Climate Action

Festivus for the Future: Green Celebrations in a Changing World

December is officially here, and we’re all excited to celebrate, have fun, and exchange gifts with our loved ones. But, there is a side to all of this holiday cheer that is not so good for the planet. In fact, most major celebrations, including Christmas and Hanukkah, have a large impact on our environment. Luckily, there is an alternative to escape the pressures and impacts of all of this holiday-related commercialism in December: Festivus.

Festivus, the Environmentally Friendly Holiday

Festivus is a lighthearted secular holiday taking place every year on December 23. Originating in the O’Keefe family, Daniel O’Keefe created the tradition. Then in 1997, his son, Dan O’Keefe, famously featured it in a Seinfeld episode. From there, Festivus took off!

The holiday still includes a big family dinner but, instead of gifts, you give your family and friends the chance to air their grievances and grumbles with each other from the past year. In place of a Christmas tree, an unadorned aluminum pole stands proudly in the family room. The festivities all culminate in a friendly wrestling tournament. Yep, it’s weird!

This humorous take on tradition might sound silly but it’s about having fun with your family without the overly avaricious and consumerist pressures associated with the more conventional holidays. 

Earth lovers and advocates could consider celebrating this or something similar with their own families to lessen the impact of the holiday season on the environment. Or, if we still haven’t convinced you Festivus is the right holiday for your family, you can take some of these other planet friendly actions below. 

Unwrapping the Truth; The Environmental Impact of Holidays

It is easy to forget about our environmental footprint during this time of the year. But, by making small changes, we can all reduce the overall impact of the holiday season on our planet. Here are some suggestions for making your holiday footprint as small as possible.

  • Each year, 8,000 tons of wrapping paper – almost 50,000 trees worth – are used to wrap gifts. Opt for more sustainable alternatives, including recycled or biodegradable paper. 
  • Americans alone use 6.6 billion kilowatt-hours annually for powering holiday lights. This is more energy than the Central American country of El Salvador uses in a whole year. Experts recommend putting lights on a timer and using LEDs, which use 75% less energy and last 25% longer. 
  • In 2021, 16% of gifts purchased during the holidays were returned, with 5.8 billion pounds of this inventory ending up in landfills. Be thoughtful about your gift giving, and give your loved ones gifts you know they’ll like. Or, go for quality over quantity.
  • Every year, aviation accounts for 2% of global emissions. If you’re traveling home for the holidays, consider using a mode of transportation with a lower impact like a train or car.
  • During the holidays, 55-65% of food is wasted. Save your yummy leftovers for the next day rather than throwing them away or only make what you are going to eat. 
  • 2.65 billion holiday cards are sold each year in the United States. One tree can make 3,000 cards, so 883,333 trees are consumed each year. Consider sending digital cards or posting your family pictures on social media instead!
  • Real Christmas trees are grown yearly, capturing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere, and are biodegradable. Compared to artificial trees, the natural ones are better for the environment. 
  • Hanukkah and Kwanzaa both use candles for celebrations, but these often contain plastic paraffins. Eco-friendly candles made from beeswax or soy wax are a better alternative for both your and the planet’s health this December. 

Whatever you end up celebrating, keep our environment in mind and give the gift of environmentalism to our planet. Celebrate our shared home by joining in a Great Global Clean Up event or signing the Global Plastics Treaty petition to inspire change.