University of Florida

A Green Holiday

Environmental sustainability means finding ways to reduce consumption by using renewable resources and reusing or repurposing objects. These values can fit in line with holiday celebrations, making it a time of sustaining traditions and helping the environment.

Here are some fun ideas for “greening” your holiday season.


  • Use LED lights.
  • Reduce the amount of lights or strands, and use a timer on your lights to save electricity.
  • Make table centerpieces and other decorations from collected natural objects, such as acorns, holly or oak trimmings, berries, or other harvested fruits and vegetables.


  • Wrap gifts with brown paper bags, newspaper, or reused wrapping paper. You can personalize the wrapping paper with stamps, collages, or drawings.
  • Instead of wrapping gifts, tie a large bow around items. You could also make the wrapping part of the gift, such as using reusable tins, planting pots, or new dish towels.
  • Give presents or gift cards from local businesses.
  • Focus on homemade or non-traditional gifts, such as baked goods, plants, fishing licenses, dance classes, travel mugs, local art, or battery chargers.
  • If giving appliances or electronics, make sure they are Energy Star certified.
  • Make donations in someone’s name to charities or conservation organizations.
  • Give your time as a gift. Help older relatives with difficult chores, take children to a park, or teach someone a skill or talent.


  • Check local farmers markets for specialty sauces, jams, cider, and meat.
  • Use local produce in holiday recipes.
  • Use cloth napkins in your place settings.
  • Buy in bulk to reduce grocery trips and packaging.
  • Compost food waste.


  • Instead of a traditional tree, use a locally grown live tree that can be planted outside after the holiday. Possibilities include cedars, palms, or even citrus trees.
  • Be aware that even though artificial trees can be reused each year, they often contain toxic materials such as PVC and are made overseas.
  • Check for local tree recycling programs that will turn used trees into chip mulch.


  • Email cards or make them from recycled paper.
  • Carpool to holiday parties and shopping trips.
  • Set out recycling bins for bottles and cans at holiday parties and events.

Having a "green" holiday can benefit much more than just the environment. Creating homemade gifts and decorations or reusing items from previous years also means spending less money than buying new items.

Investing time and creativity into the holiday can help make it more fulfilling and meaningful for you, your family, and friends.

Adapted and excerpted from:

Matt Kelly, “Dreaming of a Green Christmas? Holidays Can Be Sustainable,” UVA Today (12/2009).

"Reducing Holiday Waste," EPA (Accessed 11/2014).

T. Parsons, "Tips for 'Greening' Your Holiday Season," Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (11/2010).

Pine cone

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