It seems we are in perpetual holiday mode.  Every time I go to the store there is a section dedicated to the next holiday, which could be two months away.  Halloween shows up before the heat of summer passes and commingles with Christmas trees and red and green candy. Each display comes earlier and earlier each year which to me dilutes the actual holiday.  But I guess its all about profits for the stores.

But what is the impact to our planet?  Most of that stuff is made from plastic and paper, or if we look at the life cycle, from petroleum and trees.

According to the National Retail Federation, in 2018 we spent an average of $215 per person on decorations for the winter holidays, followed by $136 per person for Valentine’s Day, and $90 per person on Halloween. That is just decorations! Is it really necessary?  Would it not be better to use that money for something more substantial?

Let’s pause a moment and think of some alternative ways we can decorate that will not harm the future of our next generations. 

Each holiday includes meals and gifts which are areas we can easily transform with more sustainable practices. Here are some ideas to get you started. And guess what? They will save you money too!

Tableware – Create a “party kit” with reusable plates, utensils, cloth napkins, cloth tablecloths, mugs and cups.  You can get a mix of colorful items at a second hand store and keep them in a tub for each celebration. Don’t forget the reusable straws as well.

Goody bags – Just say no to those junk plastic toys that rarely last to the end of the kids party. One idea might be to have them decorate their own reusable water bottle or t-shirt to take home.

Wrapping Paper – We tend to give presents to the same people each holiday, so starting a cloth bag exchange program may work.  Wrap presents in a colorful cloth bag that can be used again by the recipient, and eventually getting back to you. To make a bigger impact, give a set to your family members so they can use them as well. And no taping! Or better yet, give an “experience” instead of stuff.

Balloons – Just say no to balloons. They end up where they should not be.  How about colorful rice paper lanterns?

Cut Flowers – How about a live plant instead?  That way it is supplying oxygen and will last a lot longer than cut flowers. You can even include a note that you will help plant in their yard if it is that kind of plant. And make sure it is native to your area.

Lights – when your holiday lights go out, get LED replacements.  They last a lot longer and saves valuable resources over the years. While the cheap ones are – cheap – they still have a big footprint before they reach the shelf. Plus, there are so many things you can do with the lights, like put them into your empty glass jars and use as center pieces.

Gifts – you will here me say over and over – gift an experience instead of stuff.  You can also add edible gifts to that category, or other consumables.

As I said, pause a minute and think how you can make less of an impact during the next holiday season.  Don’t be tempted by all those decorations you see at the store.  Ask yourself these questions when you are tempted:

  1. What is this item made from? What is the footprint?
  2. Will it last for several years and then be donated for reuse?
  3. Is it made from renewable resources?
  4. Will it just end up in the landfill after the party?
  5. Is it biodegradable if put in to a compost bin?

Let’s get this party started!! #leadonclimate

Sandi Sturm is Co-founder of Earth Focus Group. Look for her new book coming soon, “Family Survival Guide for Our Changing Climate : 52 Empowering Actions You and Your Family Can Take Now!”

Sandi Sturm

Sandi Sturm


I am an author, teacher, and Climate Reality Leader who enjoys being outside as much as possible exploring our natural landscapes. My current focus in on our website, with a mission: “We see a world of people who understand our changing climate and that individual actions affect everyone on earth.”

This mission is currently satisfied by these programs:

  • Https://EnvironmentalGroups.US with the mission: “To build capacity around environmental groups in the U.S. so we can educate more people about climate change and empower them to participate in solutions.”
  • Earth Prints for Families community to bring together like-minded people who want to reduce their carbon footprint 50% by 2030.
  • Book, “Family Survival Guide for Our Changing Climate : 52 Empowering Actions You and Your Family Can Take Now!”

My husband, Wayne, and I live full time in our RV, where we enjoy visiting as many National Parks as we can.