Green holiday ideas: Make your holidays easy on the earth

woman back country skiing at Mount Shuksan, Washington

Wondering how to create a green holiday season that's easier on wildlands — and easier on your own soul as well?  Here's our list of green holiday ideas for turning frenzied and consumer-focused into simple and green — and best of all, kind to wildlands.

1. Green your holiday feasts: Green your holiday meals by buying organic (fewer chemicals, pesticides, and often fewer food miles) or using more vegetarian or vegan recipes (animal agriculture is a major contributor or greenhouse gas, plus plants require less land for production). Buying local is also great choice because it reduces carbon emissions produced in the transportation of food across country. Vegetarian holiday recipes.

2. Create cherished holiday rituals in nature: This year resolve to steal some of your regular gift shopping time and replace it with just one special green holiday family tradition in nature. Special time with you is a genuine gift to your loved ones. The memories of snow-shoeing in wilderness or sledding at a nearby hill will be cherished long after boxed gizmos are gone. 

Ideas: Stargaze with a hot drink and a warm blanket in the backyard; go ice skating at a local (approved for ice-skating) pond or outdoor rink; go on a winter scavenger hunt (tip #3), hold an ornament collecting party (tip #4).

3. Hold a winter scavenger Hunt: Take the kids in your life on a winter scavenger hunt at your favorite wild place. Write out a list of things to find, such as pinecones, different types of rocks, animal tracks, bird species, bird nests, mountain peaks, tree species, squirrels or chipmunks. Pack up a thermos of hot chocolate to reward the team after the hunt is done. And don't forget to teach kids about leaving behind the things they find.

4. Ornament collecting party: Rather than buying more plastic ornaments transported from across the ocean, have an ornament party in your own backyard. Collect pinecones, pebbles, leafs or any other items that can be made into tree ornaments using eco-friendly glue and craft products.

5. Trim a tree — outside: Have children decorate yard trees with suet pine cones, popcorn strings, and corn cobs (for squirrels), then watch to see what visitors show up.

6. Send holiday images not paper:  Take digital photos of the wintery journeys mentioned above, then make your own digital green holiday cards. Ideas for recycling and reusing holiday cards.

7. Green holiday wrapping: Put a dent in holiday waste by using recycled or repurposed material — newspaper comics, old calendar photos, unwanted maps, scarves or reusable gift bags — are great materials. If you can't break away from standard wrapping, at least avoid foil paper as it generally cannot be recycled, then resolve to wrap a percentage of gifts in recyled material. Make it more fun by having a green-gift-wrapping night with children, using crayons to decorate used paper or newspapers. Green wrapping tips.

8. Green up your trees: Shop from sellers that offer native, local trees. Buying local saves fuel and carbon emissions since many trees are shipped from across the country or even Canada. Other options: buy a potted tree or one with its root bulb intact. After Christmas, plant the tree in the yard for years of enjoyment. You can also rent holiday trees.

9. Green gifts and decorations that are easy on wildlands: Look for items from recycled, repurposed or sustainable material, such as outdoor clothing made from recycled fiber. Avoid plastics or heavily packaged gifts. Gift trees are a great present as they offer the recipient enjoyment for years to come as well as carbon storage. Consider a gift certificate that can be used to purchase a tree in the spring.  Federal Duck Stamps are gorgeous collector items that directly support U.S. wildlife refuges.

10. Celebrate New Year’s outdoors: Escape the loud parties and do something unexpected. Try hiking, cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing to a wilderness lookout to ring in the new year. No raucuous, drunken partygoers. Just  mountains, winter trees and glistening stars.

11. Give a gift that helps protect wildlands: Consider a donation to support wilderness work in your loved one’s name. The Wilderness Society offers honor gifts here. Or you can give your own gift to wildlands through a membership in The Wilderness Society.

If you have ideas we've missed, please comment below.