It’s the most wonderful time of the year again!
With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time for you to start planning, decorating, and shopping!
I’ve always loved Christmas and the magic that comes with it: family gatherings, gorgeous decorations, good food, festive music…
But as great as it sounds, the holiday season is also extremely wasteful!
Did you know that Americans generate around 25% more waste during the holidays than at any other time of the year?
From food waste to returns to wrapping paper, all this waste is an environmentalist’s nightmare.
But fortunately, we as eco-conscious consumers don’t have to contribute to this.
This complete guide on how to have a sustainable Christmas will help you make better choices to make this holiday season as eco-friendly as possible.
I’ve broken it down into different categories, so it is easier for you to read.
And after you’ve read this article, check my blog post about how to have a simple, minimalist Christmas!
This blog post contains affiliate links which means that if you buy something through such links, I will get a small commission without any extra cost for you. Please read my Disclosure for more details.
How to have a sustainable Christmas in 2023
I have an entire blog post about sustainable Christmas gift ideas, so don’t forget to check it out.
It has plenty of specific examples of things you can get your loved ones that will not harm the planet!
Get something on their wishlist
I don’t know about you, but I always struggle to decide what presents to give my friends and family members.
I don’t want to gift them something that they won’t like or use because it would be incredibly wasteful.
Plus, I don’t want them to be disappointed.
If you’re like me, one of the best ways to make sure your gift will be used and loved is to directly ask your loved ones what they want for Christmas.
That way, they will receive something they truly need or want, something they would probably have bought themselves anyway.
Buy quality over quantity
When looking for presents, always choose gifts that are built to last, even if that means giving fewer presents.
A well-made, good-quality gift will be used for years and years.
Whereas if you buy a cheap present, it might break or get damaged after only a few weeks or months of use.
Not to mention that the receiver will probably enjoy a lot more something durable and high-quality!
If you prefer adding your own touch to the gifts you give, consider making them yourself.
I find that homemade presents are a lot more personalized and thoughtful than store-bought ones.
Whenever I receive something made by someone I love, I know that they’ve spent their precious time creating a meaningful gift for me.
I am reminded that they care about me and that they’ve done their best to make me happy.
There are countless things you can craft yourself and gift during the holiday season!
You can make handmade candles, knit clothes or warm socks, paint a beautiful work of art, bake some yummy treats, or even build wooden toys.
Fairtrade, ethically-made gifts
Another way to find more sustainable gifts is to buy fairtrade products from ethical and sustainable brands.
Choosing a present made by an eco-friendly brand means that it was produced with people and the planet in mind.
Workers in the supply chain are paid fair, living wages and work under safe, healthy conditions.
The product is also made with low-impact materials using eco-friendly processes that do not harm the environment.
Some of my favorite sustainable brands from which you can buy lovely gifts are:
I also have a couple of posts on the blog about other ethical brands that are worth supporting:
Whatever you are choosing to gift, always try to choose items made with sustainable materials.
If you want to buy clothes or home textiles, go for organic cotton, linen, hemp, Tencel, or recycled fabrics.
For the children in your life, see if you can buy toys made of FSC-certified wood or recycled plastic.
In general, always avoid things made of virgin plastic, and choose natural or recycled materials.
Experiences or other non-material gifts
Instead of buying a material present, you can also gift a nice experience, like a dinner at a restaurant, a pass to a local museum, or a pottery class.
Subscriptions or consumables products, like coffee or chocolates, are two other presents that will be enjoyed by most people.
You can read more about my top minimalist gift ideas here.
Almost all the wrapping paper you can find at the store is made of non-recyclable materials.
It means that once the present is opened, a whole sheet of plastic ends up in the bin.
So sad, right?
Thankfully, this can be avoided and you can entirely ditch conventional wrapping paper to have a more sustainable Christmas!
I’ve actually never bought wrapping paper in my life because I’ve always kept and reused the ones I received the previous years.
You simply need to open your gifts carefully, and then store the wrapping paper and gift bags neatly.
Not only is this very sustainable, but it will make you save a lot of money.
Because wrapping paper and gift bags are SO expensive!
If you don’t have wrapping paper and gift bags from previous Christmases, reuse cardboard boxes or brown paper from online orders and decorate them nicely.
And if you have a few pieces of fabric that you don’t use, you can wrap your presents with these!
They would make an extra gift and they look lovely!
Plantable cards or e-cards
If you like sending your loved ones a Christmas card every year, consider switching to electronic cards!
There are countless templates on Canva that you can use and customize, and they are all incredibly beautiful and festive.
But if you prefer real Christmas cards, consider getting some made of recycled or FSC-certified paper.
You can even get plantable cards, which would be even more fun and unique to send to your family and friends!
Food & Hosting
Avoid food waste
It is estimated that in the UK alone, 5 million Christmas puddings, 2 million turkeys, and 74 million mince pies are thrown away every year during the holiday season.
This is huge!
We often tend to cook too much food at Christmas time, and this contributes to the global food waste problem we are currently facing.
If you want to have a sustainable Christmas, make sure to cook the right amount of food and keep the leftover food if there is any.
You can freeze your leftovers, or give them away to your neighbors or friends.
Also, do not forget to put all the food scraps in the compost if you can.
I have many more tips in my blog post about easy ways to reduce waste in the kitchen, so check it out!
