The holidays are often the most anticipated time of year. But unfortunately these celebrations are also some of the most wasteful and harmful for our planet. Americans throw away an average of 25% more trash than the rest of the year during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

In our architectural design and sustainability consulting work at The Sheward Partnership, we always look to incorporate highly energy efficient, water-saving solutions into the built environment. We have shared previously on our blog about how we encourage wellness, recycling, and composting initiatives inside our office, but here are some ways that our colleagues are taking sustainability home for the holidays.


  1. Gathering with Friends & Family
    • Host a zero-waste event by using reusable plates, silverware, cups, and napkins
    • Tell guests to bring Tupperware for leftovers in lieu of plastic bags and aluminum foil
    • Donate extra food to a local homeless shelter or food bank
    • Be sure that all of your guests know what can be recycled or composted and where to put those items
  1. Decking the Halls
    • Use energy efficient LED string lights to decorate your home. LED lights consume 80-90% less energy than incandescent bulbs, and last up to 100,000 hours, versus 3,000 hours for an incandescent.
    • Plug lights into a timer or remote control outlet to save energy and keep lights on for a select amount of time each day
    • Upcycle secondhand ornaments and holiday décor from a thrift shop
    • Consider purchasing a live tree that can be planted post holidays or buy an artificial tree with LED lights that can be used for years to come
    • Forage for natural resources from your yard to create sustainable decorations, ornaments, wreaths, centerpieces, and gift embellishments
  1. Gift Giving
    • Use recycled wrapping paper or creative reuse containers to wrap your gifts (baskets, cloth bags, old maps or construction drawings)
    • Give experiences or your time and skills instead of things; such as tickets to a show, gift certificate to a favorite restaurant, or a night of free babysitting
    • Cut the back off of old holiday greeting cards to reuse as tags on gifts
    • Save gift boxes, bags and ribbons that you receive this year to reuse for next year’s gifts
    • Use your talents in sewing, knitting, painting, or woodworking to create heirloom gifts for loved ones
    • Take time to find unique treasures in local antique stores or flea markets
  1. Shopping
    • Don’t forget your reusable shopping bags when you go to the mall or grocery store
    • Shopping online reduces travel emissions (but can increase impulse buying of unnecessary gifts…watch out!)
    • Brainstorm gifts that encourage sustainable living, such as a kitchen compost bin, reusable metal straws, or insulated travel mugs
  1. Spreading Cheer
    • Email holiday cards instead of using paper
    • Carpool or take public transit to family gatherings
    • Automate your thermostat to conserve resources while no one is at home
    • Support local business whenever possible
    • Donate lightly used clothing & toys to charities that could brighten someone else’s holiday
    • When in doubt, less is more.

What do you plan to do this season to reduce your carbon footprint? Here’s some final good news for your holiday season… singing loud for all to hear is completely sustainable :)

Have a joyful and green holiday from all of us at TSP!