Top Tips From Our Sustainability Community on a ‘Greener’ Holiday Season

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Waste around the holiday season skyrockets by an average of 43%, and six in 10 Americans waste more during the holidays than any other time of year. Of course, the season tends to be incredibly busy and stressful for many. In addition to our many tasks, or even the challenging environment amid COVID-19, there’s no sense in adding additional “sustain-xiety.”

What we mean is that travelers, gatherers, diners and gift-givers alike should all feel confident in their environmental impacts, particularly during a season in which approximately 25 million extra tons of garbage hits landfills. Among other startling metrics, Stanford University suggests that if families reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, it would cover 38,000 miles and “wrap a bow” around the earth. Better yet, if American families reused materials to wrap gifts, the paper could cover 45,000 football fields.

Mission North’s Sustainability Community, an active group across our agency, closely monitors these concerns. In fact, we provide a safe space to support employees on their sustainability journeys and vie to lead more sustainable lives. In this quest, we share good news or “wins” for the entire environmental movement.

As a group, we recognize that making changes to your holiday traditions and routines can be tough, so we’ve gathered some ideas to help. Above all, the best step you can take is simply using what you already have. Still, here are three main areas where you can be more environmentally sound amid your festivities.

<split-lines>"If American families reused materials to wrap gifts, the paper would cover 45,000 football fields."<split-lines>


Since we know that tossing wrapping paper, bags and bows directly into the garbage contributes to millions of tons of unnecessary trash each year, we’ve come up with some quick, easy tips to make your holiday experience a bit friendlier.

For those of us doing the holiday wrapping, you might:

  • Cut up and use paper shopping bags and twine
  • Consider thrift wrapping paper and bows
  • Use scarves and cloth to cover your items
  • Re-use old gift bags (and save those you receive)

Plus, for some gift inspiration, you might consider:

  • Thrifting for toys or clothing
  • Consider second-hand online stores like Poshmark for new-with-tags clothing
  • Look to Facebook Marketplace or other online resellers for gadgets or household items
  • If you’re a DIYer, consider making a handcrafted gift
  • For cooks and bakers, try gifting an assortment of homemade pickles or jams
  • For those praised for their delicious dishes, consider preparing a basket or tote with the recipe and ingredients
Members of our Sustainability Community are reusing materials, thrifting for paper and gifting delicious jarred pickles this year.


You can apply the same mindset to the often-time-consuming process of decorating your home this holiday season. Here are several pointers:

  • Thrift for your tree ornaments
  • Consider baked orange slices or an easy dough ornament recipe that you can paint with kids
  • Thread cranberries with string and create a garland
  • Swap decorations with your friends and family to switch things up
  • Make garlands and paper ornaments – and save them for future get-togethers


There’s also the joy of physically gathering with family, friends and loved ones during the season. That’s when the trash cans fill up – often with recyclable items. Here are a few tips to think sustainably as you gather, dine and converse:

  • Remind family members to bring Tupperware to box up leftovers
  • Don’t rely on single-use plates and silverware
  • Use a dishwasher instead of washing by hand to cut down on water usage
  • Consider incorporating vegan dishes into your spread
  • Clearly mark where guests should throw out trash, recycle, and compost their items

‘Tis the Season

Gift-giving, of course, is about the quality and not the quantity of the gifts. So as a buyer, don’t stress-purchase random items to hit a quota. Often, these gifts get quickly cast aside by their recipients. Instead, try to plan ahead as best as possible to cover all your loved ones – ensuring you’re intentional (and thoughtful) in what you buy. You’ll also cut down on trash-bound items.

Regardless, whether your gift is secondhand or handcrafted, your loved ones will value the thoughtfulness behind it. So, even while you venture to the store or online to address your lengthy gift list, try and give the entirety of your festivities some extra thought this year – from what you eat to how you dispose of your trash.

What’s more, always try to remember that the holidays are about the spirit of the season – quality time and connection with loved ones. Be sure to slow down, take a breath, and enjoy, for that’s equally as helpful as our environmental tips.

Together, perhaps backed by some of these pointers, we can truly help make the season merry and bright.

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