How to Have a Greener Christmas
by Karina Zawilinski
It’s that time of year! The holiday season is full of joy, laughter, and cheer! And unfortunately, trash. Yep. Americans produce 25% more trash during the holidays.
Between the pantries and the plastics, things aren’t looking so merry and bright for the planet.
But it’s surprisingly easy to make your holidays a celebration for the planet as well. Here are a few ways to get started making your holidays greener.
Decorations For Christmas
But if you’re looking to spruce up your decorations, here are some Earth-friendly ways to do so:
1. Opt for a Real Christmas Tree
People are often surprised that a real Christmas tree is better for the environment than a fake one. Isn’t cutting down a tree a bad thing? Not always!
Christmas trees are continually grown on farms, so when one is cut down, another will be planted. Real Christmas trees also absorb carbon as they grow, reducing greenhouse gases.
Fake Christmas trees are made of plastic and will never break down.
But real Christmas trees are 100% natural material that can be composted. Many cities even have a collection option for Christmas trees at the end of the year.
2. Choose LED Lights
You ever notice how holiday lights can get REALLY hot? Or that they seem to burn out ALL the time? That’s because most holiday lights are incandescent. That means they’re inefficient and waste energy (and your money!). They are not meant to last.
LED lights, on the other hand, are very energy efficient and will last you a decade if you take care of them properly. They also won’t be a fire hazard.
3. Try a Citrus Garland
Did you know that most decorations are made out of plastic that will be around for hundreds of years? It could even end up in the ocean.
And did you know you can make holiday garlands out of food instead of plastic? Yep, turns out grandma had it right. Back before plastic, our grandparents used to make holiday decorations out of stuff they already had in the kitchen!
Here are a couple of homemade decorations you can try:
● Citrus Garland – Looks cute and smells even better!
● Gingerbread Garland – don’t mistake these for snacks, they’re only meant to look cute!
4. Make Some Ornaments!
DIY ornaments aren’t just something your kids make in art class anymore. You can fill your tree with beautiful ornaments made from natural or recycled materials! Not only will you be helping out the planet. Your tree will have a one-of-a-kind charm.
Here are some beautiful ornaments to make yourself:
● Origami Animals – because you know you want a cute little bear on your tree
● Fancy Pine Cones – pine cones + paint = limitless possibilities
● CD Sparkles – because what else are you going to do with your CDs in 2020?
One quick note about making your own ornaments: Do your best to steer clear of glitter.
It’s made of microplastics! And you know if there’s glitter somewhere, there’s glitter everywhere!
Christmas Gifts 2020
1. DIY That Wrapping Paper
Sure, store-bought wrapping paper is sparkly and shiny, but did you know it’s coated in plastic and can’t be recycled?
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to DIY wrapping paper for the holidays. You can:
● Use old newspapers – the comics are especially fun!
● Use paper grocery bags turned inside out
● Make origami boxes for small gifts
● Use decorative cloth bags year after year
● Buy a roll of plain brown paper – it’s new but at least it can be recycled!
Instead of plastic ribbons and bows try dried flowers, twigs, or other cute things! Or you
can use the same plastic bows you already have – year after year!
2. Try Furoshiki
If you’re ready to take wrapping gifts to the next level, you can try Furoshiki. This is a Japanese technique where you use a piece of cloth instead of wrapping paper2
You’d be surprised the number of ways a square piece of fabric can be used to wrap a gift!
If you haven’t got cloth laying around, you can head to the local thrift store to find some cute fabric – old tablecloths work great for this!
3. Give Experiences
Can you describe your favorite holiday memory? Maybe you’re sitting by the fire eating grandma’s cookies or snuggled up with your partner watching a cheesy holiday movie that you both secretly loved.
Whatever memory comes to mind, you can probably almost feel it.
We often treasure experiences way more than we do physical gifts. When you give an experience, you’re gifting a treasured memory too! Here are some experience gift ideas:
● Drive-in Movie Date – complete with popcorn and snacks of course!
● Cooking Class – for the one that’s always in the kitchen
● Adventure Experience – high ropes course anyone?
