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Five Ways to Make the Holidays More Environmentally Friendly

The holidays can be a busy time, making it difficult to make environmentally friendly choices. Here's how you can still keep the planet in mind.

by ecobee on 12/14/2021 in Life & Family

Woman decorating tree.

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With the holiday season in full swing, that means shopping for gifts, setting up Christmas trees, and decorating the house while sipping on some peppermint hot chocolate. With so much happening at once, it can feel like a challenge to make sustainable choices to limit waste and pollution.

We can’t take the gifts, food, and décor out of the holidays (they’re the main sources of holiday cheer, of course) so ecobee is here to help with finding sustainable ways to enjoy them.

Here are five ways to celebrate the holidays while still being environmentally friendly.

Holiday gift wrapped with natural materials.

1. Gift meaningfully and shop locally.

Consider the environmental impact of the gifts you want to give. By focusing on quality over quantity of gifts, you can reduce the waste of unwanted items. To truly give someone the gift of zero waste, consider gifting an experience or donating to an organization that means something to them. If gifting experiences isn’t your style, explore local shops to find the right gift – you'll maybe even have a chance to get it customized. Shopping locally reduces vehicle pollution from transporting your gift to you, so shop from local sellers near you, on Etsy, or on social platforms.

Gifts wrapped with fabric.

2. Wrap gifts with materials other than traditional gift wrap.

One of the easiest eco-friendly swaps for the holiday season is to use alternative materials as gift wrap. Make the wrap a part of the gift by packing in items you already have around the house but aren’t using, like a reusable tote bag, mason jar, or home storage basket. Fabrics like scarves, bandanas or burlap are quite the look when tied around the gift. If you stick to using paper, wrap the gifts with old newspapers, compostable wrapping paper, or even paper grocery bags (like the ones from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods).

Woman at a produce stand.

3. Plan for food sourcing and storing.

The best part of the holidays is undoubtedly the food and, with a little bit of planning, it can also be part of your sustainable holiday routine. When deciding on the menu, go for local and seasonal ingredients to ensure a low carbon footprint as they won’t have travelled as far to get to your table. Sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box to get seasonal food from a local farm delivered right to your door.

When packing leftovers, instead of tinfoil and plastic, try using beeswax and reusable containers. Food waste is not unique to the holidays, but since we’re indulging and most likely cooking a bit more during this time, see if guests are able to bring their own reusable containers to take leftovers home.

Christmas lights.

4. Decorate your home with sustainable lights and trees.

Lighting uses a ton of energy, and traditional holiday lights create a spike in electricity generation. As a more sustainable alternative, use LED lights to decorate inside and outside, setting up a timer so they are only on when they need to be.

For the holiday tree, look for containerized or potted trees in place of artificial trees so they can be planted outside once the holidays are over. Artificial trees need to be used for around 20 years to offset the impact they have when they are produced, making them the less sustainable option compared to real trees. If you have an artificial tree that you won’t be reusing, consider donating it to a thrift store, charity organization, or community group that can repurpose them in their own holiday decorations.

Woman at a Christmas tree with the SmartCamera and SmartThermostat visible.

5. Set your home up for energy savings while you’re out.

If you won’t be home for the holidays, make sure you conserve energy while you’re away. ecobee smart thermostats allow you to set a heating schedule and control your thermostat from anywhere on the ecobee app. You can even schedule your vacation so it’s one less thing to think about before you take off, and so your home can be toasty and warm when you return.

This holiday season, spread the holiday cheer sustainably in any way you can depending on your budget and capacity. Every small act counts to reduce the waste and pollution that accumulates at this time of year.

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