Stephen Aber


As the festive season twinkles on the horizon, the holidays bring a certain magic and an increased environmental footprint, from heartfelt gift-giving to joyous party hosting. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to celebrate in a way that’s as kind to our planet as possible. With a bit of thoughtful planning and a little creativity, an eco-friendly holiday season is possible and rewarding.

Imagine the season infused with personal touches and thoughtful gestures. Embracing the art of DIY, you could find yourself crafting personalized gifts like cozy knitted scarves or aromatic homemade candles. These gifts not only carry a unique charm but also gently step away from the environmental impact of mass-produced items. Consider gifting local experiences – concert tickets that promise an evening of music, cooking classes that offer a taste of new skills, or a digital pass to a national park. These gifts weave memories and leave fewer traces behind.

For more traditional presents, select items made from sustainable materials like bamboo or organic cotton. With 65 to 92 million tons of textiles going to landfills each year[1], consider regifting or donating before trashing. Even wrapping gifts can be transformed – opt for cloth wraps or recycled paper to turn each gift into a small example of eco-consciousness.

The heart of the holidays often beats strongest in gatherings and parties; here, too, sustainability can add sparkle. As you plan your feast, consider the rich flavors of locally sourced, organic ingredients, reducing the carbon footprint from food transportation, with the added bonus of supporting local farmers. Consider also the staggering extent of food waste in the United States. Recent data from ReFED, a national nonprofit organization, highlights this growing concern[2]. In 2021, the U.S. produced an alarming 91 million tons of surplus food, marking a 4.8% increase from 2016. This excess, which represents about 38% of the country’s total food supply, is valued at an estimated $444 billion. On an individual level, this translates to approximately 548 pounds of uneaten food per person. Households are the primary contributors to this problem, responsible for nearly half of the total food waste in America. Other significant sources include produce farms (17%), manufacturing (nearly 15%), foodservice (about 14%), and retail (around 6%).

Add a modern twist to your party with digital invitations, saving paper while still capturing the excitement of upcoming celebrations. And as you enjoy the company of loved ones, small acts like recycling and choosing alternatives to single-use plastics can turn every gathering into responsible celebrations.

After the holiday lights dim, think of the potential joy your no-longer-needed items could bring to others. Donating to charities or second-hand stores can breathe new life into these items. For those trickier things like electronics and batteries, proper recycling is both a choice and a responsibility to our planet.

Learn more about all of these tips from Dr. Bryan Staley on CBS17 News. Celebrating the holidays sustainably blends environmental care seamlessly with the season’s joy. By considering some of these practices and thoughtfully disposing of what’s no longer needed, we can craft a greener, more thoughtful world. Each small step towards sustainability is a gift that keeps on giving to the planet long after the season has passed.

Stephen Aber is Communications Manager for the Environmental Research & Education Foundation. For more information, visit