Ever since the straw ban earlier this year, there has been a noticeable increased interest in environmentally friendly options in every area of life. People are buying reusable straws, composting more, and giving up single use plastics left and right.
And that’s great! Once I heard about the straw ban, which doesn’t even effect me, I knew I had to step up my green game too. So I bought some stainless steel straws, and a thermos so I could reliably keep what I was drinking hot or cold.
I already had reusable bags, but I made a point to use them more, too. And I ditched paper towels and opted for reusable washcloths, even cutting up some old shirts that had holes in them to use as reusable cleaning cloths that I wouldn’t mind bleaching after a really gross job.
Now I’m looking at other areas of my life where I can be environmentally friendly, and there’s a big one coming up sooner than you realize: Christmas.
Specifically, Christmas parties, but some of my tips below will be useful for the entire holiday season!
So I want to have an environmentally Christmas party. I want to waste as little energy and food as possible, and I definitely don’t want to encourage the use of single use plastics. Those are my number one enemy right now.
So here are some tips I’ve found that will help us all have a more green Christmas celebration.
Use reusable utensils and dishes
It’s so easy to go to the Dollar Tree and pick up some plastic forks and spoons, some paper plates and napkins, and just call it a day. There’s minimal clean up after, that’s for sure.
But that convenience comes at a heavy ecological cost. Those plastic forks make up a huge part of the 6 MILLION tons of single use plastics that get thrown out every year.
And you might think that you’re doing better if you recycle all of that plastic, but you’re really not. I’m sorry to tell you this, but the majority of plastic that gets sent to be recycled, is just thrown away.
China used to buy a lot of recycled paper, plastics and other scrap materials, but China decided they don’t want to import foreign garbage. The stuff you’re recycling doesn’t have a place to go, and in the end it just gets thrown away.
The fact is, if you want to save the planet, you can’t rely on recycling. You have to rely on reducing. And single use plastics have to go.
So what are your options? Just use your normal silverware, your normal plates, and invest in some reusable straws. They come in a few different materials: silicone straws, stainless steel straws, or glass reusable straws and can be used for generations if treated right.
And stop buying paper towels, too. A set of reusable and even fashionable cloth napkins will save you money and save the environment at the same time.
Use LED lights
This is a simple one. If you’re buying new Christmas lights this year, choose LEDs. They use only 10% of the power of a conventional string of CHristmas lights.
The icing on the cake? Conventional Christmas lights are also three times more likely to cause household fires than LEDs.
In fact, LED lights are up to 80% more efficient than incandescent or fluorescent lights. 95% of the energy spent by LEDS is converted into light. That means only 5% of that energy is wasted!
On top of that, LED lights have no toxic elements and distribute light better, meaning you need fewer lights. And the kicker is that LEDs have a longer life span, which means you’ll need to replace fewer bulbs when you pull your lights back out next year.
Send e-invites instead of paper ones
Personally, I hate Christmas cards. They’re clutter that comes with guilt because I want to throw them away instead of display them.
I’d rather get an invite through text, email, or on social media than a physical Christmas card inviting me anywhere. Seriously. Skip the paper, save on stamps, and just send a digital invite. You’ll be doing everyone, and the environment, a huge favor.
Paperless invitations don’t have to be cheesy and ugly, though. They can be just as thought out and loving as a paper one, just without the waste.
Here are a few websites to check out:
Paperless Post has beautiful, easy to use e cards that can feature moving elements. They’re gorgeous and realistic, so when your guests receive them they’ll almost feel like they’re holding the cards in their hands.
This website isn’t free, but 30 “stamps” only costs $5 (cheaper than Forever Stamps!)
Evite is a tried and true paperless card option. And their cards are free, so don’t pass this website up. You might be surprised by some of the awesome services they have.
Pingg is a lot like Etsy, in that they give artists the ability to upload their card designs to the site.
Their cards are free, though card recipients will see ads when they get their invite. There’s a $10 membership option if you want to remove those ads.
Choose a real Christmas tree
Christmas decorations aren’t the same without a Christmas tree. But which is more environmentally friendly? Fake or real?
The most green Christmas tree option is a real tree with the root ball still attached, a tree that can then be planted after your holiday celebrations.
But even if you don’t want to replant the tree, you can get a real tree and sleep easy. Christmas trees are a crop, so cutting them down doesn’t contribute to deforestation. For every tree a farmer cuts, they’re likely planting four or five more to ensure they get a healthy tree to be cut down in a few years.
