Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Eco-Friendly Gifts and Tips for the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us. As we get caught up in the shopping, the decorating, and the celebrations with family and friends, it's easy to forget all those things that make the holidays special have an impact on the environment. During the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, we consume more resources, burn more fossil fuels, and generate more waste than any other time of the year. Learn how to tread more lightly this holiday season. You don't have to sacrifice your favorite holiday traditions to have a green Christmas.

Green Giving

Start greening up your Christmas by rethinking your holiday gift giving. Who needs more plastic junk made in a sweatshop halfway around the world that will languish in the landfill forever once the recipient tires of it? Instead, give eco-friendly gifts that evoke the true spirit of the season.

Some of the best gifts aren't "stuff" at all; they're gifts of time or experiences. Tickets to sporting events, concerts, and plays make great gifts and offer a way to spend more time with your loved ones. Or give that frazzled person on your shopping list a chance to get away from it all with a certificate for a spa day or a weekend at a bed and breakfast.

Consider your own talents. If your cooking skills are the envy of your friends, give certificates for a home-cooked meal of the recipient's favorite dishes. If you're a meticulous housekeeper, give a certificate for a top-to-bottom housecleaning (using green cleaning products, of course). If you play a musical instrument, give lessons. If you're computer savvy, help someone set up a website or a blog.

Consider the recipient's interests. An outdoor enthusiast may appreciate an annual National Parks pass. Give a fitness buff a gym membership or time with a personal trainer. A photography class or museum pass may be a good gift for a creative type. A cook may enjoy a cooking class or a CSA membership.

Give locally made gifts. Not only will you minimize the impact to the environment by foregoing gifts that are transported thousands of miles from where they are produced, you'll support the local economy. Local artisan shops and craft fairs are a good source for unique gifts so you won't have to worry about duplicates.

Make your own gifts. Nothing is more special than a handmade gift created with the recipient in mind. Jewelry, scarves, and tote bags are all gifts that can be made with relative ease. If you're not at all crafty, a collage of framed photos or a personalized calendar make easy, yet thoughtful gifts. Gifts from the kitchen also are appreciated; a dried soup mix in a mason jar, a pretty jar of Herbes de Provence, or homemade chocolate truffles are some options.

Eco-Friendly Gifts for Everyone on your List

When shopping for gifts, look for items that are sustainably produced, made from eco-friendly or recycled materials, are non-toxic, and are recyclable. Avoid buying gifts that require batteries, as discarded batteries are an environmental hazard. Look for durable items that won't wear out quickly and end up in the landfill before next Christmas rolls around.

Consider these eco-friendly gift ideas:

  • Stainless steel water bottle: Promote good health and the reduction of plastic waste with this reusable water bottle free from harmful BPA.
  • Bamboo kitchen utensils and cutting boards: Bamboo is a quick-growing grass and a sustainable alternative to slow-growing trees. It's stronger than wood and is naturally anti-microbial, making it a great material for kitchen use. The cooks on your list will love the durability, easy maintenance and attractive look of these kichen essentials.

  • Fabric sandwich bags: These fun, reusable, machine-washable, and BPA-free alternatives to plastic sandwich bags make great stocking stuffers for all your green friends.

  • Make up brush travel set: These brushes are made from recycled and sustainable materials. 1% of all sales go to environmental groups.

  • Jade Encore yoga mat: Made with recycled rubber. Old Jade mats are recycled into new mats.

  • Recycling truck: Your child will learn all about recycling while playing with this durable truck made from 100% recycled milk cartons.

More Tips for an Eco-Friendly Holiday

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the volume of waste generated by American households increases by 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. That amounts to one million extra tons of garbage each year. Think about ways your family can minimize waste this holiday season.

Christmas trees: While you may think an artificial tree is the more sustainable choice, it actually isn't. Artificial trees are made from PVC, which is harmful to the environment. They typically are discarded after six years of use and are sent to the landfill where they last forever. This year, purchase a real tree from a tree farm. You won't contribute to deforestation because the farmer will plant new trees in its place. After Christmas, look for ways to recycle the tree instead of sending it to the landfill. Trees can be used for mulch or to provide winter habitat to backyard birds. Many communities offer tree recycling services and use the trees to mulch playgrounds and trails.

Christmas shopping: Plastic shopping bags end up discarded in landfills and tangled in trees, where they harm birds and wildlife. Take reusable cloth bags with you on your holiday shopping trips to minimize waste.

Gift wrap: Avoid shiny wrapping paper, which generally can't be recycled. Look for eco-friendly wrapping paper made from recycled materials. Create your own wrapping paper by repurposing old maps, calendars, newspapers, or magazines. Look for alternatives to wrapping paper like fabric gift bags or remnants that can be reused year after year. Save boxes, bows, and large pieces of wrapping paper to reuse next year. Recycle everything else.

Holiday lights: Switch to LED lights, which don't use as much electricity. Set the lights on a timer so they turn off when you go to bed and stay off during the day. This saves electricity and increases the life of your lights. Do some research to find out where you can recycle old Christmas lights in your area.

Christmas cards: Send electronic cards to save paper and fuel. If you send paper cards, make sure they're made from recycled materials. Recycle the cards you receive, including the envelopes they come in, or use them to make ornaments or gift tags.

Holiday parties and meals: There's no time like the holidays to break out the good china and table linens. Avoid using paper plates and napkins and disposable utensils, which end up in the landfill after a single use. Serve local, seasonal foods and send the leftovers home with your guests, not into the trash. Keep a recycling bin next to the trash so your guests have a convenient spot to discard their cans and bottles and other recyclables.

