21 Sustainable Christmas Ideas For A Low Carbon Christmas
Are we walking in a winter wonderland, or a winter waste land?
Every year, at least 12,500 tons of Christmas decorations, 141,525 tons of food packaging, and 30,000 tons of Christmas cards make their way to the landfills after the holidays.
Imagine what those numbers look like when factoring in gift packaging, food waste, and unused gifts.
All of which are Christmas waste contributions that are completely avoidable.
So how can we celebrate Christmas in an eco-friendly way? And what is a sustainable Christmas?
Keep scrolling as we tear off the wrapping paper on how we’re making the holidays sustainably Santa-mental.
The Full List Of Sustainable Christmas Tips
Sustainable Holiday Gifting
1. Sustainable Christmas Wrapping
It is estimated that around 2.3 million pounds of the 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper produced in the U.S. end up in the landfills yearly.
If you ask us, it seems a bit silly to wrap unneeded packaging with even more unneeded packaging.
But, we understand if you want a gift to be ‘present’able.
Thankfully, you can still live a zero waste lifestyle, thanks to eco-friendly wrapping paper brands that are prioritizing compostable or recyclable wrapping paper (unlike most of the shiny and foil covered papers).
But our favorite eco-friendly Christmas wrapping ideas are those you make yourself.
Wrapping gifts with recycled newspaper, reusable bags, and old cardboard boxes not only provides a fun exercise in creatively pre Christmas morning, but makes for totally zero waste gift wrapping.
2. Eco-Friendly Christmas Cards
Say seed-sons greetings to your friends and family members with environmentally friendly Christmas cards that help pollinators.
WeMadeBoutique’s sustainable Christmas cards are crafted from recycled paper and wildflower seeds.
Stamped with snowmen, reindeer, Santa hats, and Christmas trees, all that’s left is for you to add your favorite sustainable Christmas message.
Or, perhaps simply a link to your favorite eco-friendly Christmas ideas (wink, wink).
But remember, the number one rule for how to have a sustainable Christmas is to first use what you already own, so if you have packs of cards still left over from last year, use those first before buying new.
3. Do-Good Gifting
The very real people making our Christmas gifts deserve fair living wages, safe working conditions, and voluntary labor, at the very least.
Even though they may cost a bit more, this is one area you don’t want to be a Christmas Scrooge in.
But conscious Christmas presents don’t have to cost more.
Santa loves our milk and cookies, why can’t our own family members too?
Yule be sorry if you don’t try one of these edible gift ideas. The way to the heart is through the stomach, after all.
Though, not all consumable gifts have to be edible.
4. Experience & Sustainable DIY Christmas Gifts
Things are temporary; memories are forever, which is why experience gifts are one of our favorite Christmas shopping tips.
By giving an experience, you not only reduce the reliance on physical resources, but you also provide your loved ones with a potentially once in a lifetime opportunity.
Concert tickets, movie passes, and national parks passes are a few tangible ideas we can think of, but even something as simple as a DIY home cooked wine and dine night would do the trick.
This is also the perfect tip if you’re wondering how to do a zero waste Christmas.
5. Conscious Christmas Crackers
Over 40 million Christmas crackers end up in the bin by the end of Christmas day.
Lined up end to end, that’s over a thousand Mount Everest’s worth of cardboard resting in our landfills.
And that’s without considering all the plastic knick-knacks in them, which 99% of people said they chuck in the bin too!
Bring in the festive season with a bang by opting for eco-friendly christmas crackers instead.
Keep This Cracker makes reusable eco-crackers that can be used for every environmentally-friendly Christmas to come.
6. Eco Advent Calendars
No eco Christmas is complete without a countdown to commemorate the day.
Sadly, advent calendars are one of the biggest waste producers of the season.
A traditional chocolate advent calendar has 38 times as much packaging per gram as a standard chocolate bar, and 12 times as much plastic!
Thankfully, reusable advent calendars are easy enough to buy—or, if you’re looking for more DIY environmentally friendly christmas ideas, to make yourself.
This linen advent calendar from MagicLinen doubles as a festive countdown, and as an elegant piece to join your other Christmas decorations.
Decor-Related Eco-Friendly Christmas Ideas
7. Eco-Friendly Christmas Craft Ideas
There’s nothing like decking the halls with good ole’ fashion DIY decor.
We’re taking it back to the days of garland made from pine cones and wreaths made from found foliage.