Those farms are also a habitat for birds and other wildlife and contribute to the local economy.
The worst option is a fake tree. Made of plastic and metal, there’s a huge process that goes into making them that takes up energy and likely produces polluting byproducts. They have chemicals in them that are unsafe, and if it’s made from China or somewhere else then you have to account for that tree being shipped to you.
If you must have a fake tree, you should take care of it so that you can use it for more than 20 years. Otherwise, you’re hurting the environment.
Recycle and compost after
If you have waste at the end of your party (which you probably will, so no judgment here), then you should find ethical ways to dispose of it.
If you have food waste, you can compost it and then your Christmas party will be contributing to a healthier garden in the spring.
Other items can be reused. Wrapping paper scraps can be turned into origami or bows, or shredded to be used as packing material. Boxes can be reused as long as they’re in good shape pretty much indefinitely.
And if you do have some plastics or paper products to get rid of that you can’t reuse, then you should recycle it. It might end up in the landfill anyway, but at least you tried.
If you have a lot of people heading to your house, you should try to help organize carpooling options for everyone. That means fewer cars in your driveway and less gas wasted. And if they can carpool through a ride sharing service like Uber or Lyft, that means someone can still go home early if they need to without being a burden on the rest of the group they came with.
According to The Rideshare Company, the average vehicle releases ten thousand pounds of carbon dioxide every year. That carbon dioxide is wreaking havoc on the environment and causing climate change to get worse.
Fewer cars being used during the commute-heavy holiday season means less traffic, fewer emissions, less money wasted on gas, and better air quality. And I think that’s something we can all agree is a huge benefit to everyone.
So if some of your guests live near each other, figure out who has the greener car or set them up with Uber or Lyft to bring them all to your house.
If you want to use the best environmentally friendly ride sharing option, Lyft may be the way to go: they announced that they were buying carbon offsets for all of its rides globally.
Carbon offsets reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in a few ways. They can capture and destroy green house gases, produce energy using clean and renewable resources, or capture and store greenhouse gases to prevent their release.
So if it’s an option, choose Lyft over Uber this holiday season.
Skip the host gift
It’s common courtesy to bring a gift to whoever is hosting a party, but if you don’t really need another 10 bottles of wine, you can encourage your guests to bring something to donate.
My suggestion? Ask your guests to bring a toy to donate to a kids fund. It’s a feel-good option that doesn’t make your guests feel awkward for arriving empty handed.
Or, you can choose a zero waste host gift.
Some zero waste gifts include:
- Fresh bread that you baked yourself. No packaging, just love and some hard work.
- Olive oil. Great for anyone that cooks.
- Plants, but only if you know the host can take care of it!
- Raw, local honey. If your host loves tea or really just likes honey, this is a great idea. You can help support a local apiarist and their bees!
- Plastic free food wrap. You can make or buy bees wrap that is biodegradable and reusable and just as good for saving food. You can also choose a silicone option.
- Reusable straws. A couple of straws that never need to be thrown away, plus a cleaning brush? Sign me up!
- A hard wood cutting board. If treated well, these boards can last a lifetime and will save your host’s counter tops.
What to eat
This is going to be a tough one. If you want a really eco-friendly Christmas dinner or party food, you’ll probably have to insist on vegetarian or vegan options.
But if you don’t want to do that and your guests are bringing a dish, you can send your guests a list of in-season food and encourage them to choose local foods!
There are a lot of great options that are in season in December. The whole dish doesn’t have to be local and in season, but a few pieces can make a difference.
What’s in season does depend on where you live. If you live in Florida, you have more options than someone living in Michigan.
Here are a few things to encourage your guests to get or to buy yourself:
- Belgian endive
- Brussels sprouts
- Citrus fruits
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
Going green is a big adjustment, and we can often fall into the trap of trying to do everything at once. But if you’re not used to this lifestyle yet, you’re better of choosing one or two things to focus on this year.
Starting small means you’re more likely to choose environmentally friendly options for longer, making it a life long habit. And those long term habits are what really help the planet. If you give it up too fast because you got overwhelmed, you’re not helping anyone at all.
This year, I’ll be focusing on using my reusable utensils and dishes, plus getting LED Christmas lights to replace the ones that are broken. And, because I hate Christmas cards, all of my invites will be sent out digitally.
So what will you choose to do to make your Christmas parties more eco-friendly this year?