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How To Make Your Holiday Season Sustainable | Less Waste and More Joy

The holidays are already in full swing, but it isn't too late to manage the clutter and waste with these ideas for a more sustainable holiday season. As we enter the heart of the most festive time of year, there’s a lot to do. From gifting to decorating to cooking and more, the holidays give us plenty of opportunities to practice a more sustainable way of life. With waste increasing drastically during this time of year, it’s more important than ever to mindfully look for ways we can help out our earth.

If you’re wondering how to minimize negative environmental impact while maximizing positive vibes and good cheer, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gathered a list of ideas and inspiration to help you enjoy a more ecological and less wasteful holiday and Christmas season. Let’s get into it!

Choose a Potted Christmas Tree

How to Care for Your Potted Christmas Tree by House Beautiful

Plastic Christmas trees seem like they are a better choice for the planet than a living tree, but even those are thrown away after an average of 6 years—and where do they go? Landfills. Moreover, they’re made from harmful, non-biodegradable plastics, whereas a real tree can be naturally recycled or composted.

Choosing to cut down a live tree year after year isn’t the greatest option either – the amount of waste is enormous. What’s the answer? A potted, living tree that can be planted in your yard, a friend’s yard, or another location altogether once the holidays end. Sure, they’re not as large and grand as the u-cut trees, but their life can be sustained (which in turn helps to sustain us) long after the festivities are over.

Use Reusable Gift Bags and Wrap

Americans use enough wrapping paper each year to cover 6,000 football fields. While gift wrap technically can be recycled, it contains so many dyes and ink that the number of usable fibers that can be extracted is grossly outweighed by the amount of sludge and harmful emissions generated during the recycling process. And if the gift wrap is encrusted with glitter? Forget about it.

So, what do we do? Choose sustainable gift wrap options, of course! Obviously, we love eco-friendly gift wrapping solutions – we created a whole company around it. Tokki makes reusable gifting easy with our Tokki Gift Bags (no tape or scissors needed!). And you reduce your waste even further by not needing to buy a paper or plastic card—our Tokki Tags just take a tap of their phone (or QR code scan) to reveal your memorable digital gift message. 

Using a Tokki Gift Bag, newspaper, or any reusable material helps to reduce the immense gift wrap waste generated each year in America.

Pick Thoughtful and Long-Lasting Gifts  

We're all about gifting memorably here at Tokki, and thoughtful gifting is one of the most important steps to making your holidays more sustainable. We have a whole blog post about Sustainable Gifting, so head over there if you want a detailed guide. 

We suggest looking at what your giftee both needs and wants, as well as how their most unique qualities can be incorporated into their gift. Then do a little research, we recommend starting with our Tokki tested gift guides.

olive oil wrapped gift set

Sourcing from sustainable brands and buying long-lasting products can be a long process but have a big impact—that's why we've done all of the work for you! Take a look at our Tokki Gift Sets if you're looking for a gift that supports sustainable, small, women and minority owned businesses. Plus, their products will come wrapped in one of those beautiful Tokki Gift Bags we mentioned—you don't have to lift a finger! 

Ditch the Junk

Be mindful when choosing your stocking stuffers. Does your loved one really need that little plastic toy, or will it be completely forgotten about within hours? Keep the focus on the gifts that really matter. If you’re looking for some fun little knick-knacks as “add-ons” for gifts, think about making them yourself, or purchasing fair trade, up-cycled items that benefit the planet and local artisans. 

Opt for LED and/or Solar Powered Lights

led lights

LED or solar-powered lights use far less electricity in comparison to their standard counterparts. This results in a reduced impact on the planet and a smaller electricity bill. And with solar-powered lights you don’t have to worry about turning them off at the end of the night – they will turn off naturally as they lose their solar charge overnight. These Twinkle Gold LED string lights from Crate and Barrel can also serve as a fun stocking stuffer early in the season. 

Eat Local and Support Local Farmers

One of the best ways you can engage in sustainability all year round is to know where your food comes from. If your hometown has a farmer’s market, choose to purchase as much produce, artisanal products such as honey and jam, and even meat and eggs from these vendors. You will have the opportunity to talk with the farmers themselves about their practices, and you’ll learn a lot about the food you’re eating as well.

Plan Meals and Food Quantities for Celebrations

The holiday season equals food, food, and more food. But did you know that Americans waste nearly 40 million tons of food each year, and the national average goes up by 20% during the holidays? Yikes. 

Ensure that your holiday mealtimes are eco-friendly by planning out how much food you really need to make. You can also put any waste you do have to good use by implementing composting in your home.

Use What Mama Nature Gave You

Nature Inspired Holiday Decor from Better Homes & Gardens

Whenever possible, decorate with items straight from nature. Think: holly branches, live wreaths, cinnamon sticks, and fresh-cut flowers and foliage from your own backyard. Not only will these organic materials keep you from investing in more plastic goods, but they will bring the clean and inviting scents and textures of the earth right into your home.

Practice a “Simple is Best” Philosophy

Do you know the houses where it looks like Christmas infiltrated every corner? We’re talking dozens of plastic Santas, angels, carolers, reindeer, and so many twinkly lights you’re certain the house is about to catch fire at any moment. Inside, there’s glitter, garlands, wreaths, banners, and holiday-themed tchotchkes everywhere. Yeah…there’s a better way.

Keep your holiday décor simple and elegant by selecting those pieces that truly speak to you, your family, and the joy of the holiday. Instead of decorating your entire home, perhaps just your mantle and your banister will suffice. Or maybe you love Christmas lights, but you can do without the ceramic Mr. and Mrs. Claus and opulent plastic-and-glitter Christmas fairyland scene. Less is more, and a little bit of holiday decorating makes a big impact when it is done mindfully and tastefully.

Ask for Email Receipts

Many stores now give you the option of email, printed, or both when it comes to your receipt. Choose email only and save paper while also ensuring that all your proofs of purchase are kept in one place. No more hunting for an elusive piece of paper before you can make a return. Now you can have it right on your phone – good for the earth and for your stress levels!

Use Digital Cards Whenever Possible

Think digital cards don’t have the same personal feel as traditional paper cards? Think again!

Digital messages are a fun and interactive way to tell your loved one you care without wasting paper. Our Tokki Tags allow you to gift (and re-gift) beautiful messages, making your card both personal and eco-friendly. 

We hope you have a fun, safe, and sustainable holiday season. Let's be merry and bright with a healthy planet! 

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Further Reading

Is Wrapping Paper Recyclable? The Truth Might Surprise You…

Pivoting Back with Purpose | Gifting More Sustainably and Joyfully in an Ever-Crazy World

What Is Sustainable Gifting and Why Does It Matter?