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The Ultimate Guide to Having an Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

The Ultimate Guide to Having an Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

The holidays are full of cozy days spent indoors, decorating for the season, and of course, time spent with friends and family members.

However, it's also filled with chintzy decorations that are meant to be tossed out after a few weeks, lots of over-consumption, and an increased amount of waste.

From Thanksgiving to New Year's, Americans toss out 25% more waste compared to any other time of the year, according to Stanford.

This holiday season, join us in focusing on the joys of being with those we love and purposing to have a more eco-friendly celebration.

How to Have a More Sustainable Holiday Season

Looking for some ways to celebrate your holiday season more sustainably and lessen your environmental impact?

Here are some practical ways you can have a more eco-friendly holiday season.

Look for Eco-Friendly Holiday Travel

Is an end-of-the-year trip part of your holiday traditions? Consider looking for eco-friendly travel options.

If you're traveling somewhere 300-500 miles away: The most eco-friendly option is to drive a fuel-efficient vehicle and travel with multiple people. Instead of going solo, bring along family or friends for the trip!

Also consider transit options like train or bus, as compared to planes and other options, these emit fewer carbon emissions per person. This is especially true when traveling at peak times when the trains and buses are more full.

If you're flying somewhere far away: Most of a plane's carbon emissions are given off during take-off and landing, so fly direct and avoid layovers if possible. Also, choose economy over business or first-class — although you may get more legroom, it requires more fuel per passenger when you choose the roomier options.

Also, look for the most eco-friendly airlines. Atmosfair, a German non-profit that focuses on offsetting CO2 emissions in the travel industry, has a comprehensive list of the most- to least- environmentally forward airlines.

If you're not sure where to go: Look for eco-friendly destinations. Some options include:

  • Costa Rica: According to the country's National Center for Energy Control, since 2014, more than 98% of the country's energy has come from renewable resources (99% since 2018), making it a great warm-weather green holiday destination.
  • Europe: Copenhagen, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; Grenoble, France; and Berlin, Germany are all among those European destinations recognized for their sustainability. Check out Forbes' full list of 20 eco-friendly destinations in Europe you can consider for your next trip.
  • A Conservation or Nature Reserve: Conservations and nature reserves make it their priority to protect the environment — and therefore make great green holiday destinations. Just a few recommended by CNN Travel include Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve in South Africa; Inkaterra, Tambopata National Reserve in Peru; and Turtle conservation in Kyrenia, North Cyprus.
  • A National Park: If you enjoy nature, consider a hiking or camping trip through a nearby national park. Enjoy the greenery of the mountains and forests — and don't forget the biggest environmentally friendly rule of the outdoors: Leave no trace!

Choose Eco-Friendly Decor

No matter what holiday(s) you celebrate, the decor is one of the most fun parts of the season. One major problem with holiday decor, however, is that it's often cheaply made  — and either single-use or meant to be tossed out after just a few uses.

Here are a few ideas to decorate in a more environmentally friendly way.

Find a Sustainable Tree

A fake tree that you keep for your entire life may seem like a more sustainable option, but they're often made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) — which harms the environment.

Consider getting a real tree that you can keep at home year-round or compost at the end of the season. A potted tree is a more sustainable option that will keep your home looking extra green all year long. 

After you have had a wonderful holiday season, take your Christmas tree outside and cut it into pieces that are three feet or less in length. These small pieces of the tree can then be used as mulch for gardens or flowerbeds. If you want to recycle your tree but don't have a garden or yard of your own, you can often take it to a nearby recycling facility.

Opt for LED Lights

When you're decorating that tree, one simple eco-friendly move you can make is to choose LED lights over traditional incandescent holiday light bulbs.

Not only do they get less hot, posing less of a risk of burning yourself or creating another safety hazard in your home, but they also use less energy — which is a huge bonus for the environment (and your budget!). They're also durable and last longer. 

To conserve even more electricity and keep your electric bill reasonable, make sure they're on a timer and don't run all day and night.

Find Eco-Friendly Candles

If you're looking for candles for your kinara, menorah, or Advent wreath, search for options that are non-toxic, organic, and natural.

Things to avoid in holiday (and every day) candles include

  • Many candles let off non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), which can create indoor pollution — this is not just harmful to the environment, but also your health.
  • Parrafin wax is a byproduct of crude oil, which means you're polluting the inside of your home or apartment when you burn it.
  • Many candles come with lots of packaging — often wrapped in plastic or with lids that have silicone suction rings. Choose options that come in simple glass jars that you can reuse or opt for candles that are sold sans-packaging of any sort.

