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The most wonderful time of the year (to go green!)

The holiday season is already here. It’s a wonderful time of year full of baking, gift-giving, decorating, shopping, traditions, and celebrating with friends and family. Not surprisingly, we all produce extra waste during this time … but it’s a whopping 25% increase in waste every week in the U.S. between Thanksgiving and New Year’s! Some of our holiday traditions are not always eco-friendly, but we have created a list of suggestions to help you have a greener holiday that will bring more “Joy to the World” for wildlife and our planet.

Gift ideas

1. Gift experiences or services rather than physical goods; gift cards are one example. This is also a great way to support your local economy.

2. Give memberships to local cultural institutions such as art, history, or science museums, zoos, aquariums, state or national parks, or historic sites.

3. Check out Zoo Atlanta’s holiday Wish List for the animals, and give a gift in someone’s name.

4. Sponsor a Zoo Atlanta animal. 

5. Donate to a charity in someone’s name.

6. Use seed packets for native plants as gift tags or as stocking stuffers.

7. Make a bird feeder or bat house to attract native wildlife.

8. Make bee houses or insect hotels to support pollinators.

9. Give local honey.

10. Give 100% beeswax candles.

11. Give reusable canvas bags as their own gift, or use them for gift wrap.

12. Give stainless steel reusable water bottles or tumblers.

13. Give glass, stainless steel, or bamboo straw sets.

14. Choose a reusable lunch box or bag with a design the recipient will like.

15. Give a butterfly garden starter kit.

16. Give bamboo kitchen utensils.

17. Give shampoo or conditioner in bars rather than plastic bottles.

18. Add a pair of new gloves and a trowel to new planters for the recipient’s garden.

19. For the writer in your life, give 100% recycled paper notebooks and pens made from recycled materials.

Gift wrapping

1. Not all wrapping paper is recyclable, so check the label when purchasing. Most shiny or glittery wrapping paper cannot be recycled.

2. Make your own gift wrap. Buy a roll of craft paper made from recycled materials and then decorate with stencils, stamps, paint, or markers.

3. Reuse gift bags and tissue paper when possible.

4. Use a canvas tote! You can use one you already have, or get one with a design you think the recipient will like.

5. Mason jars or other glass jars can be upcycled and decorated to be used in gift packaging.

6. Reduce packaging by making it part of the gift! If you are giving kitchen supplies, put them in a large mixing bowl. Home goods can be put in a nice basket, gardening supplies can be put inside of a large planter, etc.

7. Buy holiday cards made from recycled paper OR make your own!


1. Give back when you shop. The AmazonSmile program, through 1., donates 0.5 percent of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Zoo Atlanta when you select our charitable organization (Atlanta-Fulton County Zoo Inc).

2. If you are driving to shop in stores, plan your route and shopping locations ahead of time. Try to plan just one trip or as few trips as possible to reduce your carbon footprint from travel.

3. Buy products made locally. This reduces the carbon footprint created by shipping items from faraway locations. Supporting small, local businesses is also good for our community!

Holiday meals

1. Use real dishes and silverware rather than disposable.

2. Ask friends and family to bring their own containers so you can send home leftovers rather than creating food waste by throwing away food.

3. Buy local.

4. Try creating some meatless dishes.

5. Use the Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping app to buy food products made with sustainable (versus unsustainable) palm oil.


       1. Create or buy reusable decorations rather than disposable options.

2. Use LED holiday lights rather than incandescent lights. They use less energy and last much longer.

3. Replace bulbs that have burned out on holiday light strings instead of tossing the whole thing. You can get a tool designed to test LED light strings to identify which bulb needs to be replaced.

4. If your holiday celebration involves a tree, get a real one rather than plastic. If you already have a plastic tree, reuse it for as many years as possible. If you get a real tree, after the holidays, remove all decorations and dispose of it via tree recycling curbside pickup or dropoff locations (depends on where you live), compost, or chop up for outdoor firewood.

While we’ve got a lot listed here, there’s much more you can do, and I encourage you to also do your own research about how to make your holidays more Earth-friendly. Start a discussion with friends and family on this topic, or share one of the things you are doing on social media to inspire others. Now I hope you are ready to rock around a real tree, and are dreaming of a green holiday this year in 2020!


Green your holiday season. (2013, December 16). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from

LED Lighting. (n.d.). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from

Sustainable gift ideas: The ultimate guide for home & travel 2020. (2020, August 26) Retrieved November 05, 2020, from Tis the Season…To Take out the Trash? (n.d.). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from

Melissa King
Manager of Public Programs

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl