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How to Stay Environmentally Conscious during the Holiday Season

As much as we all enjoy the holiday season, it has its faults when it comes to supporting the environment. Fake trees, electricity-draining lights, wrapping paper and transportation are all things that negatively affect our environment. So, how can we stay environmentally conscious this holiday season?


There are two options when choosing to get a Christmas tree, the first being a fake tree and the second being a real tree. The only real problem with getting a cut-down tree is that more often than not, the tree was transported from far away, leading to an abundance of exhaust emissions. Still, this seems to be the only issue. Real trees act as carbon traps that become compostable. A common misconception is that these trees grow in the wild, but Christmas trees grow in designated farms, so don’t feel as though you are hurting any forests. 

Fake trees, while seeming like the more eco-friendly option, are in fact much worse. First, there is the issue of transportation and according to the National Christmas Tree Association, 85% of fake trees are imported from China. These trees are made of PVC (plastic polymer) and steel, meaning they aren’t recyclable or compostable. After a few years, fake trees go into landfills and become plastic waste. The best way to stay environmentally friendly during the holidays, in regards to Christmas trees, is to buy locally and compost the tree after you’re done. 


According to Stanford University, “If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields” and “If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.” We throw away so much wrapping paper and Christmas cards every winter season. To combat wrapping paper waste, try using newspapers, fabric scraps, or brown craft paper that can be recycled. You could even opt for a basket or tin. If you do get wrapping paper, make sure that it is the recyclable kind, and when opening presents try to save that paper for future use. For Christmas cards, try investing in a digital format this holiday season!


Pew Research Center found that 90% of American households celebrate Christmas, and assuming that half of those houses use Christmas lights, around 3.5 billion kWh of electricity is used in December. Arcadia, an energy company, used this research to calculate that this costs a grand total of $645 million nationwide, resulting in an extra $12 for every household’s electric bill. Arcadia also concluded that these lights release 2 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Some solutions include purchasing solar-powered lights, lights that have a timer, and buying LED lights instead of incandescent ones. Turning off the lights when you’re not using them is also important in conserving energy. In this case, using less is better, so cutting out some of your light displays may be something to consider. 


Whenever you can, try to give eco-friendly presents. These include any gifts to concerts, plays, sporting events, movies, etc. Buying gifts that are in and of themselves sustainable are also great gift ideas. For example, buying reusable water bottles, metal straws and tote bags all actively promote sustainability. Another way to stay eco-friendly is to buy locally and from small businesses as well as supporting companies that sell gifts made out of reusable material. An example of this is the organization 4ocean, which incentivises people to clean up the ocean by purchasing their products.

Allister Loftus

Cal Poly '24

Alli is a second-year journalism major and environmental studies minor at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. She is from the Bay Area and currently on the editorial team for Her Campus. Alli is interested in writing about environmental justice and social justice topics. In her free time she likes watching movies, reading comics, and playing with her dogs.
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