Skip to main content

5 Steps to a Sustainable Holiday

December 9, 2020

According to the Stanford Recycling Center, Americans throw away 25% more trash during the holiday season than any other time of year. This waste contributes to about 1 million extra tons per week! Below are some measures we can take to reduce these numbers and have ourselves a more sustainable holiday season!

Wrapping paper

While most glossy, laminated finishes of wrapping paper are beautiful to wrap presents in, most are mass-produced and aren’t recyclable. So many resources are used every year to create something that’s sole purpose is to be torn and tossed into landfills. Earth911 estimates that approximately 4.6 million lbs. of wrapping paper is produced in the U.S. each year and that about 2.3 million pounds ends up in landfills.

So what can we use instead? Try either using recyclable wrapping paper or get creative! Wrap presents in newspaper, perhaps the comic section? If you use brown Kraft paper, you can customize your wrapping paper by adding a note or fun designs to spruce up its appearance and be more sentimental. Or skip paper all together! Instead, save fabrics, tins, tote bags, or gift bags and reuse them every year.

Holiday Cards

The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field ten stories high according to Standford Recycling Center. These numbers have us thinking – do we need Holiday cards? While they are a great tradition around the holidays, they often have a short life and contribute to the large amount of waste that piles up around the holidays.

If these cards are a holiday must for you – no fear, we’ve got options! Something quick and cost-effective? eCards! They can provide a fun and more interactive experience for your loved ones. If you want to go the paper route – choose a recyclable or biodegradable paper from companies such as Green Field Paper. Their products are 100% recyclable and they even sell seed embedded paper that can be planted in the ground and grow a plant! Paper Culture is also a great option because not only are their products made with sustainable materials from 100% recycled paper, but they also plant a tree for every order placed.

Christmas Lights

With so many options, what is the best to choose? LED lights are far more efficient than traditional lights and provide additional benefits to your home. Since they are more efficient, they produce less heat making them less of a hazard around children and pets, they can save you a large percentage on your electricity bill, and they have a long life span!


Stumped for the perfect present? Gift a tree for a loved one that will be planted through the Root Nashville campaign! Root Nashville plants trees in historically underserved areas and areas and neighborhoods that have been affected by the March 2020 tornado. Help them hit their plant goal of 500,000 trees by 2050! Planting trees provides clean air and waterways, shade for public green spaces, and improves the health of Nashvillians. 

What’s better than receiving a physical gift? Getting a gift you can experience with a loved one! Giving gift cards, especially digital gift cards, are a great low waste option that supports local organizations in your community. Some fun ideas include gift cards from TN State Parks, Nashville Zoo, Cheekwood Gardens, or Adventure Science Center.

Add Organic & Local Foods to Your Holiday Feast

Add local food to your dinner table! Shopping at your local farmers’ market or joining a local CSA allows you to have fresh, nutritious food you can feel good about. Get to know your local farmers while reducing the energy and resources it takes to get non-local food. Your support of local agriculture helps farmers steward the land and provides you fresh food. Shopping locally cuts transport energy costs, reduces food waste, and the nutrients in local and organic food has added health benefits!