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The Most Unsustainable Christmas Traditions

Updated: May 5, 2021

As much as everyone loves Christmas as a holiday, you can’t deny that it's one of the most wasteful traditions that humans celebrate. Every year the US wastes tons of money and resources on Christmas gifts, feasts, and holiday-related activities for the sake of celebrating the holiday season. While this isn’t an argument to completely stop the celebration of Christmas, we want to ask you whether you are aware of which traditions are the most wasteful and whether you’d like to decrease the amount of waste your household is unknowingly generating this Christmas? If your answer is yes, you’re in luck, as this blog post will enlighten you as to which traditions are the most wasteful, as well as small ways in which you can help to reduce the amount of waste generated by the Christmas season this year.

Unsustainable Christmas Practices

  1. Gift giving

If you’ve read any of our other blogs posts, specifically our “5 Sustainable Forms of Gift Wrapping” or “How to Give Sustainable Gifts”, then you know exactly how much waste is generated from gift wrapping paper, ribbons, and unwanted gifts alone. From the fact that gift wrapping paper is only bought to be ripped and thrown away after use, to the idea that gifts that are unwanted by their recipients often end up getting thrown away due to the stigma of regifting a present, there are numerous ways in which the tradition of gift giving negatively impacts the environment. Despite those concerns, there too are so many other sustainable wrapping paper options available and ways you can avoid generating more waste by giving gifts that will be truly appreciated by your gift recipient, which you can read more about in the articles linked above.

  1. Christmas lighting

If you think about the Christmas lights found hanging everywhere from homes to shop windows and to outdoor displays, they also generate carbon emissions due to the amount of energy they consume as they stay on throughout the day and into the night. While we understand the importance of having Christmas lights to incite the Christmas spirit and atmosphere as December 25th approaches, an alternative would be to use more energy efficient Christmas lights that will reduce the impact of your lights on the environment, allowing you to still feel the Christmas spirit while reducing your energy consumption.

  1. Christmas feasts

Christmas feasts, much like Thanksgiving, can generate a lot of waste. Because Christmas is another time to get together with friends and family, most households end up cooking huge meals to accommodate the increased number of people gathered together, which in turn creates the potential for more household waste than any other ordinary meal. To reduce the among of energy and good food wasted, consider employing some of the tactics we recommended in our “How to Reduce Food Waste During Thanksgiving” post, which include buying and cooking less, donating and storing leftovers, or composting the waste. If you’re much more committed to being eco-conscious, then you could also consider going completely meatless for your Christmas dinner in order to reduce the amount of energy and carbon emissions involved in preparing your meal.

  1. Christmas trees

What about Christmas trees? They must be environmentally friendly right? That actually depends on what type of tree you and your family use at home. In general, artificial trees actually generate more carbon emissions compared to natural, living trees, with each tree generating approximately 40 kg of greenhouse gas emissions from production to distribution. This is because they’re often made of plastic, which means that their manufacturing process automatically generates more greenhouse gases than the process used to prep real trees for home use. Additionally, artificial trees only end up generating more plastic waste when they are eventually thrown away, whereas real trees can decompose and grow into new trees. So with that being said, don’t hesitate to start switching out your plastic Christmas trees for real Christmas trees instead to reduce your carbon footprint!

  1. Christmas decorations

In terms of Christmas decorations, most Christmas tree ornaments and decorations are made out of plastic and come in plastic packaging, and while they are used for multiple years and aren’t instantly thrown away, they do still have a carbon footprint associated with them. Most are also made to break in a couple of years, which means you’ll have to constantly restock in Christmas decorations every few seasons and throw away the used decorations, which will inevitably end up in landfills and contributing to the significant plastic pollution problem our world already has. As such you should consider either making your own decorations or using decorations that are not made out of plastic, such as glass, fabric, or recycled materials to reduce your Chrismas carbon footprint.


These are just some of the biggest ways you and your household can reduce your environmental impact this Christmas. Let us know if you think we’ve missed any traditions, as well as other ways you think people could save the environment and reduce their carbon footprint this Christmas! If you’re interested in learning more about eco-conscious holiday practices, ways to minimize your environmental footprint, or just environmentalism and sustainability in general, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, stay tuned for more blog posts, and follow us on Instagram @wellmadewrld !

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