12 Christmas party eco-upgrades that will make your guests green with envy

It’s that time of year again. We’re coming together to celebrate the season and share our love. And you know what that means — party time! Invite sustainability to your next holiday shindig for maximum positive impact.

Zero waste or even carbon negative event-planning is the greenest goal, but if you’re looking for some easy ways to make your party planet-friendly without going overboard, try these on for size. Even your climate change skeptic cousins will admire these upgrades.

Invite Right

Celebrate at home — Traveling for the holidays is the biggest source of emissions this time of year, but of course, there are ways to do it greener. Stay close to home this year for some serious CO2 savings.

Reduce, recycle, and reuse holiday cards — Not the whole card, just the front. If you’ve collected a stockpile of generic holiday cards, hold off on dumping them in the recycling bin. There’s one more potential use. People generally don’t write on the opposite side of the front of a greeting card, so you can carefully cut them off and use them as postcards. Just make sure not to send them back to the person who mailed them to you!

Paperless invitations — Not sure you can keep your senders vs sendees straight? Want to join the rest of us in the 21st century and go digital? Save a tree and send a text instead.

Green Gifts

Package with care — What’s a holiday without gifts? Forget the cheesy reindeer-printed paper and bows. Unlike most wrapping rolls, brown kraft paper is recycled and recyclable. Bonus — if guests need something to do at your party, kids enjoy decorating the paper with stamps, paints, and stickers. Don’t like brown? Use gift bags. They can be reused year after year.

Give the gift of experiences — Not many of us actually need more ‘stuff’ for Christmas. We would all rather have a memorable experience than a generic gift that says, “Here, I bought you something.” Trips, gift cards, tickets, reservations, and memberships are easy to buy, easy to wrap, and aren’t going to show up on the shelves at Goodwill in January.

Regift — Mhmm. I went there.

Decoration Appreciation

Use LED lightsLED lights are 70%+ more energy efficient than your grandma’s hand-me-down bulbs. And don’t forget that efficiency means a smaller electric bill, too. Top off your tree with a timer and bask in the glow of your green genius.

Set up a real tree —Love the scent of real pine trees? You’re in luck. Surprisingly, real trees are more sustainable than artificial. You’d have to use your fake tree for 10+ years before it balanced out with just one year with a real tree. Try this Christmas Tree Footprint Calculator to run the numbers. Level up your green Christmas with a live potted tree that you can plant outside in the spring.

Au naturale —If you’re shopping for new decorations, go wild! Natural decorations like evergreen boughs, wreaths, and berries are greener than your collection of plastic Santas. Have enough greenery already? DIY decor is always in style. And please — skip the tinsel. Not only is it awful for the environment, it’s super outdated.

Fine Dining

Serve only the best — Local produce, homemade cookies, custom charcuterie platters, and big bowls of punch (as opposed to individually-packaged drinks) all minimize your footprint. Aim for a veg-heavy selection and you’ll cut back even more.

Swap the ham for turkey — Nobody is going to notice, either. Switching from ham to turkey saves about 1.5kg of CO2 per kg of meat. And if you usually serve a Christmas lamb, switching to turkey generates only 1/4 as much CO2 as your usual.

Use real napkins and plates — I know you don’t want to do dishes, but hear me out. Red plastic cups and paper plates are easily disposable, but they’re incredibly wasteful. Recycling is great and all, but the minimal water usage from your dishwasher and washing machine is more sustainable and uses fewer resources. Plus, your party gets an instant upgrade — it’s much classier to use real plates. Go the extra mile with hand-tied napkin rings and your party will be one to remember.

What’d I miss? What other low-effort tricks to you know for greening up a holiday party?

Sarah Czarnecki is a freelance writer who focuses on wildlife and ecotourism while occasionally dipping a toe into fiction. Learn more about who she is and why she writes at her eponymous website.

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Sarah Czarnecki

Sarah Czarnecki

Usually a travel and animal blogger. Sometimes a music writer, often a pro skateboarding journalist. Always a reader. | Editor of FreeRein