Recycle old electronics: When Santa brings you that new laptop, cell phone, or flat-screen TV you've been wanting, don't send the old one to a landfill. Donate it to charity if it still works or find out where you can recycle it in your area.

The Green Christmas Song

The Green Christmas Poll

What change will you make this year to green up your holiday?

  • I will shop for eco-friendly gifts.
  • I will use a real tree and recycle it after Christmas.
  • I will reduce the amount of gift wrap I use.
  • I will use more energy-efficient lighting.
  • I will serve local, seasonal food at my holiday meal.
  • Recycle, recycle, recycle.
  • Other (describe in the comments section below).
See results without voting

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Comments 31 comments

eye say profile image

eye say 5 years ago from Canada

some very good ideas in this hub thanks for putting all these ideas into one place.

a vote up and I think I'll share this one on FB :O)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 5 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for the read, comment, vote, and share, eye say.

Arlene V. Poma 5 years ago

Deborah, a very timely Hub, loaded with helpful suggestions. Here's hoping everyone follows your useful guide. I've always found shiny wrapping paper such a waste, and I hate seeing it thrown away. Yes, you can't recycle that stuff or the fancy ribbons unless you save it and use it again and again. Voted up, bookmarked,and everything else.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 5 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Arlene. You should see what I call "Santa's secret closet" at my house. Full of scraps of wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, boxes, you have it. All the stuff I can't bring myself to throw away and keep using over and over again.

Arlene V. Poma 5 years ago

You aren't alone, Deborah. People rip their Christmas gifts open, but I take my time so I can use the gift wrapping for next year and beyond. It drives them crazy when I slowly peel off the tape, but I think everyone should make the effort.

karen reaume 5 years ago

Here's a tree option popular by us - buy a live, balled tree and plant it after Christmas :)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 5 years ago from Iowa Author

Good option, Karen. If the tree is small enough and the pot it's in is big enough, you can use it for a couple of years before planting. Just take it outside in the summer. I love a big tree so mine is bird habitat in the winter and mulch in the spring. We have a tree growing now that will be our Christmas tree some day. It's too close to its big brother.

johncimble profile image

johncimble 5 years ago from Bangkok

good ideas, thanks for sharing :)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 5 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, johncimble.

Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi Deborah, some great ideas, l like the compost pail, I always end up putting my compost scraps in a bag,so I know I would use one!

Thanks for sharing and voting up.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 5 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Movie Master. I'm putting one of those pails on my Christmas list, too.

jenubouka 5 years ago

Great ideas the thought of giving a green gift may enhance the receiver more greener habits!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 5 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, jenubouka. Hope I've given you some ideas for the holidays.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 5 years ago from New York

Some really good ideas Deborah. I've used the funnies in the newspaper to wrap gifts..we already have the paper so why not use it? So many ways we can save our environment but it takes time to change people's habits. Merry Christmas. Voted up.

SanneL profile image

SanneL 5 years ago from Sweden

This hub is right up my alley!

Recycle, recycle, RECYCLE!!!

Great hub! voted up and pushed all the right buttons!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 5 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks tollsontitan and SanneL for reading, commenting and voting! If everyone adopted just one of these ideas this holiday season, the world would be a better place.

stephaniedas profile image

stephaniedas 5 years ago from Miami, US

These are some great tips that I hadn't thought of! Thanks for the good hub.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, stephaniedas. I hope you are able to use some of my tips for your holiday celebrations.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Great ideas. We don't always think of being green at Christmas. Nice to have this information at this time of year! Voted up.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for reading and the vote up, tillsontitan. I hope you have a merry and green Christmas! : )

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Excellent ideas and tips for going green! Im going to stick with my artificial tree due to allergies from live trees, but I'm all for cutting back on wrapping paper. We mostly use gift bags that we recycle from one year to the next. Happy Holidays!:)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Sunshine. Artificial trees are okay if you buy a good quality one that lasts, and don't replace it every few years. And when you do replace it, consider donating it. I once donated a bunch of excess Christmas stuff to a women's shelter. They were very appreciative. Happy holidays to you, too. ; )

ishwaryaa22 profile image

ishwaryaa22 4 years ago from Chennai, India

A practical hub with sensible suggestions for Green Christmas! Your points are very wise. The key way to a green Christmas is to keep on recycling. A well-written hub! Well-done!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Interesting. Voted up

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, Ishwaryaa. Although I already practiced many of these things, writing this hub before last Christmas made me much more conscientious about how I celebrated my holiday.

KDuBarry03 4 years ago

Huh, interesting facts on bamboo for a green alternative, Deb! Hmm...definitely considering getting my mom some bamboo utensils :) Thanks for sharing!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

She will love them, Keith! After I wrote this hub last Christmas, someone in my family got us the bamboo cutting boards and utensils as a gift. I will never go back to wood now.

mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

My family comes to my house when they need a box or ribbon to put on a gift because they know I don't throw anything out! I'm the one going round after the gifts are opened collecting the boxes and ribbons.

I buy a live tree each year and plant it my self or gift it to a friend to plant. A good one to plant here is the Norfolk Island Pine.

Great Hub with great ideas. I voted it UP, and will share and Pin.

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

What great tips for a green "green" Christmas. Great job!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for the comments, Mary and Rebecca. Mary, I use a live tree also, but one that is cut from a local tree farm. Then we put it out in the backyard where it provides shelter for the birds the rest of the winter. In spring, it becomes mulch.

whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

A nice hub and well received, Deborah, thanks for the great ideas about Eco-friendly gifts at this holiday season.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, whonunuwho. I hope I've given you some good ideas for the holidays.

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