Tips for a “Greener” Holiday Season

The holidays are a time of joy and celebration; they’re also a time when North Americans produce more trash than any other time of the year. Here are a few tips to live lighter on the planet this holiday season.

The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but also a time when North Americans produce more trash than any other time of the year.Here are a few tips to help reduce holiday waste. We know our customers are some of the greenest folks around, so please share your tips with us too. Let’s help each other discover new and creative ways to live lighter on the planet this holiday season.


Do your friends and relatives really need another “thing” in their closets? Mine don’t. Try some of these ideas:

  • Give a consumable gift, like food or body care treats.

  • Give an experience, like theater tickets, a cooking class or a dinner out.

  • Make a donation to an organization he or she supports.

  • Agree to exchange well wishes and time together, NOT gifts.

Consider giving a Whole Foods Market gift card opens in a new tab!  You can order online and choose to send a virtual card or a physical card, like our limited-edition gingerbread man.

Best of all, Whole Foods Market gift cards are made from wood or paper – namely, sustainably harvested birch wood or 60% post-consumer-waste recycled paper. This means that our gift cards can be recycled or composted, which is a big deal given that the vast majority – upwards of 90%  – of gift cards are produced on PVC

Gift Wrap

This is a big one! Planning ahead is key, but even if you’re getting a late start, some of these tips are bound to work.

  • Save tissue paper all year long, along with fancy shopping bags.

  • Reuse gift bags from prior holidays

  • Go with reusable bags, like our smaller sized Better Bags, which are just the right size for most gifts, plus they are sturdy enough for heavier items.

  • Keep an eye out at thrift stores and yard sales for colorful scarves and baskets.

  • Decorate bags and baskets with dried flowers and herbs and maybe a bit of cloth ribbon or twine.

  • For gifts that need paper wrapping, go with a roll of recycled paper printed with water-based inks.

Parties and Big Meals

While washable plates are great if you have enough, that’s not always do-able for large scale holiday entertaining. Use recycled, compostable paper plates or elegant one-time use plates and bowls made from plant fibers like bamboo or pressed palm leaves instead.

Don’t forget to set out separate, labeled receptacles for compost, recycling and trash. 

Holiday Lights

Yes, we know that lights are festive, but there are ways to save money and energy while turning on the twinkle.

  • Trade in your conventional strands of lights for energy efficient solar or LED lights – 90% more energy efficient and they last longer.

  • Don’t risk falling asleep without turning out the lights – use an appliance timer to turn lights off at the end of the evening.

  • Recycle old strands of lights by removing and discarding old bulbs and recycling the strand as scrap metal. Check out Earth911 opens in a new tab to see if there is a holiday lights recycling facility near you. Search for other Christmas light recycling options, like this lighting company that accepts mail-ins opens in a new tab, as well as some national retailers like Home Depot that offer a lights recycling service.

Christmas Trees

Approximately 25-30 million real Christmas trees are sold each year, and with lots of “treecycling” options now available, 93 percent of those trees are recycled. Here are some other tips:

  • Buy a real, cut tree from a sustainable source. Go local if available.

  • After the holiday, have your tree mulched into wood shavings for use in local parks and forests. Many community organizations offer drop-off or collection services.

  • Avoid flocked or spray-painted trees and don’t decorate with tinsel, since these cannot be ground for mulch.

  • Choose a live, potted tree with its roots still attached from an ecologically sustainable source and plant it in your yard after Christmas.

  • Avoid artificial trees that are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a particularly toxic plastic. These trees are typically not recyclable. 

This holiday season, for every full-size Christmas tree purchased at Whole Foods Market, a new tree will be planted. We've partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation opens in a new tab, the largest non-profit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with the goal of helping our national forests return to their majestic beauty. 

We’d love to hear what you do to reduce trash and have a greener holiday season. Share your helpful tips and ideas in the comments below. 

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