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Tips for More Sustainable Holiday Gatherings

Tips for More Sustainable Holiday Gatherings

In the hustle and bustle of the season, staying mindful of our environmental impact can sometimes take a back seat to more pressing matters—especially when we’re planning holiday gatherings.

But there are some surprisingly simple, safe and creative ideas we can incorporate into our parties and get-togethers that can help conserve natural resources as well as reduce the amount of trash we generate, particularly the plastic and paper waste that tends to increase this time of year.

1Let Mother Nature help you decorate.
Twigs, berries and branches collected from a local park or nature trail look pretty in vases and used as centerpieces. Get creative with pinecones, leaves, acorns and other little gifts from nature. They’re 100% compostable, free and a great way to highlight the beauty of the season.

2Send electronic greeting cards and invitations instead of paper ones.
This not only cuts down on the use of paper resources, it also reduces carbon emissions from the production and delivery of paper cards and invites. And because they can be customized, they are also a great outlet for your creativity!

3Steer clear of harsh chemicals when you’re preparing for the party.
Some guests may be particularly sensitive to the toxic chemicals and “fragrances” in some cleaning agents, air fresheners and candles. If you do use candles, opt for soy or beeswax candles over those containing paraffin, which has been shown to negatively affect indoor air quality.

4Opt for cloth.
Using cloth napkins instead of paper can add a touch of elegance to your table as well as reduce waste from paper towels and napkins.
Idea: Get creative and make your own napkins by hemming squares cut from colorful fabric remnants.

5Pitch the plastic.
Instead of plastic cups, use glass or crystal pitchers and drinking glasses to serve cold beverages; and use your ceramic or china coffee cups and mugs for hot drinks. If plastic bottles or aluminum cans will be a part of your festivities, be sure to have a recycle bin ready for the empties.

6Go for the gold (or silver).
Did you know that about 40 billion plastic utensils are used each year in the U.S. alone? Or that plastic cutlery is non-biodegradable, can leach toxic chemicals when handled improperly, and is usually discarded after just one use? All great reasons to bring out the flatware for your holiday gatherings!

7Compost your leftovers or, better yet, send them home with your guests.
Encourage guests to bring their own reusable containers for any remaining turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. This also helps remove those tempting additional calories from your refrigerator! If you do compost, avoid putting meat or bones in your composting bin so as not to attract unwanted attention from animals.

Do you have more ideas for promoting sustainability during the holidays? We’d love to hear from you! Just leave a suggestion in the comment section below.


Tips for a Sustainable Holiday Gathering

Happy Holidays – Sustainability

How-to Geek: The Best Websites for Creating and Sending Free eCards

USGBC: Your cheat sheet for a sustainable holiday season

EarthShare: Green Your Holiday Gatherings

Farmers’ Almanac: Reduce Paper Waste!

Somebody's Gotta Do It star Mike Rowe visits Washed Ashore‘Somebody’s Gotta Do It’ star Mike Rowe visits Washed Ashore

Watch Mike Rowe build “Zorabella the Penguin” from marine debris with Washed Ashore leader Angela Haseltine Pozzi on CNN.
Show Time: Sunday Nov. 29 – 10pm ET / 7pm PT on CNN
Sneak Peek:
CNN Video: Turning trash into spectacular sculptures
BWW Article: ‘Somebody’s Gotta Do It’ star Mike Rowe visits Washed Ashore

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Amy Hepfner
Amy Hepfner(@amylmh)
6 years ago

Wrap your gifts in either tissue paper or reusable bags. Tissue paper biodegrades quicker than wrapping paper. Reusable bags are just that – reusable. Another idea is to wrap your gifts in scarves using the Korean method of scarf wrapping called BOBO. Here’s a web site to get you started – http://www.bobowrap.com/howtos.html There is also a book “The Wrapping Scarf Revolution” available. To make it even more cost effective/greener I scour the thrift stores and garage sales for pretty scarves. What’s especially wonderful is that scarves are so popular again that it can be a double gift.

TK - Admin
TK - Admin(@teresa-kulupka)
6 years ago

Great tips Amy and Thanks for the link!

Karen Codrington
Karen Codrington(@karen-codrington)
6 years ago

Great ideas! Love the nature themed table and cloth napkins. And definitely no plastic cup or knives an forks. Christmas is when we even get out “good” gear out that wont go in the dishwasher – but there are usually lots of helpers to wash up.

Karin Keranen
Karin Keranen(@karink)
6 years ago

I like to use fabric scraps to wrap gifts. They turn out so pretty when tied off with a bow.

Hayley Mosteller
Hayley Mosteller(@greenthatclean)
6 years ago

We use (very) old newspaper comics pages for wrapping paper! They’re unique and they get reused, and now that more people recycle wrapping paper of any kind, they end up in the recycling instead of the landfill (where they would’ve gone had they been thrown away when they were new, back in the Day, before recycling became widespread.

Also, many plastic cups and utensils can be reused. Many are dishwasher-safe, at least in the top rack. We reuse as many plastic cups as we can, until they are just too beaten-up or disgusting. Then we recycle them. Re-use has been shown to be the most green option, since recycling can come with its own negative impacts (fumes, etc). So reuse them as much as you can before recycling!

Hope Beach
Hope Beach(@hbeach)
6 years ago

I go to the tree farms and ask if I can have their scraps that they saw off the ends of everyone’s trees and use them as my decorations for my mailbox. It’s always free since they are just throwing them away. I ask at my local hardware store too. 🙂

Bonnie MacNeil
Bonnie MacNeil(@thebonnielady)
4 years ago

At our house, Santa has wrapped his gifts in Christmas advertising flyers, for the last 40 years. I started when, as a single parent, I could not afford wrapping paper. The kids loved it and have continued, the “tradition “, with their own kids. I also made gift bags, from worn out clothing, including jeans, sweaters, dresses, tshirts, etc.

4 years ago
Reply to  Bonnie MacNeil

What a fun tradition! Thanks for sharing, Bonnie!

4 years ago

I bought a bunch of thrift store flatware I use for family gatherings. At 0.25 a piece it was cheaper than the dollar store o.33 each. They have paid for themselves many times over.

Cheryl Kydd
Cheryl Kydd(@notkyddin55)
4 years ago

If you do send home leftovers, send them in recyclable containers or reusable ones.

4 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Kydd

Most definitely, Cheryl! Thanks for the reminder!

Gingi Freeman
Gingi Freeman(@domesticgeekgirl)
4 years ago

Whoa, that CNN special with Washed Ashore is cool!!