Making DIY Christmas decorations or a DIY Christmas tree is as simple as taking a walk in the park (literally).
But if your schedule is already packed with gift shopping, present wrapping, and holiday travel plans, plenty of brands sell sustainable Christmas decorations made from natural, recycled and/or recyclable materials if you don’t have time for eco-friendly crafts.
8. Sustainable Christmas Stockings
We’re all for putting a sock in mass-made Christmas stockings this holiday season.
Like other fast fashion items, if you can get them for just a couple bucks, they probably weren’t made in the most ethical manners.
For just a few extra dollars, you can invest in sustainable Christmas stockings made from natural materials and fair working conditions.
These upcycled Christmas stockings from Ten Thousand Villages follow both those criteria, and are still affordable.
Don’t forget the sustainable Christmas stocking fillers!
After all, no one wants to wake up to an empty stocking on the big day.
But, stockings shouldn’t just be filled with cheap, disposable junk that you found at the store. Every item should be chosen with purpose, because quality far surpasses quantity.
Instead, opt for sustainable stocking stuffers.
9. Clean Christmas Candles
Chestnuts roasting by the fire, sugar cookies baking in the oven, snow melting on the window seal… we get why seasonal scents are so addicting.
But, considering that disposed candles may remain in the landfill for 1000 Christmases to come, we aren’t sure that the temporary joy they bring makes up for their long term consequences.
Personally, we prefer our candles to warm our homes, not the environment.
Which is why we opt. for sustainable candles during the festive season.
10. Eco-Friendly Wreath Ideas
Dating back to the earliest civilizations, wreaths have been associated with life, rejuvenation, and renewal.
Ironic, considering many of them are made from plastics that are associated with exactly the opposite.
Similar to the real vs fake Christmas tree debate, there is a lot of talk about whether reusable plastic wreaths are more eco-friendly than fresh evergreen wreaths that have to be replaced every year.
So long as an evergreen wreath is harvested sustainably and disposed of correctly, we’d say it’s the better choice.
The sustainably-harvest wildflower wreath from The Citizenry of our favorite eco-friendly Christmas wreath ideas.
11. Eco Ornaments
A tree without ornaments is like a Christmas without a Hallmark movie binge: sad.
Whether you have a Charlie Brown christmas tree or a Rockefeller Center one, you can’t leave it barren.
Ditch those plastic baubles and opt for sustainable ornaments instead by making your own ethical ornaments or buying recycled ornaments from shops like By Amber and Rose.
You can also check your local thrift store or these online second hand shops to see what twinkling treasures you can find.
12. Sustainable Christmas Lights
Considering the seasonal lights in the U.S. use more electricity than some countries do in an entire year, we’d say this is one of the most important sustainable Christmas tips.
However, your days can still be merry and bright with conscious lights.
By opting for LED lights over incandescent lights, you can easily reduce your carbon footprint at home.
And, according to the Washington Post, save money on your electricity bill.
Conscious Christmas Trees
13. Sustainably Sourced Live Christmas Trees
There’s no better answer for how to have a green Christmas than with a literal green live Christmas tree.
A real Christmas tree isn’t always the best choice–check out what other factors to consider when choosing a sustainable Christmas tree—but when harvested responsibly from a sustainable forestry certified (like the FSC) source or small, organic farm, it can be.
We know going out and cutting down your own tree is tradition for many, but we really can’t stress enough how important it is to leave these young, carbon sequestering trees in the wild.
Out of the 350 to 500 million growing trees on tree farms across the U.S, only 30 million trees are harvested each year. It may seem counterintuitive, but by opting for a real tree, and disposing of it properly, you can keep sustainable tree farms in business and keep healthy forests alive.
14. Potted Christmas Trees
Branching off our last tip for a sustainable Christmas, you can make your Christmas tree even greener by keeping it alive even after Boxing Day.
A potted tree is a live baby tree whose roots have been transplanted into a container so it can continue to grow throughout the Christmas season.
Essentially, a temporary houseplant.
It can be container grown or dug up from a plantation and repotted. The first is said to be stronger and healthier, given that the roots have already developed in the container.
What’s great about potted trees is that after the season, they can be replanted and given a new lease on life.
Whether you buy a potted Christmas tree, or rent one at a local dealer, you will drastically reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.
