The sun is always shining in Prontopia’s California headquarters, but temperatures are changing all over the globe, signaling the arrival of the holiday season. Luckily, we don’t really need the weather to tell us that Christmas is approaching. Neighborhoods are stringing up festive lights, green Christmas trees are lined up for sale, and some stores are nearly out of Christmas decorations.
Christmas, worldwide, is a time of year filled with meaningful traditions and time spent with the people we care about the most. However, it’s also one of the most wasteful times of the year, and people are beginning to dream of a greener Christmas. Are there ways to celebrate the season and our loved ones that give back to the planet? With a few simple changes and a little creativity, you could start some new family-favorite green Christmas traditions.
What is a Green Christmas?
The holidays can come with a lot of… stuff. From gift wrapping to stocking stuffers to holiday travel, a lot of resources go into every Christmas. Taking a step towards a greener Christmas can mean a lot of things, and luckily there are a lot of creative options to make your celebrations a little more planet-friendly.
Choosing to work towards a green Christmas simply means designing your holiday celebrations with the planet in mind. That means minimizing negative impacts and maximizing positive impacts. These green switches can apply to anything from food to travel to gifts.
Celebrating more sustainably doesn’t mean your holidays need to be any less fun. In fact, you might even like your green substitutes even better. Get the whole family involved, and see what happens!
Green Christmas Travel
In all likelihood, Christmas involves some kind of travel for either you or your family. To travel more sustainably, travel slower when possible. That means take a train instead of a plane, or a car instead of a train. Carpool whenever possible. Bring reusable water bottles and bags, and avoid single-use plastics. If you’re going to be near the ocean, be aware the chemicals in your sunscreen and opt for a reef-friendly brand.
Presents, Presents, Presents!
Gift-giving is a time-honored way to show the people in your life that you care about them. However, too often, presents can contribute to the waste produced during the holiday season, support unsustainable businesses, or end up in the trash. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to make gift-giving more sustainable and green.
A Sustainable Experience
You can gift a massage, a concert, a cooking class, or a free night of babysitting. Experiences produce great memories, and they generally generate much less waste.
A Donation in Their Name
For the recipient who already has everything, a donation can make a great gift. Choose a cause, organization, or charity they care about, do your research, and then make a donation in their name.
White Elephant/Secret Santa
Gift exchange games like White Elephant and Secret Santa are a great way to participate in the fun of gift-giving while keep costs and waste low. You can make the games as silly or as heartfelt as you like, you can add a fun theme, and you can set a budget to make the game affordable. You’ll definitely be surprised!
Shop for Labels
When you’re shopping for presents, use the help of third-party organizations to shop for plastic-free, cruelty-free, and fair trade gifts. Look for labels like “Fairtrade”, “Rainforest Alliance”, “Scientific Certification Systems” (SCS), “Forest Stewardship Council” (FSC), and “Energy Star and Palm Oil Free”.
You can’t get more personalized than a handmade gift.
Quality over Quantity
When shopping for gifts, consider buying items designed to last over items that will fall apart quickly.
Know your materials when you shop for gifts. Hemp, silk, wood, and organic cotton are natural, renewable materials that also support sustainable farmers.
The right wrapping paper makes a big difference. A lot of wrapping paper contains non-recycleable elements like foil or glitter. Choose wrapping paper that can be recycled once its time comes, or wrap with fabric. You can also opt for reusable bags that you can reuse year after year.
As far as decorations, save those for next year, too! Even better, if you’re in the right location, source your decorations from outdoors! Clip some evergreens and berries to bring the festivities indoors.
Get a Real Tree
While artificial trees can be reused for years, they can’t be recycled. And, it turns out that you would have to keep your artificial tree for 20 years to outweigh the environmental damage. Opt for a real tree instead.
The traditional Christmas feast is the perfect opportunity to source some local ingredients and use fewer food miles. Get local, organic ingredients. Skip the disposable plates and utensils and opt for washable plates.
There are infinite ways to give back during the holidays and spread love. Visit a nursing home, use Amazon Smile, make an end-of-year donation to a cause, tip extra to your waiter/waitress working during the holidays, or donate your extra belongings to all the right places. A cool way to bring light into the Christmas season? By actually gifting a light. Santa Barbara-based Unite to Light is a nonprofit that provides solar-powered lights to people who don’t have access to electricity – empowering midwives, children in school, disaster victims, just to name a few. You can either purchase a solar phone charger or light and Unite to Light will donate a light for your purchase, or you can donate light directly.
And remember that your community needs you all the time, not just during the holidays.