● Aquarium or Zoo membership! – Everyone loves penguins and you’re supporting a great cause 🙂
● Museum tickets – for the art or history lover
● Online Class – in something fun, like watercolors or the theory of the universe.
4. Give a Gift That Keeps on Giving
For someone who has everything but you still want to get them something, get them a donation to a charity or cause they really care about.
You could give a donation to Ocean Blue Project to your eco-conscious friend for example :).
For a little one, you can adopt an animal! Many organizations, such as WWF, have the option to adopt an endangered animal and they’ll usually send a small stuffed animal and a certificate as thanks.
5. Shop Small, Buy Local
Small and local businesses are generally better for the planet because they use more sustainable business practices and don’t waste energy shipping things.
Support a local business and get someone you love a unique gift that gives back to your community too.
6. Give a Zero-Waste Lifestyle Change
Have a friend that needs their daily coffee or a cousin who’s a shopaholic?
Get them a gift that makes living low-waste easy, like a reusable coffee tumbler or a foldable shopping bag you think they’ll really love. Living low on waste is a lot easier when it’s fun!
If you want to give a gift that’s doubly awesome, a reusable water bottle from Ocean Blue Project reduces plastic waste and helps remove plastic from the ocean too!
7. Consider the Stocking Stuffers…
Most of us hear ‘stocking stuffer’ and think of a cheap, usually plastic, toy. But stocking stuffers can be so much more!
For adults, you could give them handmade soaps or scents. Maybe a bamboo toothbrush or a reusable straw!
For kids, you can try to get away with the bamboo toothbrush and soaps, but if you’re looking for something more kid-friendly, try stocking stuffers that encourage kids to get out and explore!
A magnifying glass, binoculars, compass, or a pocket guide to local wildlife are all super fun. They will also help kids fall in love with our beautiful planet!
Holiday Sweets and Treats
1. Try a Vegan Holiday Dish… Or Two.
Eating plant-based foods reduces greenhouse emissions and uses much less water.
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you have to give up your Christmas turkey. If you want to, that’s great! Simply try adding a few vegan dishes to the holiday meal.
The easiest way to start is with side dishes or dessert. Keep bacon out of the mashed potatoes. Try a vegan apple pie or cookies. Make vegan gravy. Or just go all-in and shock your family members with how good a chickpea curry tastes on Christmas.
2. Buy Rainforest Friendly Chocolate!
Everyone loves chocolate. Especially around the holidays. But many chocolates are made unsustainably and by cutting down rainforests – which are almost as awesome as the ocean!
You can make a difference by buying chocolate that’s Rainforest Alliance Certified and enjoy your chocolatey treat knowing that you’re saving the planet too.
3. Try Making Your Own Holiday Cookies and Frosting!
Most premade holiday cookies and frosting contain palm oil, which is really bad for the environment.
But you can be an environmental hero just by making your own cookies and frosting at home! Bonus if you want to try a few vegan recipes, but no pressure.
Pro tip: Coconut oil is the easiest natural butter substitute and coconut milk subs perfectly for whole milk!
4. Love Your Leftovers
One of the easiest ways to go green during the holidays is to make sure none of that delicious holiday food goes to waste.
Why? Because food takes lots of energy to produce and food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions!
Who knew saving the planet was as easy as wrapping up the rest of that pie to save for later?
Hope that list gave you a few good ideas to make your holidays a little greener this year. And while we always encourage people to make eco-friendly choices, we understand much of this responsibility belongs to corporations too.
So, don’t feel too bad if you ended up grabbing a jar of frosting or a roll of wrapping paper from the store in a rush. You can help offset it by signing a petition or two to protect our ocean habitats.
The holidays are a crazy and exciting time. On behalf of everyone here at Ocean Blue Project, have a Happy Holiday Season!
Tried out a greener holiday suggestion and want to share? Tag us on social media #seathechange. We can’t wait to see your Earth-friendly holiday cheer!
Author Bio: Karina Zawilinski is a digital content creator focused on marine conservation and wildlife. When not working behind a computer, she’s out exploring wild places with a camera in her hand.