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Not So Jolly Christmas: The Environmental Impact of Impulsive Shopping

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Christmas gifts are meant to bring a smile to the faces of your loved ones. These serve as a symbol of care and affection. Yet, the way we obtain these presents might have an opposite effect on the planet. The seasonal shopping frenzy can not only threaten our sanity but the environment as well.

Different factors contribute to harming our planet. It all starts with the resources invested in creating a mountain of goods (many of which are seasonal and of single-use), continues with the effect that manufacturing has on the environment, the transportation of these goods, waste produced by wrapping paper and decorations, and the list goes on. The environmental impact of Christmas is far-reaching.

It is within our power to adjust the course of seasonal celebrations and switch the focus back to the spiritual and immaterial nature of the holiday. This will also help protect the environment from Christmas and help us stay true to an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Project Christmas

Christmas tree and décor at a shopping center


According to the National Retail Federation, Americans were planning to invest shy of $1,000 for Christmas last year. This includes food, decorations, and gifts. Of the total sum, $650 is dedicated to gifts for family, relatives, close friends, and co-workers. 

Christmas is an extravagant and costly project for many households. A celebration that was supposed to be about non-material values and spirituality has become rooted in materialism. It is a thriving industry that continues to expand as each year goes by. But at what cost?

The cost of Christmas should not be measured in a dollar amount but rather in practicing its core values in a caring and thoughtful way. In fact, the more money we spend, the further away we drift from the heart of this celebration. Protecting the environment should be an integral part of Christmas.

Christmas Shopping Can Harm the Environment

woman in a black dress doing Christmas shopping


The environmental impact of Christmas shopping is quite extensive. Yet, sadly, this is an aspect that is often overlooked. All the glamour of setting up the holiday and celebrating it quickly fades away, and what’s left behind are mountains of waste. 

The Environmental Cost of Manufacturing Christmas

Christmas tree globes


A recent study conducted by Greenpeace revealed a troubling facet of the environmental impact of Christmas. According to their findings, the production process of a single kg of wrapping paper generates 3.5 kg of CO2. 

The whole manufacturing phase requires close to 1.5 kg of coal. These numbers do not include the resources needed for packaging and transportation, which also leave a significant footprint on nature. 

Generation of Waste

white and red Christmas wrapping paper


The sound of ripping wrapping paper is part of the Christmas morning magic. Slowly uncovering presents is an equally thrilling activity for children and adults alike. However, the excessive use of Christmas cards, paper, and bags can harm the environment. 

Each year around 5 million tons of waste is generated for Christmas. Of this, more than 4 million are shopping bags and wrapping paper. A simple way to reduce the pollution caused by single-use shopping bags is to replace these with reusable tote bags.

While some paper products can be recycled, this is not a viable option for all items. Cards, wrapping papers, or other items with glitter are especially dangerous and cannot be recycled. The sparkly dust is typically made from plastic, and it can be particularly harmful to the environment. Glitter often ends up in our oceans and can be ingested by marine life.

A lot of wrapping paper, plastic items, holiday and party decorations are used only once and then end up in landfills. There are many viable alternatives to reducing waste. One often-overlooked option is to check for a company’s return policy. This way, if the gift did not find the right home, it can return to the store and be given a second chance. 

Another option would be to re-gift presents to people you think might appreciate that item more. Although these actions might not be considered polite by some people, the truth is that they are sustainable alternatives that help prevent unnecessary waste.

Pollution from Transportation



In an effort to help estimate the environmental impact of Christmas shopping and celebration, researchers have tried to pinpoint the carbon footprint of the holiday. Their study revealed that the transportation of goods adds up to more than 650 kg of carbon dioxide for each person.  

The Eco-Friendly Christmas Shift

christmas snow fall in the city


People are starting to be more inquisitive and eco-conscious, including around Christmas. A recent survey revealed that approximately a quarter of the respondents would rather receive socially conscious gifts this year. There are several ways that you can steer clear of the shopping frenzy and celebrate a sustainable Christmas. Here are a few suggestions:

Start Preparations Early

snowman and moos shopping for Christmas


Don’t leave your Christmas shopping to the last minute! This probably sounds all too familiar. While most of us aim to respect this statement, our plan doesn’t always work out. We are not suggesting that you should complete your Christmas shopping list in a single weekend… on the contrary, space it out.