Look for the same options in scented candles to give your home your favorite holiday aromas — or make potpourri with dried petals, spices, and oils. Consider making a simmering pot on the stove with apples, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and your other favorite spices to make your home smell festive for the holiday season.

Create Compostable Decor

Rather than buying cheap, sparkly tinsel or garland at the store that will go straight to the landfill when the season is over, why not make your own at home? Take inspiration from vintage decor ideas and use things like popcorn, candied or dried oranges, and pinecones to create garland and tinsel.

Cut Star of David's, snowflakes, and other holiday shapes out of compostable paper.

At the end of the season, your holiday decor will help nourish the environment — rather than polluting it.

Gift Sustainably

Giving holiday gifts to loved ones is many people's favorite part of the holiday season. Unfortunately, 5 billion pounds of gift returns end up in landfills after the holidays every year, with UPS alone delivering more than 5 million return packages. This year, consider some of these eco-friendly gift ideas to make your gifts more meaningful and sustainable.

Choose Eco-Friendly Gifts

  • Create DIY gifts with items you already have at home, homemade soaps, or organic goodies packaged in cute reusable jars.
  • Gift an item to help all your loved ones be more sustainable, like a reusable water bottle, shampoo bars, or a plant.
  • Shop thrift stores for unique finds and gently used products. 
  • Have a particularly difficult person to buy for? Consider a gift card. While it might sound like the "easy" way out, giving a gift card lets people choose the item they want and avoids adding to the environmental impact of post-holiday returns.
  • Gift sustainable items that are meant to last a lifetime. Here at Parker Clay, we've put together digital gift guides to help you find the perfect handmade sustainable leather goods for all the special people in your life:
    • 12 Unique Leather Gifts for The Man Who Already Has Everything
    • 10 Must-Have Gifts for People Who Work From Home
    •  13 Premium Holiday Gifts Your Employees Will Love
    • Beautiful Leather Stocking Stuffer Gifts She's Guaranteed to Love
    • 15 Sustainable Christmas Gifts That Won't Break the Bank

Give the Gift of an Experience

Reduce consumption even further by gifting an experience instead of an item. A museum membership, free babysitting, or a Bed & Breakfast stay are not only eco-friendly gifts but give them the chance to make lifelong memories. 

Opt for Reusable or Biodegradable Gift Wrap

Wrapping paper is beautiful and festive — but it often goes straight to the landfill after a holiday gift has been opened.

Look for wrapping paper made from recycled paper and compostable options and limit waste by opting to skip plastic bows and ribbons.

See if you have any gift bags or boxes from last year, and reuse them. Look for reusable bags or boxes that can serve another purpose beyond gift-giving.

If you're giving out goodies to your friends, family, and neighbors, consider reusable beeswax wraps that can be enjoyed all year long.

Shop at a local business

Support your local economy and help reduce the heavy carbon footprint of shipping caused by carbon emissions and plastic waste. You can find great deals in your community without having to travel far. 

When ordering products online, check the sustainability practices of the company and look for brands that create sustainable products and use eco-friendly packaging. 

Did you know that Parker Clay is a certified B-Corpation? Learn more about what that means for our company and the environment here.

Reduce Paper Holiday Cards

This year, go paperless with your holiday greetings. There are a lot of great options for doing this digitally and will save you time in the process too. Consider instead taking time to make a personal call or video chat to reconnect with friends or family. If you do choose to print, opt for holiday cards that are made from recycled paper.

Choose Eco-Friendly Food Options

Most people would agree that one of the best things about the holiday season is all the different delicious foods.

Try these tips to make your holiday meal more eco-friendly :

  • Shop local: When you shop at a local farmer's market or grocery store, not only are you supporting small businesses but you're also helping the environment because fewer carbon emissions are used compared to products that are shipped halfway across the country — or the world.
  • Buy seasonal produce: When you buy seasonal produce, not only are you typically supporting more locally-grown businesses, but you're also helping the environment. If you buy blueberries (typically a summer produce) grown 15 miles away from your house but they're grown in a greenhouse, that requires more energy and therefore has higher carbon footprints.
  • Reach for organic options: Organic produce is grown without harmful pesticides and synthetic fertilizers — which helps the biodiversity and ecosystems and lessens pollution. Lean for organic food choices when possible.
  • Lean for plant-based meals: One study from the University of Oxford and the University of Minnesota suggested that plant-based options are not just better for the environment, but also human health. Consider a meal where winter squash, sweet potatoes, or another seasonal produce is the center of your meal.

Sustainability and being eco-friendly doesn't have to be hard — it's all about taking small steps to better support the planet. Consider making a few mindful tweaks to your typical holiday habits to help nourish a healthier, happier planet for everyone this season.

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