‘Tis the season for festive parties, gift-giving, and decking out your home in holiday decor. The holiday season is beloved by many but it also happens to be one of the most wasteful times of year.
Holiday decor can be a significant contributing factor to this, often made from disposable materials and sometimes not reused, or used for just a few seasons. If you’re interested in a more eco-friendly holiday season, then choosing sustainable Christmas decor can be a step in the right direction.
Why are Sustainable Holiday Decorations Important?
The holiday season is the most wasteful time of year primarily due to overconsumption. The average American accumulates 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year. From food waste to single-use items to holiday decor, a significant amount of mostly preventable waste is generated during the holiday season.
Holiday decorations add to this, as many brands churn out trinkets and items made from plastic and other cheap materials. And these are often produced in unethical factories that involve worker exploitation.
While holiday decorations are what make this time of year so festive, there are sustainable options that we can choose instead. Sustainable holiday decor typically involves buying items that are either reusable or compostable and recyclable.
It also means supporting sustainable and/or local businesses with your purchases. This way we’re preventing the accumulation of additional waste, cutting down on plastic consumption, and avoid supporting unsustainable and unethical brands.
What to Look for From Sustainable Christmas Decor:
Sustainable Christmas decorations can look like choosing wrapping paper made from recycled paper or using reusable items like tote bags and scarves instead. It can mean purchasing a locally grown Christmas tree from a family-run farm and properly composting it. Sustainable holiday decor can also look like making ornaments at home from natural materials and reusing them for years to come.
When it comes to determining if your holiday decorations are sustainable, use the following as a checklist before purchasing or making your own:
Ideally, eco-friendly Christmas decorations will be reusable for years to come. To prevent additional waste, decor should be meant to last. If it’s a single-use or short-term item, it should be recyclable and compostable at the end of its life.
Holiday decor should be plastic-free when possible to lessen its harmful environmental impact. If plastic is used, look for items made from recycled plastic that can be recycled.
Support brands that are transparent about the sustainable practices and materials used to create their decor. This could mean fair trade and artisan-made goods created from natural materials.
Look for holiday decor made from eco-friendly materials. Decor can easily be made from upcycled or recycled items as well as natural materials like linen, fabric, or foraged branches.
Where to Find Sustainable Christmas & Holiday Decor:
When choosing sustainable holiday decorations, there are three main options. You can either create your own, purchase secondhand goods, or buy new ones from responsible brands.
DIY: How to Make Eco-friendly Holiday Decorations
Did you know that a significant amount of holiday decor can easily be made at home? It’s a great excuse to use up excess items you may have laying around as well as a wonderful way to spend time with your loved ones.
Plus, making your own Christmas decorations will most likely save you money.
When it comes to making your decorations, first take inventory of what holiday decorations you’re missing.
Then, find instructions online or on Pinterest to make it at home and see what items you already have. Head to your local craft store to pick up the remainder of the materials.
Try to focus on natural and plastic-free materials when possible. You can often make these items using natural goods like dried fruit, recycled items like paper scraps, or natural materials like foliage.
Opting to make decorations that can be reused for years to come will also keep your DIY decor more eco-minded.
Some particularly easy DIY holiday decorations include ornaments, sustainable wreaths, garlands, stockings, advent calendars, or other decorative edible items (i.e. gingerbread houses).
If you’re not that crafty, opt for natural and seasonal items that double as decorations such as pinecones, branches, holly, cinnamon sticks, or oranges.
Used: Secondhand Stores for Sustainable Christmas Decor
If making your own holiday decorations isn’t in the cards, buying secondhand decor is an easy sustainable alternative. You can find used Christmas decorations from a variety of sellers, but the following options may be the most helpful:
Thrift Stores/Secondhand Shops
Local secondhand stores are a wonderful place to find holiday decor at an affordable price. You may even come across rare or vintage items that can be passed down for generations.
Check your local used or secondhand store, Goodwill, thrift or vintage stores, and even consignment shops for holiday decorations.
