With the holidays right around the corner, it is easy for our excitement to cloud our judgment when it comes to making sustainable choices. Our eagerness for the holiday season may incline us to purchase, decorate, and gift unsustainably, with events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday fueling unethical consumption habits. However, having a low-waste holiday is actually quite simple. From supporting local businesses, to being thoughtful, to creating zero-waste holiday alternatives, here are five tips to make your holiday low to zero-waste.

christmas trees


If you celebrate Christmas, be thoughtful about what type of tree is right for you. With there being pros and cons to both plastic and live trees, take time to evaluate which option fits best into your lifestyle.

artificial christmas tree

Artificial Trees

When it comes to artificial trees, they may seem unsustainable because they are mostly made of plastic. Not to mention, the production and distribution of artificial Christmas trees leaves a rather large carbon footprint. However, there are some situations where an artificial tree may be the best option, including households with allergies as well as in areas where pine trees are not native. If you plan on using an artificial tree this holiday season, further steps toward sustainability include reusing your artificial tree for many years or buying an artificial tree second-hand.

Live Trees

There are many pros of live trees, including having the special experience of choosing your own tree and supporting local farmers. Plus, in the average seven years that it takes for a pine tree to grow to six to seven feet tall, these trees provide homes to local wildlife. The downside of live trees is that although they are 100% biodegradable, they are often tossed in landfills after the holiday season. This prevents the trees from properly biodegrading, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions. If you decide that a live tree is right for you, be thoughtful about how you will properly dispose of it.


Incorporate zero-waste decorations

One staple of the holidays are holiday lights. This year, consider switching to LED lights which use about 75% less energy than traditional incandescent lights and last nearly 25 times longer. Also, although it is common for holiday lights to be left on throughout the night, consider turning off your lights late at night or using a timer to reduce your energy consumption. To be more sustainable, consider making your own reusable decorations. Creative DIY ornaments not only produce less waste but can create special memories with family and friends. You can also make your own natural decorations, such as cranberry and popcorn garlands, and ornaments made from candy canes and dried citrus.


Use zero-waste wrapping paper

Rather than purchasing new wrapping paper every year, consider reusing common household items as wrapping paper. This can include paper bags, magazines, newspapers, and even old wrapping paper from previous years!


Make your holiday cards low to zero-waste

Another sustainable tip for this holiday season is to make low-waste holiday cards. A homemade card not only has a lower carbon footprint but is much more personal than something produced in bulk. If you want to be completely zero-waste, you could also switch to a completely digital card!


Give thoughtfully to avoid returns

Arguably the most important tip on this list is to be thoughtful when selecting gifts for others. Returns are a huge problem during the holiday season, where nearly $90 billion worth of gifts are returned. These global consumer habits are not sustainable, so it is crucial for us to avoid contributing to this problem. When shopping for gifts for others, be thoughtful and don’t be afraid to ask the recipient what they are looking for.