Ideas for greener holidays

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, residential waste increases by more than 25 percent. But the holidays don’t have to be a time to waste; they can be a time to give back to our environment and community instead.

Reducing waste around the holiday season can be fun and easy. The gifts we give, how we present those gifts, and the celebrations we hold can all be green. Below are some ideas for making your holidays green.

Give green gifts

Green gifts make great gifts. Give recycled or upcycled gifts. These gifts have more character and they cut back on waste. There are many local retailers who sell used or green gifts. Even larger retailers, such as Amazon, include a green section on their website to cater to ecofriendly shoppers. Or consider giving a literal green gift for the holidays. Plants make beautiful gifts, and they’ll brighten up any home throughout the winter.

Use green gift wrap

Gift wrap is generally not recyclable, but making your own gift wrap is an easy and unique alternative. All you need is an empty box or container, some type of reusable paper, and basic art and craft supplies. Cut the reusable paper, which could be old maps or newspapers, to fit your box or container. Then decorate with crayons, markers, ribbons, and more.

Another option that is especially great for kids is giving a coloring gift box. Use white or light colored packaging paper to wrap a gift box. Then attach three-five crayons or markers to the wrapped gift box with a note that says “Color me before opening.”

If you’re giving gift cards, consider making a green gift card holder. You’ll need an empty toilet paper roll and art supplies. Fold in one half of the roll at both ends and fold the other half of the roll on top of it to enclose the roll. A crescent shape should form at both ends of the roll. One end of the roll should be able to reopen, making it easy to place a gift card inside. Decorate the roll with art supplies to add a personal touch.

For your gift tags, consider repurposing old greeting cards. Simply cut parts of the cards that are decorated on one side and blank on the other, then punch a hole in the tag and attach using yarn or string to your gift bag.

Eliminate food waste

Good food always makes for a great holiday. But it’s also important to make sure that none of this great food turns into food waste. Taking the following simple steps can help you prevent food waste and save money:

  1. Plan meals in advance and check your cupboards and refrigerator to make sure you don’t purchase products twice.
  2. Make a list before hitting the grocery store to ensure you only buy what you need.
  3. Think about how you will store leftover food and have containers available to send leftovers home with guests.
  4. Find recipes to include leftover foods.
  5. Consider donating non-perishable leftover food to your local food shelf if you don’t plan on using the food at a later date.


Plan greener parties

Parties can create a lot of waste, but with a little planning you can make your next party a green gathering. Purchase or make reusable banners, table clothes, centerpieces and other decorations. Use reusable cups, plates, utensils and napkins. If you entertain often, consider getting an extra set of dishes at a secondhand store, or borrow extras from family and friends.

Educate others

Hennepin County has educational resources to help educate other about environmental topics. For example, the newly redone Greening Your Celebrations Learning Trunk illustrates ideas for giving greener gifts as well as choosing greener gift wrapping. And environmental education activity guides are available for planning green parties and giving green gifts. Check out the resources available at


This information was provided by Hennepin County Environment and Energy, Environmental Education & Outreach.