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5 Eco-Friendly Holiday Ideas to Make Your Celebrations Merry, Bright & Green

It's a magical time of the year focused on family and friends.

All those festivities - with tons of food waste, online shopping and decorative wrapping and packing - can also mean a lot of stuff and a lot of excess.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, between Thanksgiving and New Years, Americans generate an additional 1 million tons of household waste, Being mindful about what you buy and eat can make your holidays less hassle and better for the environment.

These ideas for your daily #onegreenthing can help you ease eco-anxiety, bring more joy into your life, and help drive the culture changes we need for big climate solutions.

Check out these eco-friendly tips for a more meaningful holiday season.

1. Embrace the motto "Experiences, not Things!"

  • Embrace this motto this holiday season – “Experiences, not things.” With rising inflation and costs, it's an easier shift. Think about trips, excursions to a museum, lessons like voice or painting together, a hike, walk outside, a dinner out, see a show, go to the movies, a family outing to the library - something that doesn’t involve “stuff.”

  • Ask your family what they want! You might be surprised. Teens and other family members may actually appreciate cash instead of stuff. Remember uality over quantity. Your family is probably more focused on spending time with you than on material things.

  • Consider resale, second hand, or gently used items. There is nothing wrong with re-gifting! Seriously!

2. Make Your Holiday Parties Eco-Friendly

  • Remember is less is more and use REAL stuff. Bring out your fancy dishes or use your everyday wear.

  • Make that kitchen clean up plan. Make it an intergenerational group or ask a friend in advance to stay after the party to help you clean up.

  • Think about a plant-based party and compost your food waste.

  • Make your hostess gift a DONATION to a favorite charity instead of wine or candles. Please, don't give your hostess a peach candle, as noted in the hilarious SNL skit with Emma Stone. Focus on the company, not the stuff.

  • Consider renting your dress, borrowing a friends or shopping second-hand.Or only buy high quality clothing that will last. Fast fashion is a big problem. According to the World Bank, it’s responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, “more than all international flights and shipping combined.” Nearly 90% of fiber used in fashion ends up in a landfill.

3. Bring the outside in for decorations.

  • Go outside to forage pinecones or berries or consider using tree trimmings for your garlands. Use twigs, branches, pinecones, holly for your decorations.

  • Try out this adorable "ice lantern" from Little Pine Learners.

  • Recycle those cardboard boxes. Americans recycle about 90% of our boxes each year. Unlike plastic recycling, cardboard recycling really works. If you have bubble wrap, save it and re-use it.

  • Save your wrapping paper from year to year, and use second hand ornaments to channel your inner Martha Stewart. Try washi tape instead of plastic tape.

  • Use butcher block paper, re-used wrapping paper, and twine to wrap presents, and try washi tape instead of plastic tape.

4. Be intentional with your family conversations.

  • Talk, reflect, and tell stories. Be intentional with your conversations. Put that phone down. Flip through old photos. Watch home movies. Reflect on Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kawanza of the past. Share stories about resilience or joyful memories.

  • Have climate conversations with family and friends. Download the OneGreenThing Intergenerational discussion guide for meaningful conversations with younger generations about the future we’re leaving them.

  • Share what you're grateful for this year.

  • Sign up for the OGT "Be an Awesome Ancestor" pledge and honor someone - a mentor, friend, or family member - whose made the life you're living now possible.

5. Live the spirit of the holidays by giving and volunteering.

  • Make a donation year-end donation to your favorite charity.

  •  Create a plan to volunteer with family or friends. Connect to the holiday spirit by giving your time and resources for the causes you care about. Support your favorite environmental charity or nature center! Make calls, deliver meals, help a food shelter or warming center. The Coalition of the Homeless in NYC has a directory of where and how you can volunteer or give. New York Cares has a list of organizations to support to connect with the elderly, too. Your neighborhoold likely has similar directories.

  • Commit to volunteering in your community in 2023. Make a plan to support the organizations that help your community thrive.

  • Share a meaningful moment when someone helped you with a challenge. Carry that spirit forward with a random act of kindness.

Ideas on how to have a more sustainable holiday based on Service Superpower:

  • Adventurers:  Get outside with family or friends and go skiing, walking, hiking, or visit your local nature center.

  • Beacons:  Organize family and friends to leave voicemails with the electeds about the importance of strong federal climate action by calling the Congressional swtichboard at (202) 224-3121 and leaving a message.

  • Influencers: Share the news about the rebates and tax incentives for clean cars, new heat pumps, and other home improvements in the Inflation Reduction Act .

  • Philanthropists:  Donate to your favortie nonprofit. We hope you'll consider OneGreenThing!

  • Sages:  Encourage your family and friends to take the Be an Awesome Ancestor pledge at OneGreenThing to commit to daily climate action.

  • Sparks: Join family and friends in having intentional conversations about the importance of climate action this holiday season.

  • Wonks: Tell your family and friends about the importance of the daily practice of a "one green thing" and the importance of individual action and then share your favorite climate solution.


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