It can be a wonderful idea to start buying gifts for your loved ones whenever you see something that speaks to you. This way, you can build a small gift depository that will come in handy for any celebration or holiday, not just Christmas.

Keep Christmas Shopping to a Minimum

Christmas gift boxes


Try not to exaggerate with shopping. While it is perfectly alright to slightly go over the strictly necessary items, do not overdo it. The more money you spend, the more you invest in the mass marketing practice that blossomed around the holiday. 

If you wish to help protect the environment from Christmas and diminish the materialistic values that the holiday was invested with, stop feeding the industry. You can also try to focus your shopping on small local businesses and shops rather than mega brands. This way, you can express support towards your local community.

Gifts that Fit

family around a Christmas tree


Look for Christmas gifts that answer the needs of your loved ones. You have more chances of success if you start investigating a considerable time before the holiday season. This will also make them less suspicious of your true motives. What is more, by offering more targeted gifts, you also decrease the risk of them ending up being discarded.

Try finding items that are both useful and fashionable. For example, a reusable shopping tote bag can serve a multitude of purposes. You can take it for grocery shopping, to work, school, out for a picnic, and the list goes on. And the best part is that no matter where you decide to wear it, you will look fashionable. Tote bags are a perfect example of an item where utility meets esthetics.

Another great way to offer meaningful gifts is to guide yourself by your friends’ hobbies or values. For example, if they are interested in photography, you may look for inspiration in our previous article on 11 Best Gifts for Photographers this Year.


Christmas decoration on black door


Over the years, it is easy to build up a generous pile of Christmas decorations. There is absolutely no need to buy a whole new batch of decorations each year. Instead, simply reuse what you already have.

If you want to add a fresh touch to your holiday décor, you can buy a few select items to switch things up a bit. What is more, in time, you will probably have a generous repository of garlands, lights, and globes that will allow you to create a slightly different magical setting each year.

Recycle and Upcycle

Christmas decoration


If you are looking to expand your stack of Christmas decorations in an eco-friendly way, there are plenty of ways to tackle the task. Look for items that can no longer serve their initial purpose and give them a new meaning. This will help you prevent clutter in your home, save money, and, most importantly, protect the environment from Christmas.

Create DIY Christmas Gifts and Decorations

Christmas door hanger from burlap tote bag


There is no limit when it comes to creativity! You can make a Christmas décor item from pretty much anything if you put the right spin on it. For example, a tote bag can become an amazing pillow. If you wish to learn more about this transformation, check out our guide about creating a DIY Christmas Tree Pillow Using a Tote Bag.

You can adopt the same approach to gifts! Offering a present in which you have invested your time and energy, not just money, will certainly be appreciated by your friends and family. For example, you can offer someone a seasonal door hanger made from a burlap tote bag.

The Issue of Trash

Christmas gifts in wrapping paper


Waste can easily become a problematic aspect around the holiday season. In fact, this is one of the main environmental impacts of the Christmas shopping frenzy. You can help diminish this problem by purchasing and using fewer products. However, it is also crucial how you dispose of the waste that you generate.

Compostable bags are probably the most eco-friendly option for trash disposal (as long as the trash is disposed of properly). These bags are made entirely from plant-based materials and can be disposed of in a standard composter. However, you can also use them for shopping or storing goods.

These bags offer a great alternative to plastic bags. The switch from plastic to compostable bags should be an easy one to make. Therefore, do not hesitate to try out this alternative. If you are not convinced, you can check out more interesting facts about compostable bags.

A Green Christmas

You can celebrate a green Christmas this year. The choice is yours! It is crucial to remember that industry trends are influenced by consumer behavior. Brands will adapt their offers to market requests. Therefore, the change for an evergreen winter starts with you!