17 Ways To Green Your Holidays

Walking the green walk, isn’t always easy, and the holidays present special challenges. Its not always easy to mess with traditions. Last Thanksgiving I hosted a 100-mile Thanksgiving (I chronicled it in two blog posts on the OrganicMania blog). My attempt to convince my mother-in-law in Tampa that buying condensed milk at my local supermarket for her traditional key lime pie wasn’t really in the spirit of the plan, did not go over so well. That said, I can see a 100-mile Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza or even a 100-mile gift rule.

Tip #1: Source locally. Use local and sustainable produce, flowers, beverages, décor and rentals for holiday parties and meals.

Beyond that, there are two primary categories of activities involved in greening holiday parties and events: Finding ways to minimize the impact of the consumption occurring at the event itself, including food, flowers, beverages, décor, gifts, ect… Finding ways to mitigate the carbon footprint resulting from the airplane travel, car travel and lodging consumed for the event.

The good news is that there are a number of greening strategies that can deal with some or all of these factors that that are sexy and require little to no extra costs.

  1. Make sure you have a recycling plan in place. Make recycling easy by having a sufficient number of well-marked recycling bins near where people need them.
  2. If you are exchanging gifts (…think Secret Santa), make them green. There are a host of environmentally friendly gifts items ranging from aluminum water bottles to solar powered messenger bags to fair trade chocolates to locally made crafts that could fit the bill.

  3. Donate leftover food. Instead of throwing away unused food, donate it to a local food bank or homeless shelter.
  4. Don’t serve bottled water. By serving filtered tap water you will not only generate less waste but you can save a bunch of $$.
  5. Don’t use disposable plates, cups, cutlery, etc…
  6. Green your holiday cards. Look for cool green holiday card options.  Then in the new year find good green things to do with holiday cards.
  7. Eliminate envelopes by sending postcard invitations. [Good]
  8. Reduce the amount of paper by sending smaller cards. [Good]
  9. Use recycled content paper cards—strive for 100% PCW content. [Better]
  10. Send holiday cards and invitations electronically. Services such as Sendomatic, ConstantContact and Evite are easy to use. [Best]
  11. Encourage guests to carpool or use mass transit.
  12. Encourage guests to book on greener airlines.
  13. Use green transportation/Rent hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles. Use a taxi or car service that uses alternative-fuel vehicles.
  14. Encourage guests to rent small cars. Most small vehicles, other than small luxury cars, get better gas mileage. For example, 100% of Avis‘ economy, compact, intermediate and standard cars meet EPA guidelines for fuel-efficiency and are EPA SmartWay Certified.
  15. Encourage guests to choose a green hotel. Unless they are like my in-laws; then forget about it…
  16. Carbon-balance your dinner. You can balance the environmental impact of your meal or party with a carbon offset purchase from a company like TerraPass. It is quite simple to calculate an event’s carbon output and the cost of mitigation based on how many people will be attending and how many flights and hotel rooms will be used.

Got any good tips? Please share.

Photo: Foxumon atsxc.hu

About the Author

Jennifer Kaplan writes regularly about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for EatDrinkBetter.com and is the author of Greening Your Small Business (November 2009, Penguin Group (USA)). She was been named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster and an MBA - find her on .
  • I Like these ways to green our holiday, Thanks Jennifer for sharing your knowledge with us.

  • Thanks for the nice comment, Jason!

  • Thanks for these tips Jennifer! If everybody thinks to act locally (by doing one green action per day, we will manage to save our beaty Earth and our (only) funny life!
    My website is also full of green tips, have a look:
    Green Times

  • All great tips and I especially agree with your first tip. Getting as much as we can locally and from sustainable sources can really make a huge difference.

  • Love this post!

    My name is Heidi Richards Mooney and I am the publisher of WE magazine for Women. We are putting together a Holiday Gift Guide and I was wondering if you allow republishing of your articles? This would be perfect for our guide which will be offered as a pdf download to our readers. Visit http://www.WEMagazineforWomen.com for more information.

    If you do allow, let me know what your publishing criteria is etc at heidi (at) wecai.org (no spaces).

    Thanks so much for your time,


  • Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book
    in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics
    to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog.
    A great read. I’ll definitely be back.