If you can’t find used Christmas decorations locally, you can probably find what you need online. Numerous online retailers sell a variety of holiday decor.
New: Sustainable Shops for Holiday Season Decor
Making your own holiday decor or purchasing secondhand is generally the most sustainable option. However, that’s not always possible. Sometimes you have to buy new to find what you need. When it comes to buying eco-friendly holiday decor, choose to support local, sustainable retailers or shop from any of the online retailers below:
EarthHero is a sustainable marketplace where you can easily support different sustainable brands already vetted by EarthHero.
Here you’ll find recycled greeting cards, handmade garlands, organic ornaments, ethically-made stockings, compostable wrapping paper, and reusable advent calendars.
Made Trade is a woman-owned sustainable marketplace that has eco-friendly, fair trade Christmas decorations available.
Made Trade has one of the largest selections of holiday decor including handwoven baskets, handcrafted seasonal candles, sustainably-made ornaments, fair trade tree skirts, and cotton stockings.
Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade online marketplace that sells handcrafted goods from makers around the world.
Here you can browse for stunning and timeless handmade ornaments, reusable gift bags, hand-dyed festive tablecloths, and carved stone nativity scenes, among other holiday items.
EcoVibe is a Black-owned lifestyle brand with a large online marketplace as well as a brick-and-mortar in Portland, Oregon.
They have numerous handmade seasonal candles, sustainably made table decor like tree sets, gnomes, and Santas, as well as woven stockings and funky ornaments. You can find just about any holiday decor you could want at EcoVibe.
Acacia Creations works directly with artisans to sell their sustainably-made goods with a focus on items made from natural materials. When it comes to Christmas decor, they have a nice selection of handmade, upcycled, or carved fair trade ornaments.
Acacia Creations also has some sustainably made tableware like woven baskets, wooden serving boards, and bowls; perfect for hosting holiday parties.
Etsy is a wonderful marketplace to support independent artisans and sellers. You can find a variety of handcrafted holiday decorations including sustainable Christmas lights.
When shopping on Etsy, make sure to check who the seller is to confirm you’re supporting independent and eco-friendly sellers.
The Little Market partners with international female artisans to sell their products to a larger market at a fair price.
You can find a variety of artisan-made, sustainable holiday decor here, including beautiful fabric wrapping paper, chic felt garlands, hand-poured organic candles, and embroidered ornaments.
Where to Find Sustainable Christmas Trees:
The Christmas tree is the center of holiday decor. As such, it’s important to choose a sustainable Christmas tree if you’re interested in lowering your impact during the holidays.
You have a few options when it comes to getting an eco-friendly Christmas tree:
Buy a Real Christmas Tree
Even though a real Christmas tree will only last for one season, this can still be a sustainable option. Buy your tree from a local, family-run tree farm and properly dispose of it at the end of the season. Many cities have tree take-back programs or your tree farm may provide a recycling option.
Rent A Tree
Alternatively, depending on where you live, there are several local companies that now offer the option to rent a potted Christmas tree.
They’ll deliver it to your door and pick it up when you’re done, replanting it afterward. This is a great option if you don’t have any local tree farms nearby or you’re short on time or transportation.
Choose a Reusable Artificial Tree
Artificial trees are often largely unsustainable. Most artificial trees are made in unethical factories from plastic. If you’re going to purchase an artificial tree, look for secondhand options and consider it a lifetime investment to make your purchase more sustainable.
Even better, choose reusable trees that aren’t made from plastic. They may not look like your typical Christmas tree, but there are wooden Christmas trees available that have the same signature shape and can be decorated with your favorite fair trade ornaments and lights. Bonus if you can find one made from FSC-certified or reclaimed wood.
Looking For More Eco Holiday Resources?
About The Author:
Alicia Briggs is a writer & editor specializing in slow travel & sustainable living. She’s worked in journalism since 2016 and currently writes for a variety of publications such as Sustainably Chic and Hidden Lemur. She has been a full-time traveler since 2018 and runs her own blog, Learning the Local Way, where she covers responsible travel & living tips.