Updated: Dec 2, 2022
Do you try to make environmentally friendly choices over the holidays? So do we! There are lots of simple things you can do to "green up" your holiday celebrations. The Earth will thank you, and so will local wildlife.
Buy a real Christmas tree. There is debate around whether real or artificial trees are better for the environment - yes fake trees are made of plastic, but they are reused many times whereas real trees must be continually cut down and then disposed of. However, a 2009 study out of Montreal found that as long as the real tree is local AND it is properly disposed of afterwards, real is often a better option. If you already have an artificial tree though, don't fret! The same study found that the environmental costs of an artificial tree (plastic, shipping emissions, eventual landfill waste) will even out after about 20 years of use. The study also noted that the environmental impact of Christmas trees pales in comparison to the things you can do in other aspects of your life such as driving less, carpooling, etc
Go 'natural' with decorations.
There are so many biodegradable options when it comes to holiday decor! Pine cones, dried orange slices, recycled paper garlands, cinnamon sticks, gingerbread decorations, birch or willow branches, and even dried grasses can all create a gorgeous holiday look around the house. Bonus: most of these things can also be preserved for next year. Real evergreen boughs are also an simple and easy classic - ask your neighbors for a few branches off their backyard trees or ask a local tree farm for their cuttings.
(But don't throw away what you have just to get the sustainable look! Tossing perfectly good decorations, even if they are plastic, just adds unnecessary waste to landfills. Try using unwanted decorations in a new way, give them to a friend, or donate to a family in need.)
Think outside the box for gifts
Who says that a gift has to be a physical object? And who says it has to be brand new? Instead of yet another golf shirt for your mother-in-law, why not gift her a round at her favourite course? Your sister's toddler doesn't know the difference between the Mega-Bloks from a new box and ones from a local family hand-me-down event, so why not give a previously-loved toy a new life? Reducing the amount of "stuff" purchased during the holidays reduces the amount of things ending up in landfills in the long run. Consumable gifts are also a delicious way to give - classic theme baskets like cocktail hour or movie night are great, but you could also consider giving the foodie in your life a cheese-making or hot sauce making kit! Instead of a a trinket for a host/ess gift, bring a bottle from one of our many Wildlife Habitat Stewards who produce wine and spirits!
Ditch the non-recyclable wrapping paper and packaging Wrapping paper that is shiny, glittery, textured, foiled, or wax/plastic coated cannot be recycled. If you really love using wrapping paper for gifts, take a few extra minutes to ensure your paper is recyclable (or even better made from previously recycled paper). Remember that tape, ribbons, bows, and stickers are not recyclable and must be removed from the paper before disposal. If you want to try phasing out your use of wrapping paper but aren't sure how to start, check out this article we found at Treehugger.com on wrapping paper alternatives!
The above advice also goes for gift tags and Christmas cards! These can be some of the worst offenders, with plastic decorations, glitter accents, glued-on-ribbons, and waxy coatings.
Glitter is pretty and sparkly and can make nearly anything look fancy, but it is also an environmental scourge. Glitter is just shiny bits of plastic dust and while it's pretty to us, it is also pretty to birds, fish, amphibians and many other wildlife species who will ingest these bits of plastic thinking they are food. Glitter is also very difficult to contain (as we all know) and ends up in soil and waterways where it adds to the microplastics problem in the environment.
Lights off in the wee hours
The look of sparkling lights outside the house and in the yard is a beautiful sight, but make sure to turn them off (or have them on a timer) so they are not on too late at night! Many birds, insects, and other animals are negatively affected by there being too much light in the world at night. By leaving your lights off in the darkest hours of the night, you can reduce the amount of ambient light in your neighborhood.
Bonus: this also saves you money on your utility bill!