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How to Have a Sustainable Holiday Season

Dec 6th, 2019

Schools may take a Christmas break, but sustainability stops for no one!

Cheesy joke alert. Sorry. But it’s true nonetheless.

The December holidays can sometimes be a little overwhelming. There’s a lot to buy, a lot to do and not really much time to get everything done. Sometimes, the quickest thing to do to make the day easier is to take a few shortcuts, like choosing plastic bags over paper because then you can carry five times as many groceries for your hungry relatives in your home. Or maybe it’s using those glorious Lysol wipes that clean the counters oh-so-nicely, leaving a fresh scent of bleach and lemon in the air. Whatever these shortcuts are, sometimes they can pile up and leave the holiday season not quite as sustainable as your normal, everyday life.

So, how can you keep an eye on sustainability in a time that’s so busy and so exciting? What tips and tricks do you need to know to help make the environment a little happier this holiday season? 

Good thing for you, AMLI has you covered. Read on to find out the small things you can do to make this Christmas a sustainable one.

Wrapping Paper

If you didn’t know already, wrapping paper is non-recyclable because of the glitter, textures, inks and materials used to make it. In fact, if wrapping paper is found in a recycling bin, it can even “contaminate” it and make the whole bin unrecyclable. Tossing your leftover wrapping paper into the recycling bins, along with ribbons, bows and strings, can ruin everything else and cause the whole load to be sent straight to the landfills. 

Luckily, there are solutions!

If you still love the glitz and glamour of wrapping paper, look for products that specifically say “recyclable.” Or, go for a roll of brown packing paper, which makes for wonderfully chic and classy wrapped gifts. Newspaper works well, too, as does colored paper. One can’t forget good ol’ paper gift bags which can be reused over and over again. There’s really no limit to what you could use to cover your holiday gifts (except, of course, non-recyclable wrapping paper)!

Christmas Trees

If there’s one thing that can make the holidays really shine, it’s a string of lights. However, not all lights are the same, and some can end up raising your electricity bill through the roof if you’re not careful.

LED Christmas lights are generally a better investment than regular Christmas lights because they last longer and use less electricity. Sure, they are a tad more expensive to buy, but in the long run they will save you money and reduce your energy bill. 

Try out these versatile, outdoor/indoor LED lights this holiday season and see how you like them! 

Cleaning Supplies

Let’s face it: you’ll be doing a lot of cleaning this season. Maybe you have guests coming over, maybe you’re sweeping up baking mess or maybe you’re cleaning up the falling needles from your Christmas tree. There’s always more to tidy up in this busy time, so you might as well be prepared. 

Using nontoxic and chemical-free cleaning supplies is probably a hundred times easier (and cheaper) than you might imagine. Swap out your regular kitchen disinfectant for a home-made, vinegar-based cleaning concoction, or buy from eco-friendly stores like Grove, ECOS and Green Janitorial Products.

For more on eco-friendly cleaning supplies, check out this guide to DIY eco-frieldly cleaning supplies!

Shopping Bags

Paper bags are the bane of a third-floor apartment, and it’s so, so tempting to just switch to plastic so that you can carry more than one bag at a time. But no worries, there are other easier, faster and more sustainable options to carrying your groceries, gifts and whatnot. 

Nowadays, most grocery stores sell reusable fabric bags that are stronger and can carry more than plastics can. These bags are also great for picnics, camping or trips to the beach, as they are sturdy and lightweight. Pro tip: leave these handy bags in the trunk of your car so that you never find yourself at a shop without them.

If you’d like something a little more chic, purchase a reusable mesh shopping bags for your groceries. These bags are washable and come in a wide variety of colors, so they are much more adaptable to your own sense of style. Try out these high-quality cloth bags and turn your shopping experience into one that’s much more stylish.


As we think of how to reduce our carbon footprints this holiday season, let’s not forget the gifts for our friends and family. Think about how the gifts will be used and where they will end up at the end of their use. Children’s plastic toys are often used for a short time then end up in a landfill, so opt instead for wooden, fabric or cloth toys. Books about nature and the environment are great for encouraging kids to grow up respecting the planet, and they are easily passed down to others or resold.

For adults, consider gifting experiences rather than items. An Airbnb gift card can provide a weekend of a lifetime, a massage membership can provide months of relaxation and a Masterclass pass could kickstart a brand new hobby. Plus, it gets rid of the pressure of last-minute shopping just for the sake of filling a gift bag. 

No matter what your plans are this holiday season, take the time to step back and consider how you could make a difference in the environment in everything you do. Whether it’s a switch to paper bags or a total shift in your gifting strategy, make this holiday season a little greener and happier than it was before.

Happy Holidays!

Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/StockSnap

Second photo courtesy Pixabay/Pexels

Third photo courtesy Pixabay/pixel2013

Fourth photo courtesy Pixabay/Clker-Free-Vector-Images

Fifth photo courtesy Pixabay/dkatana

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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