Ditch the traditional ribbons and patterned wrapping paper, and opt to use paper wrapping and bamboo strings to tie your presents.

sustainable wrapping of xmas presents

Your gifts will have a modern, sustainable look to them – and help to protect the environment this Christmas at the same time. In addition to wrapping your Christmas gifts more sustainably, be sure to check out our guide for our top ten eco-friendly gifts to purchase this holiday season.

Cook More Plant-Based Dishes This Year

While eating meat isn’t the worst thing you could do for the environment, it isn’t the best either. It takes roughly three times the amount of water to feed a carnivore as it does an herbivore, as producing meat creates much more agricultural waste and stress than it does to harvest wheat, fruits, and vegetables. 

This holiday season, you can’t go wrong with trying to make more vegetable-based dishes or opt out heavy dairy products for some of the better-than-before vegan products on the market. My mom has easily swapped out many ingredients at our Thanksgiving table to make it vegan-friendly, and no one ever notices the difference.

It’s not only better for the environment – but for your cholesterol, too!

Also, don’t forget to try and shop seasonally at the farmer’s market during Christmas as well, in a similar sense to Thanksgiving. It’ll make your Christmas dinner more affordable, and more sustainable by mitigating the need for your preferred ingredients to travel thousands of miles to get to your Christmas dinner table. 

Stay Home for the Holidays

We know – in the midst of a reopening world following the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s becoming the new trend to jet off somewhere tropical and warm during the holiday season. Even if this isn’t the case, people travel regardless of wanting a white-blanket-free Christmas – as TSA saw over 2 million people at checkpoints for holiday travel in December 2021.

Obviously, the best way to help the planet is to not fly or drive at all – as air travel remains as one of the heaviest carbon-intensive human activities. If you are really set on seeing your family and friends during Christmas, it’s best to either take a drain, drive an electric car, or stay put from Thanksgiving until Christmas – as the two holidays are only a few weeks apart, and most people are able to work remotely.  

Switch out Your Christmas Lights for Energy Efficient Bulbs

One of the most common Christmas traditions for everyone is putting up their seasonal lights around the house, outside on the patio, or on their Christmas tree. Some people really like to deck the halls – making another common Christmas-time tradition for people to take a walk or drive to houses with excessive and extravagant Christmas lights or decorations. 

Christmas tree in city at night

While this no doubt puts people in the holiday spirits and adds a warming charm to the cold air, all those lights take up a lot of electricity every year. Therefore, the best thing you can do is search for Christmas lights that use energy efficient light bulbs. This way, you don’t have to miss out on this joyous holiday tradition – and know that you’re doing your part to reduce your Christmas carbon footprint at the same time. 

Get a Reusable Advent Calendar 

An advent calendar, used by many vloggers in Christmas videos on YouTube to countdown to Christmas day – is a little calendar often in the shape of a house with 25 punchable doors to open and pull out a little treat for the day: such as a piece of chocolate or a miniature wine bottle. These advent calendars are often made to eventually be thrown away, so this year – it’s a great idea to create or purchase a reusable advent calendar to be used this Christmas, and every Christmas after that. 

Opt for a Reusable Shopping Bag While Searching for Christmas Presents 

Christmas shopping is one of the most predominant themes of the holiday season. People spend a lot of their free time in December searching for the perfect Christmas gifts for their family and friends, often leaving stores with a million plastic bags that aren’t great for the environment.

It’s a good idea to make sure you bring a reusable shopping bag with you in the midst of your Christmas gift searching this holiday season.

Use Eco-Friendly Christmas Candles

One of the most soothing parts of the holiday season is burning a Christmas-scented candle in the house. However, a lot of these candles aren’t great for the environment – no matter how good they smell.

This Christmas, be on the lookout for less toxic candles: by searching for candles that use soy, coconut, or rapeseed wax, candles scented naturally with essential oils, or candles that use cotton, hemp, or wooden wicks.

red candles

Spend Quality Time with One Another – Not with the T.V. 

Netflix doesn't make it very easy for people to stay away from the couch, cozied up with hot chocolate and a cheesy Christmas movie. In fact, Netflix said that over half of their subscribers watched at least one original holiday film in 2020 – meaning nearly 100 million people made use of the streaming service, which isn’t always the greatest for the environment given the electricity it requires to watch a Christmas movie in HD.

As of 2024, the popular streaming platform hit an all time high of subscribers – meaning this is a growing sustainability concern during the holidays as streaming only becomes more common of a pastime.

This year, try your best to unplug and spend more time with your family. After all, that’s what Christmas is really about. 

Return or Upcycle Unwanted Christmas Gifts

How many times have you gotten a Christmas present that you weren’t too thrilled about? One of the most waste-inducing parts to Christmas is the amount of gifts that end up in the landfill.

Instead of throwing your unwanted gift away, try to donate it, give it to charity, or re-gift it to someone who may enjoy it more than you. This is known as upcycling, which is when one item is re-purposed into another to give it a second life.

Skip the Ugly Christmas Sweater 

It’s an infamous Christmas tradition for people to attend holiday parties wearing an, “ugly Christmas sweater” – or a Christmas-themed sweater that is so absurdly covered in Christmas galore, it’s nearly comical how over-the-top it is. However, have you ever stopped to think how bad sweaters like these are for the environment?

happy employees with Christmas sweaters

A lot of these Christmas sweaters will be found at fast fashion stores, which are known for their poor environmental impact. This year, it’s best to leave the ugly Christmas sweater at home and avoid shopping for new holiday attire. Instead, opt to wear something to your Christmas festivities in something that you already own – or go thrift shopping to find what you’re looking for.

This list of our top ten ways to reduce waste and keep the environment in mind this holiday season is just the beginning – there are a million ways you can have the merriest Christmas without provoking the planet’s suffering in return. 

We hope you’ll give them a try, and that you have a great Christmas!

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article on our top ten tips to reduce waste and protect the environment this Christmas has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. We offer a free demo for you to better understand our platform and all that it has to offer – including assistance with boosting supplier engagement, personalized assistance, and new ways to involve your employees.

Click here to learn more about Greenly and how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint.

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