The holiday season brings so much good into the world—but it can also bring a lot of waste and excess use of energy

Between the travel, parties, decorations and food preparation, one million extra tons of waste is created each week between American Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. But sustainability doesn’t have to take a back seat for the holidays. Planning now can help you prepare to spread more cheer and less waste this season.

Sustainable tips for the holiday party hostholiday dinnerPhoto by Jed Owen on Unsplash

  1. Recycle and compost: Set up clear stations for recycling and composting. Provide instructions for each, and make it clear which materials go where (compostable materials if you’re using disposable, mostly fresh foods, etc.)
  2. Thrift for decor: It may take a bit of hunting, but that’s half the fun! Thrifting for decor means that you will have unique decorations for your gatherings—at a fraction of the cost—and you won’t be contributing to the creation of new and environmentally damaging products.
  3. Buy local food items: Sourcing local food helps guarantee that dinner plates are filled with sustainably managed and harvested goods and eliminates the emissions that go into shipping.
  4. Choose fresh over packaged: Fresh foods like fruits, vegetables and locally sourced meats and cheeses will cut down on plastic and single-use packaging during the holidays. Bulk food stores and cheese shops will also let you use your own containers.
  5. Cook what you eat: Try to cook predominantly with ingredients that you know you love and use. That way, in the case of leftovers, you have no food waste and lots of evenings of delicious dinners waiting for you. You can also prepare goodie bags for your guests to leave with.
  6. Thrift or re-wear your outfit: Parties and fast fashion go hand in hand... or at least they used to. Re-wearing your outfit through the holidays isn’t a faux-pas anymore—it’s cool to be an outfit repeater. It decreases the amount of waste that comes from the garment industry, and you can always re-style it to freshen up your look from party to party.

For the holiday gift-giverholiday giftsPhoto by Kari Shea on Unsplash

  1. Plan gifts ahead of time: Be thoughtful in your sustainable gift-giving; buying or making things that the gift receiver will actually enjoy will eliminate waste.
  2. Buy locally: Save on emissions and buy your gifts at local shops.
  3. Make your gifts: Making gifts with things that you have on hand is thoughtful and also reduces emissions.
  4. Re-gift: Have a shirt, candle-making set or book that you just didn’t love (or one that you’re finished with)? Re-gift it and add a note to make it all the more special to the receiver.
  5. Package sustainably: Save packaging from last year or use recycled or reusable materials and you’ve got yourself a plastic-free gift-giving experience. Here's our handy list of 50 alternatives to wrapping paper.
  6. Gift food items: Everyone has to eat, so why not gift some brownies, soups, canned goods or other food items that will go a long way?

For the out-of-towner or travellersnow streetcarPhoto by Simon Berger on Unsplash

  1. Carpool to your destination: Save on multiple car emissions and carpool to events with friends or other family members.
  2. Take public transportation: If you need to travel at specific times or want to go alone, take the bus and cut down on your driving emissions.
  3. Drive or take a train versus flying: If you’re headed long distances to see family, try to drive or take a train. If the distance is too long, take direct flights and pack lightly for less weight fuel use.
  4. Rent a hybrid, electric or fuel-efficient car: For longer distance driving, why not try to rent an eco-friendly vehicle?
  5. Drive during non-peak times: Sitting in traffic isn’t just annoying, it keeps our cars idling and uses more gas and energy along the way.
  6. Pack your own food: Cut the extra packaging and waste from stopping on the road and opt for packed meals in reusable containers.

For the decoratorHoliday decorationsPhoto by Chang Duong on Unsplash

  1. Decorate with real, natural materials: They don’t contain plastic and they’ll give you a deeper connection to your surroundings. Be mindful when harvesting from nature!
  2. Save your decorations year after year: Timeless decorations help you create an evergreen holiday look so that you don’t feel the need to buy new items each year.
  3. Choose an environmentally friendly tree: Buy a used plastic tree, a living tree or a real tree from a local farm. You can find more about choosing an environmentally-friendly tree here.
  4. Use LED lights: If you’re decorating with string lights, switch them to LEDs. They use 75 percent less energy and save you money.
  5. Set your lights and decorations on a timer: We love having our decorations twinkle during the longer nights, but nobody needs them to shine at 2 a.m.