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Eco-Challenge: Have yourself an eco-friendly Christmas

 Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

Two gifts wrapped in red cloth and eucalyptus leaves sit on a light wood table

As part of our commitment to Earth via our Laudato Si’ Action Plan, we are inviting everyone who shares in our charism to take a monthly Eco-Challenge with us.

Give Mother Earth a gift this Christmas!

How environmentally friendly is your Christmas going to be this year? Here are a few ideas to help you make interesting alternative choices. Your celebration of Christmas can be sustainable without it losing its magic!

A pile of crumpled wrapping paper and discarded red and gold ribbons

“Christmas waste is a real and growing issue”

  • Around 114,000 tons of plastic packaging will be thrown away and not recycled
  • Over four million Christmas dinners are thrown away every year
  • Most of us receive at least one unwanted gift each Christmas. Some will simply be thrown away—they won’t even be regifted, sold or given to charity;
  • Batteries provide the power source of many beautiful lights and even presents, but they create an environmental nightmare, sending toxic or corrosive materials into landfills;
  • Wrapping paper piles up, and so much of it can’t be recycled because it has glitter or foil. Every year the equivalent of 50,000 trees are used to produce Christmas wrapping paper.

Eco-Friendly Christmas Ideas

Here are some ideas to get you thinking about an eco-friendly and creative Christmas. In general: Look for quality over quantity!

Your tree and decorations

A small evergreen tree in a black plastic pot sits next to a pile of wrapped Christmas presents. Chestnuts are strewn about in the foreground
  • Use a potted live Christmas tree from a local nursery or hardware store that sells plants. Potted evergreen trees come in various sizes. Decorate it with LED lights, and when Christmas is over you can nurture it in the pot for next year, plant it in your yard and decorate it each Christmas or give it to a local group who will plant it for you.
  • If you want a larger tree, get a real tree and decorate it with LED lights; use homemade ornaments rather than purchasing ones that will add to the trash heaps.
  • If you need to buy an artificial tree, look for a used one rather than buying new.


  • Have you heard about “plantable” cards? They can double as a card and a gift!
  • Reuse old Christmas cards to create your own unique ones.


  • Consider the packaging when purchasing gifts and food. Look for items with as little packaging and plastic as possible.
  • Shop in local stores.
  • Give a potted Christmas tree as a gift. The receiver can grow it and even plant it later on.
  • Opt for fabric products that are certified to be eco-friendly and toxin-free.
  • Buy toys or gifts that have the least amount of plastic, and do not use batteries.
  • Use your creative talents to make a gift or coupons for services you will provide.
  • Offer an experience like concert tickets, a hot air balloon trip or a spa day.
  • Check out our Recommended Sustainable Products webpage for eco-friendly gift ideas.

Gift wrapping

  • Instead of paper, wrap gifts in reusable materials like fabric or recyclable ones like recycled wrapping paper or brown paper (especially for large packages), children’s artwork or newspaper.
  • Make gift bags and tags made from old newspapers, cloth or other strong recycled material.
  • Washi-tape is an eco-friendly paper-type tape to replace scotch tape. It’s available online and at most craft stores.
  • Raffia, string or twine are eco-friendly replacements for colorful plastic ribbons. You can find such products at local craft and hobby stores.
  • Reuse shipping materials when sending packages and avoid purchasing bubble wrap.

After Christmas

  • Recycle as much as you can! Collectively, we can make a huge difference in the world we live in—let’s make it a joyous time for Mother Nature as well.
  • Decide how to save your potted Christmas tree.
  • Think about any unwanted presents. Return them, regift them, sell them, or give them to charity rather than letting them collect dust or tossing them into the trash. Remember that one person’s trash is another’s treasure!

Take the Eco-Challenge

How will you make this a more eco-friendly and creative Christmas? Choose one or more actions below.

  • Use or send a live Christmas tree
  • Send a few “plantable” cards
  • Wrap some of your gifts in eco-friendly ways as described above
  • Give sustainable gifts this year
  • Call or write to the management of your favorite store (grocery or retail) and ask them to use eco-friendly packaging by next Christmas. “Sustainable packaging is environmentally-minded packaging that is designed with the intention of minimizing an environmental footprint.” Get your friends to do the same thing!

Spread the word

  1. Choose your challenge level above
  2. Share your commitment in the comments section below.
  3. Invite others to take the December Eco-Challenge by sharing our post on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

6 thoughts on “Eco-Challenge: Have yourself an eco-friendly Christmas”

  1. Avatar

    As a gift to someone, give a gift to a not-for-profit they like in their name. It has no environmental impact. It honors the person to whom you are giving a gift and it helps the not-for-profit.

  2. Avatar

    This year I gave fresh fruit to the few folks who are nearby. I also made my own cards, sending all but about 10 of them by electronic methods.

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About us

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are a congregation of Catholic sisters. We, and those who share our charism and mission, are motivated in all things by our profound love of God and our dear neighbors. We seek to build communities and bridge divides between people. Since our first sisters gathered in 1650, our members have been called to “do all things of which women are capable.” The first sisters of our congregation arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in 1836, and we now have additional locations in St. Paul, Albany, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Japan and Peru. Today, we commit to respond boldly to injustice and dare to be prophetic.


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