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4 More Sustainable Ways to Survive the Holidays

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Simplifying your life and your traditions will help you survive the holidays with less waste. 

We’re in the home stretch, y’all — the last month of the year, full of activities, errands, shopping, cooking, and traveling.

Unfortunately, this time of year is also full of food waste, additional trash, increased energy usage, and other forms of excess. I hope that this is the year that I reign in some of the wastefulness. And while I’m simplifying everything from my shopping list to my holiday decorating, hopefully these changes will make the season a little less stressful and a little more enjoyable, too. Intrigued? Here are some ideas that can help you more easily survive the holidays , while also having a more positive impact on the environment.

1. Change up how you travel. If you’re heading out to visit relatives, weigh the options so you can choose the least carbon-intensive way to travel. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, taking a bus, train, or driving a fuel-efficient car are among the best travel options for the environment. The worst? Big SUVs or flying first class. If you’re traveling alone or as a couple, a nonstop economy flight is also a good option for long-distance travel.

Survival Mode: Taking public transportation, rather than being behind the wheel, means you can relax and catch up on reading some e-books.

2. Simplify the shopping. Your idea for a perfect gift for someone might not be the same as the recipient’s, and that can come at a cost. As much as $70 billion worth of goods might be returned during this holiday season, and with that comes waste in the forms of additional fuel needed to truck goods through distribution centers, or non-returnable goods that are thrown away (as much as 30 to 40 percent, according to some estimates). For a gift that’s truly from the heart, make a donation in recipients’ names to causes that are meaningful to them. A foodie might appreciate a donation in their name to Feeding America or other food-related charities, while an outdoors enthusiast would welcome a contribution to the Sierra Club that would protect the wilderness.

Survival Mode: By choosing donations over stuff, you can knock out all your shopping in the course of an evening, all without leaving your sofa! And it’s a gift that will make you and your recipient both feel just as good

3. Rethink the Christmas tree debate. Every year, the question arises: Are real or artificial trees better for the environment? I’ve seen arguments for both, so what’s an eco-responsible gal to do? One option is a tree alternative, such as the PossibiliTree, a sculptural tree made of a tower of wooden posts from which you can hang ornaments. They’re made with far less resources than a traditional artificial tree, have a far longer lifespan, and much of the wood is sourced from naturally felled wood.

Survival Mode: Using a tree alternative will cut down on the maintenance required of a real tree, leaving you more time to sip cocoa with loved ones.

4. Team up on the baking. Joining forces with a couple of friends to do your holiday baking can help maximize resources and minimize waste. You can buy all the groceries you’ll need in bulk, which cuts down on packaging waste, and make larger batches at once, which will save on the energy used by your oven.

Survival Mode: Baking with a buddy is way more fun than baking alone. And, as the saying goes, many hands make light work!

SOURCES:, Union of Concerned Scientists



How are you going to sustainably survive the holidays this year? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan
I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same. more