15. Non-Plastic Fake Christmas Trees
Wood you believe us if we told you that an artificial tree can have more than ten times the carbon footprint of a real tree that’s burned after Christmas?
Artificial trees are commonly made from PVC and are imported long distances from Asian countries (meaning huge carbon emissions from travel), meaning plastic trees need to be used for over 20 years if they want to be favorable to real trees emissions-wise.
Yet, the average amount of time a household keeps a plastic Christmas tree is only 6 years…
Clearly, artificial trees don’t make the nice list. Still, we aren’t against every fake tree.
A plastic free Christmas tree could be a great option for people who have tree allergies or simply don’t want the mess of real trees.
Welcome To The Wood Shop has incredibly unique and minimalist options made from fresh and salvaged wood materials.
Environmentally Friendly Christmas Dinner
16. Seasonal Meals
How do you celebrate eco-friendly Christmas?
With nothing other than a seasonally seasoned meal that supports sustainable food systems.
Seasonal ingredients are not only fresher, but also tastier and more nutritious since pesticides and chemicals don’t have to be used to preserve them.
Though many commercial sources still do use them. Which is why when we say seasonal food, we also mean local and organic food—which also serves as a boon to your local economy.
While it depends on where you live, seasonal Winter ingredients usually include citrus fruits, root vegetables, apples, chestnuts, and kale.
17. Plant-Based Meals
Speaking of food, let’s talk about plant-based meals.
In general, switching to a plant-based diet is one of the biggest ways you can reduce your environmental footprint.
Unsurprisingly, considering a traditional turkey Christmas dinner alone has more than double the greenhouse gas emissions than a vegan nut roast (isn’t that nuts?).
By making a vegan Christmas dinner a family tradition, you can keep the ghosts of Christmas future full of joy.
18. Reusable Cutlery
Chances are you’re going to have one, or a few, festive dinner celebrations this season.
And, between cooking and cleaning, we have no doubt you’ll be tempted to turn to plastic cutlery to speed up the process (who could blame you.)
But, pesky plastic forks and knives simply don’t cut it.
Each year, over 100,000 marine animals and over 1 million seabirds die from ingesting plastic, with plastic cutlery being some of the main instigators.
Especially if you’re hosting a big holiday event that chews through plastic utensils and paper plates, choosing eco-friendly cutlery will drastically reduce your single-use holiday waste.
19. Sustainably Scrumptious Snacks
Between holiday gatherings, vacations, and movie marathons, it’s likely that you’ll be munching on your fair share of moose munch this Christmas season.
There’s nothing like a healthy holiday weight gain—-so long as it involves sustainable snacks.
Just like your gifts, you want to be sure your snacks are made with both clean ingredients and clean practices.
The trail mixes and dried fruits from Sun & Swell Foods are some of our winter pantry staples.
20. Ethical Coffee & Tea
When the weather drops, there’s nothing better to warm the hands (and heart) than a nice, piping hot cuppa.
Grace Farms is one of our favorite suppliers of caffeinated cups. The Certified B Corp addresses humanitarian issues all while providing some brew-tiful, low waste blends.
Their Classic Chai filled with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and spices, is one of our favorite Winter flavors.
Last but perhaps one of the most important tips for an eco-friendly Christmas: compost, compost, compost!
The amount of food waste the festive period brings is actually alarming with over 42 million dishes wasted every season.
Obviously, we’d rather just avoid food waste altogether by taking a head count of our guests and planning out exactly the amount of food we need.
But even then, you might not be able to avoid leftovers.
While you can always try one of these recipes from your seasonal scraps, chances are you’ll be tired of the festive flavors by day three.
The next best option is to donate your leftovers to the critters in the soil by composting at home.
You don’t need a crazy indoor compost system either; you can simply put your scraps in a bag and store it in the freezer until it’s full.
Frozen veggie scraps can be boiled into delicious vegetable soup stock, or when the spring thaw comes, they can be buried outside in the garden.
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Final Thoughts On How To Have An Eco-Friendly Christmas
As you can see, a lot of planning goes into the sustainable festive season.
Don’t let that discourage you.
By no means do you have to follow ALL of these ideas to have a more sustainable Christmas.
All we want for Christmas is you… to try your best this holiday season.
No single person can solve the climate crises, but if we all collectively try our best to do what we can, a sustainable future is still possible.
So, share these top eco-friendly Christmas tips with friends and extended family members so they too, can have a truly merry Christmas.