Choose local, organic and seasonal food
If you’re hosting at Christmas, try to cook your meals with local and seasonal food.
Local and seasonal food usually doesn’t need to travel thousands of miles to arrive on your plate, so it’s a way more sustainable option.
Plus, you’re supporting local farmers, and it almost always tastes much better!
And if you can, buy organic food.
It is produced without pesticides and herbicides, which is so much healthier for humans, the soil and water streams.
The production process of organic food is also a lot less polluting overall, and it helps maintain healthy ecosystems.
Cook plant-based meals and reduce how much meat you include in your meals.
Meat production is a large contributor to climate change and deforestation.
So try to swap some of your meat-based meals for more plant-based ones.
Meat is also very expensive, so you will save a lot of money in the process!
You can find thousands of recipes online on how to cook vegetarian or vegan Christmas dinners.
Your family members might discover how delicious plant-based meals can be and even reduce their meat consumption afterward!
Reusables over disposables
When you’re hosting, avoid using paper plates, disposable cutlery and single-use napkins.
These are all incredibly wasteful, they are not worth it!
Instead, serve the dishes on regular plates, use metal cutlery to eat, and provide your guests with reusable napkins.
Believe me, your dining table will look 100% more elegant and festive!
Reuse what you already have
All the Christmas decorations we can see in stores at this time of the year are so tempting to buy!
They are all shiny and look super festive, and companies use powerful marketing techniques to make us consume more and more.
However, do not fall into this trap and instead of buying new decorations this year, reuse the ones you already have from previous holiday seasons.
You’ll save tons of money and have a sustainable Christmas at the same time!
DIY Christmas decor
If you need some new decor pieces, why not craft them yourself or with your kids?
It’s a very fun activity that will spark your creativity this festive season!
Here are some wonderful Christmas decorations you can create yourself: dried orange garlands, paper stars, candles, DIY tree ornaments, and so much more!
You can even go foraging in your neighborhood for some natural elements like pinecones, rosehips, and evergreen branches.
With these, make a beautiful wreath or table centerpiece!
Another incredibly sustainable way to get some new Christmas decorations is to buy them second-hand.
Head to the local thrift store or look on Facebook Marketplace, and you’ll see that you could decorate your whole house with only pre-loved decor!
Choosing second-hand items instead of new ones prevents unwanted pieces from going to waste.
It also means that no additional natural resources have to be extracted from the Earth to make new products.
Plus, they are so much cheaper! Win-win!
Buy from sustainable brands
If you cannot find what you’re looking for, don’t worry. You can always buy eco-friendly decorations from sustainable brands.
I have an entire blog post about ethical home decor brands, and many of them have a Christmas collection, so you should check them out!
Here are the best brands I’ve found that make unique, sustainably-made Christmas decorations:
Sustainable Christmas trees
If you already have a fake Christmas tree, reuse it this year.
Fake trees are made of plastic, and producing them is very resource-intensive.
But if you reuse them, year after year, they can be a sustainable option!
An artificial tree needs to be used for more than a decade to have a lower environmental footprint than a real tree.
So if you have one, reuse it for as long as you can, but if you don’t, consider getting a fake tree second-hand.
If you prefer real trees, get one from an organic tree farm if there are any nearby.
And choose a tree with the root ball still attached to it because you will be able to replant it once the holidays are over.
There are even companies allowing you to rent a real Christmas tree for the holidays, and it is then replanted and reused the following years!
Many of us love decorating our homes with Christmas lights as they create a magical atmosphere.
Try to pick LED lights as they are a lot more energy-efficient and they last for a very long time.
And remember to turn them off whenever you leave the house or during the night to save energy.
I personally do not have any Christmas sweaters or any other outfit just for the holiday season.
When I visit family at Christmas, we most of the time all dress casually.
And if I want to look more elegant, I always go for a little black dress with tights.
However, if you and your family like wearing Christmas sweaters or a specific type of clothing for the holidays, I highly recommend that you reuse what you already have.
If you want something different this year, consider swapping with other family members.
To make it more sustainable, you can also get a “new” Christmas outfit second-hand, or even rent a gorgeous holiday dress.
And avoid supporting fast fashion brands!
During the holiday season, we often need to travel far to meet up with family.
Depending on how we choose to travel, this can generate a lot of carbon emissions!
The best thing you can do for the environment would be to minimize the traveling distance as much as possible.
However, this is not possible for most of us.
We still want to see our families, especially during the holiday season.
So if you need to travel far to visit family this Christmas, see if you can go there by train instead of flying or driving your car.
If you drive there, carpooling with other family members can be a great option.
Also, when shopping for Christmas gifts, consider leaving your car at home and taking public transportation if that’s possible for you.
To learn more about how you can travel more sustainably, read my blog post about my best eco-friendly travel tips!
Final thoughts on how to have a sustainable Christmas
The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also the most wasteful.
Sure, there are many things we cannot control, but we can still take some steps to make it as sustainable as possible.
From gift-giving to decorating for Christmas, our small actions to reduce our environmental impact do add up and they all matter.
Don’t worry if you cannot implement all these tips.
We are all in different situations, and the key is to do our best.
There is no need to stress about it, just do what you can.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy this magical, heart-warming holiday season as much as you can!
Now that you know how to make the holidays more eco-friendly, you might want to read my blog post about how to have a simple, minimalist Christmas.
What are your best tips to have a sustainable Christmas this year?