6 Tips for a more sustainable holiday season

December 15, 2023 Providence Environmental Stewardship


In this article:

  • The holidays are often a time of “more” – more food, more gifts and more celebrations. While we can embrace the spirit of the holiday season, it’s important to keep the environment in mind and reduce our footprint wherever possible.

  • As part of Providence’s WE ACT framework, we are working to curb our emissions year-round, and that includes finding ways to lower our footprint over the holidays.

  • Read on to learn ways you can have a more sustainable holiday.

The holiday season is a time of giving, but it can also be a time of excess – and that excess can lead to harmful waste that impacts our environment.

“The holidays are a time that everyone wants to do a little bit more,” says Darcy Moxon, sustainability program manager for Providence. “We celebrate more, eat more and give more. We have the best intentions, but it can lead to a lot of consumption and is more challenging to keep sustainability in mind. However, we can all make the effort to keep our planet’s health in mind – which is a really important gift to give each year!”

6 Tips for a more sustainable holiday season

Excess around the holidays might mean making more food than we can eat, giving gifts that end up in the trash or burning through electricity with lavish light displays. Each year, sources of excess emissions and waste include:

  • Decorations, especially those only used for one year.
  • Food waste, including from large gatherings.
  • Gifts that may be used once and tossed.
  • Gift wrap and ribbons.
  • Transportation emissions from traveling long distances to see loved ones.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps we all can take to reduce our footprint this holiday season.

  1. Decorate with the planet in mind. Millions of Christmas trees end up in landfills each year. Make sure to purchase your tree from a sustainable source and consider recycling your tree. Also, make the switch to LED lights, which use significantly less energy than incandescent lights.
  2. Get creative with gift wrapping. Where possible, reuse and recycle wrapping paper and ribbons. You can also use old newspapers, children’s art or paper grocery bags.
  3. Gift sustainably. Shop secondhand, consignment or vintage stores to find unique gifts. Consider giving experiences, like a gift card to have dinner together, a spa treatment or a class. You can also gift consumables, like a favorite jam, hot sauce or soap. Or, for a loved one with a green thumb, give a new plant that helps the environment on its own! Finally, shop locally wherever possible.
  4. Make a plan for your holiday meals. If you’re having a gathering, encourage your guests to bring food containers to bring leftovers home.
  5. Offset your footprint. Purchase carbon offsets for yourself or as a gift for loved ones. Several companies offer platforms through which you can offset your personal carbon output.
  6. Travel smarter. Public transit, carpooling and ridesharing can help you ensure you don’t travel to your destination alone, which can help curb emissions. If you have to travel by air, see if you can travel on an airline that has made sustainability a priority. Bring a thermos or water bottle so you don’t need to use disposable drinkware on the road.

It’s also important, says Moxon, to set expectations with the loved ones you’ll be spending the holidays with.

“It’s common to feel obligated to give gifts, and buying gifts for the sake of buying gifts can generate a lot of waste,” says Moxon. “Make sure to have conversations in advance about expectations around gifts that can help prevent consumption and giving of things that won’t be used. Normalize the conversation about being intentional about giving.”

You can also take steps around the holidays to set yourself up for a sustainable year ahead.

“We all strive to keep our resolutions year-round, so I always recommend picking just one simple thing that doesn’t require you to make drastic changes,” says Moxon. “For example, just switching out simple products at home can make a difference. Hand soap bars, shampoo bars, non-plastic razors, reusable paper towels and laundry pods are all products that are better for the environment. If you’re looking for a bigger switch, consider a countertop composter or another form of at-home composting.”

How Providence is curbing emissions around the holidays

Providence is continuing to enact the WE ACT framework throughout the holiday season, which focuses on reducing emissions through waste, energy and water, agriculture and food, chemicals, and transportation.

Some of our hospitals are promoting sustainable practices for their holiday meals for caregivers. That includes using reusable dishware, eliminating plastic drink containers and donating extra food to local shelters where it can aid in supporting the community.

“The holidays should be about being grateful, being together with people you love and giving to those in need,” says Moxon. “At Providence, giving is a priority, especially to the poor and vulnerable, that guides us year-round. Climate change impacts the poor and vulnerable more than other groups, so we’re making sure our practices are as sustainable as possible so we can support those we’re called to care for.”

Contributing Caregiver

Darcy Moxon is the sustainability program manager for Providence. 

Find a doctor

If you are looking for a physician, you can search for one who’s right for you in our provider directory.

Download the Providence app

We’re with you, wherever you are. Make Providence’s app your personalized connection to your health. Schedule appointments, conduct virtual visits, message your doctor, view your health records and more. Learn more and download the app.

Related resources

Tips for eating healthy while still enjoying the holidays

Partnering for good: How collaboration can reduce emissions

Charging forward: How Providence is working to curb transportation emissions

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

Previous Article
Telehealth improves access for multiple sclerosis patients
Telehealth improves access for multiple sclerosis patients

The pandemic opened the door to increased access to virtual specialist visits for some people living with m...

Next Article
Help your child control inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Help your child control inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Children and teenagers who have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis have reason for hope, because there a...