The CDC is inviting Americans to take a look at their usual holiday activities to see if they can be made more “sustainable,” that is – if they can use environmental resources more responsibly so that future generations will have enough to meet their needs.

Sounds like a daunting task, but if you reuse and recycle; compost; walk, bike, take mass transit, or drive low-emission vehicles; or conserve water and electricity, you’re already having a positive effect on the planet.

For the holidays, the CDC recommends:


  • Buy an artificial tree that you can use for years to come; make the most energy efficient choice. Safety and energy-efficiency should always be considered first.
  • Contact your state cooperative extension service to find out about trees grown in your area or trees grown in ways that keep forests healthy and safe.
  • Buy a living tree you can plant outside or keep as a houseplant after the holidays
  • Dispose of your tree at a chipping facility or return it to the environment in other eco-friendly ways.


  • Wrap your gifts in reused materials. (If every family in the U.S. did this with just 3 presents, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.)
  • Use creative materials for gift wrap:
    • Scarves, fabric, handkerchiefs
    • Old maps, sheet music, advertisement
    • Reusable tins, baking pans, or other home or garden items.
    • Send email cards or make your own.
    • Buy cards made from “post-consumer” content and printed in non-toxic inks.
    • Reuse the fronts of old cards as holiday postcards or gift tags.
    • Give cards that are eco-friendly.
  • Save money and resources by making your own gifts. Knit, sew, bake, build, or create art; make calendars using your own photographs or a recipe book with favorite recipes.
  • Consider alternatives to battery-powered toys. If you must provide batteries for a gift, be sure to buy rechargeable ones. If you are giving electronics, choose energy-saving items.


  • Consider using few or no lights in your holiday decorations.
  • Decorate with more energy efficient LED strings.
  • Plug your decorative indoor and outdoor lights into a timer to save electricity.
  • Decorate creatively and inexpensively with natural materials from your yard or with items you already own.

When you shop:

  • Take your own bags on shopping trips. Keep them in the car so they’re always available.
  • Conserve energy when shopping by combining several trips in one, using mass transit, or carpooling.
  • Give gifts that are durable, energy-efficient, recyclable, or made of natural products.
  • Support your local economy by buying from local merchants, craft shows, or antique shops.
  • Purchase gifts that are fair-trade, locally made or grown, or organically grown.
  • Give in ways that also support your community: tickets to local theater performances, concerts, sports events, local attractions; museum memberships; gift certificates for a massage at a local spa, horseback riding, or a rock climbing lesson.