We all love and look forward to the holidays—especially now—since they give us a reason to celebrate with our loved ones! Amidst spreading that holiday season cheer, it’s evident that many wasteful practices have been embedded into our annual traditions. So, this post will break down some holiday areas where low-impact solutions might be implemented. Whether you utilize these mindful tips now or think about them for next year, we hope everyone notices how switching to sustainable alternatives can be cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing!

 Decorate It

Sick of tacky, plastic holiday decorations? Yeah, us too! If you wish to buy new, look for decorations that are timeless. Usually these decorations will be wood, ceramic, glass, or fabric. I know we have some fabric decorations hand stitched by our great grandmother that will always look amazing in our holiday set up. It’s those cheap, eye-catching plastic decorations that won’t last and will go out of style.

 For the most sustainable holiday vibe, try heading to your neighborhood park or backyard. I love the tutorials by on @ourecofriendlylife. Some lovely and natural snowy candle holders and eco-friendly pine cone décor. We love the rustic and timeless look of these decoration ideas, and they are also completely biodegradable. Although they might not save for next year, it can be a new sustainable holiday tradition each year bringing the friends and family together! 

Rather than purchasing plastic beaded strings or tinsel for your tree, look for low-impact alternatives. I have always loved the look of popcorn strung together to make tree garland. We’ve seen it since the 60’s, and it still looks like a classic. It can also be another tradition that brings the family or maybe the girls together for a fun night or stringing popcorn.

 Wrap It

Since we were kids, we’ve seen bright and shiny presents wrapped up all neat, just waiting to be torn open. Instead of buying those roles of shiny paper wrapped up in plastic, opt for some sustainable alternatives. Try an easy, free, and chic look by using your Trader Joes or Whole Foods paper bags. Just cut down a seam of the bag to find a plain canvas waiting to swaddle your presents! Or maybe you’re looking for a specific aesthetic—try finding recycled paper online at Etsy. This way you can support the small business world while still being sustainable and plastic-free! 

Unfortunately, our best friend in the wrapping process—tape—is not recyclable. Our lovely packaging supplier for eMpulse luckily has some other options for low-impact tape options here. Or you can always ditch tape completely and use some sort of natural twine that can be saved and used for next year!

And pass on the shiny, plastic bow this year. Not only are they pretty tacky, they will linger on this planet for 1,000 years. Again, we’re going to ask you to get foraging in your neighborhood or backyard. Look for some pine or berry trees to add cute little sprigs to your holiday presents! They provide a great aesthetic and are totally compostable. Win-win. 

My boyfriend’s mom is also a sustainability queen when it comes to wrapping presents. She sews up bags of different sizes to be used over and over again. If you have a sewing machine—or even some hand sewing skills—simply make some sacks of varying sizes. Basically, for the pattern, you simply sew up a pillowcase. Or you may get a little more technical and make a pouch with drawstrings like these

 Tree Time

The most sustainable Christmas tree debate continues, but it is all about finding what best suits your needs. Going home for Christmas Eve and Christmas, yet still looking to spread that holiday cheer in your own home? We know it can be a lot to do the whole Christmas tree thing and then leave for a week. So, try making a tree shape on your wall with light strings.

If you’re feeling like an actual tree is the move, both artificial trees and real ones offer ethical solutions. Many people look to fake trees when allergies run in the family or when a real tree just isn’t convenient. Living in an apartment myself, I know what a pain it can be getting one up to the eighth floor…and then disposing of it once its dead (ugh). So, purchasing a plastic tree that will be used year after year can actually be a good idea. Make sure to buy a normal sized green one that can be used forever and that will fit in any sized apartment or house. Try finding one made in the USA. If it eventually has to go, look for a local charity or thrift store to donate it to.

Nothing brings Christmas into the home like a fresh-cut tree, but this year, try going organic. It has become evident that traditional tree farms spray their trees with chlorpyriforous—a suspected neurotoxin. Once it makes it to your home, you will most likely be breathing it in. Buying organic leaves chemicals off the land and out of your house. Additionally, typical farms usually plant one or two trees for every one chopped down, and these trees are great carbon dioxide sequesters. Tree farms also typically exist where soil conditions will only support them and no other types of agriculture. When it’s time to say bye to your tree friend, try to find a place to compost it! 

Low-Impact Holidays

The holidays are all about spending quality time with our loved ones. Somehow wasteful traditions got caught up in the mix. It’s possible for us to revert back to tricks from the past to be more mindful. Select timeless pieces to create the holiday mood. Get foraging to make some classy décor. Go plastic-free when wrapping gifts. And be sure to select a tree that’s best for you since they both contain sustainable attributes. All in all, use a little less and look for low-impact alternatives to wasteful practices—for this holiday season—and beyond.

December 10, 2020 — Kristy Karrer