Embrace a greener gathering this holiday season with these sustainable party hacks.

By Rachel Sylvester
December 20, 2019

'Tis the season to be more conscious of your holiday habits. As much as the winter season evokes feelings of nostalgia for Christmases past, all too often, the months of November and December are a time of waste and excess. To make this year's holiday even more eco-friendly, we tapped event designer Emily Clarke and photographer Brian Leahy, the founders of Nine10 Creative, for their decorating tips for sustainable celebrations that wow.

According to Clarke and Leahy, the secret to a well-designed gathering lies in upcycling items you already own. "Sustainable decor doesn’t have to look crafty or DIY—anything goes. The goal is to give everyday items a second life. Consider what's in the recycling bin, and what boxes you have lying around that remind you of something else." Instantly elevate your next holiday dinner or gift exchange with these sustainable tips.

RELATED: 40 Elegant and Easy Christmas Recipes for Delicious Holiday Dinners

1
Rethink gift wrap

The best gifts come in small packages, especially if the presents are presented in a sustainable fashion. Rather than spend your hard-earned cash on additional rolls of wrapping paper, conceal gifts in repurposed packaging. Unused maps and paper bags work wonders as paper alternatives, and recycled comics are the perfect wrapping solution for kid-friendly gifts. For oversized parcels, reach for recycled fabric or printed pillowcases, since both can be used year after year.

2
Create your own centerpieces

Flex those hard-earned craft skills by creating festive centerpieces using items you already own. The trick, according to the Nine10 Creative Team, is to consider everyday items, like wrapping paper scraps and string lights, that can easily be colorblocked. For the table centerpieces shown below, Brian and Emily filled long, low plexiglass and mirrored vessels with twigs and colorful felt pom poms. With the help of small pieces of recycled cardboard, they then created compartments within each vessel before filling the sections with dozens of pom poms.

create your own holiday centerpiece

3
Repurpose used ribbons and bows

Save every single ribbon, bow, or gift bag that comes your way in the months leading up to the holiday season. Once it's time to give gifts of your own, you'll save yourself a trip to the store and breathe new life into those gift-wrap accessories you took the time to stow away.

Want to go the bow-free route this Christmas? Tie up gifts using leftover yarn or sprigs of fresh rosemary instead.

4
DIY your gifts

It's no secret that inexpensive, homemade gifts feel extra special. If baking is your thing, give the gift of a DIY dessert by mixing up a homemade holiday treat in the form of cookies, brownies, or caramels. Store the resulting sweets in recycled candy tins or mason jars, and you're bound to be everyone's favorite elf this season.

RELATED: 60 DIY Christmas Gifts for Everyone On Your List

5
Send paperless holiday cards

Going paperless applies to so much more than your monthly bills. It's now acceptable to give (and receive) digital holiday cards, since recipients are more likely to keep and appreciate a sentimental surprise in their inbox rather than affix it to their fridge. (Think of the money you'll save on stamps and shipping, too.)

6
Avoid single-use dinnerware

Single-use plastic at your holiday table is a move that'll leave you on the naughty lists of plenty. Before the start of your next soirée, shop for compostable utensils and plates made from sustainable materials like bamboo or sugarcane.

Rented dinnerware is very much a thing, thanks to services like Table + Teaspoon, which rents all-in-one table setting kits to consumers. The on-demand tabletop rental service makes entertaining easy for everyone, no matter who's coming over for dinner.

7
Reduce overall food waste

Make the most of holiday leftovers by immediately freezing food once your holiday guests have headed home. To ensure not a morsel of food goes to waste, provide guests with glass take-home containers. While you're at it, familiarize yourself with your local compost center, too. Some communities boast compost drop-off locations where you can ditch food waste post-party.

8
Decorate with LED lights

Energy-efficient bulbs are the eco-friendly alternative to even the most festive string of vintage lights. Not only do they last considerably longer than halogen or incandescent bulbs, but LED lights use significantly less energy, meaning they'll last almost as long as your most beloved tree ornament.

RELATED: How Many Feet of Christmas Lights You Need for Every Tree Height

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