12 Ways to Save Energy & Money This Holiday

The holidays are upon us again, and many of us are making efforts to green our seasonal activities. This year, as we plan festive celebrations with family and friends, how about keeping our energy usage in mind – and our carbon emissions in check?

In the rush of holiday preparations, when we can barely keep up with our usual work and family to-do lists – not to mention all the extras of special food preparations and shopping for gifts – it can be challenging to stick to good intentions to reduce our carbon footprint.

With this frenetic year-end pace underway, here are a few energy-saving tips as you make your holiday rounds:

  • For your holiday feast, try to plan the menu around local ingredients where possible – whether it is locally raised, grass-fed turkey or ham, or recently harvested winter squash, pumpkins or yams.  Consider planning ahead to make preserves for next year by canning or freezing fresh produce that can star in future holiday favorites, such as blueberries and cherries for pies (so you can raid your cupboard, instead of the grocery shelf for long-traveling ingredients).
  • If you celebrate with a Christmas tree, opt for a real, live tree. While fake trees can be re-used, it takes electricity to produce them. Real trees are absorbing carbon for many years, often on tree farms in rural communities that provide good homes for wildlife while they are growing.
  • This year, try decorating with strings of LED (Light Emitting Diode) holiday lights, which use less electricity and are longer lasting than incandescent bulbs. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the cost of lighting a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days at $10 using incandescent C-9 bulbs, versus .27 using LED C-9 lights.
  • Try limiting the time your holiday lights are on, from when it gets dark outside to when you go to bed, or set them on a timer.

Image Credit: youngthousands /Flickr (Energy-saving LED Christmas lights on display.) Used under a Creative Commons license.


  • Instead of driving to the mall, or long distances to multiple big-box stores in search of the perfect gift, try setting your sights closer to home. One year, a co-worker decided to do all her Christmas shopping on her hometown Main St. (It’s amazing how creative you can get, when you narrow your options: everyone gets baskets full of soaps/candles/chocolates this year!). You’ll save gas, support small businesses in your own community, and keep the air a little cleaner.
  • Instead of giving “things” that must be produced, shipped to stores, purchased, wrapped and then mailed (and shipped again), give the gift of conservation this holiday: it only costs $1 to plant a tree in Brazil.
  • If you can’t resist giving – or receiving – the latest electronic gadgets, buy Energy Star certified products, which use significantly less electricity.
  • Reduce some waste (household waste increases by 25 percent during the holidays) by foregoing the wrapping paper and gift bags. Try re-purposing fabric, old road maps or other interesting printed paper for wrapping. Or conceal your gifts in useful containers, such as tins, baskets, scarves or tote bags (that might be part of the gift itself).

Image Credit: aprica /Flickr (A Main St. antique shop decorated for the holidays.) Used under a Creative Commons license.


  • If your holiday plans include air travel, practice wise energy use before you go: turn your water heater down to its lowest setting and unplug phantom energy hogs (like DVDs, computer monitors, printers and other always-on electronics).
  • Consider offsetting your flight, or those of your guests. You can estimate your carbon footprint with The Nature Conservancy’s online carbon calculator and make a contribution through the Voluntary Carbon Offset Program.
  • Take a tip from the energy.gov blog and use less energy in the kitchen during holiday gatherings by turning the heat down a few degrees – take advantage of the warmth from the oven, and all that body heat from your guests crowded around the hors d’oeuvres.
  • Turn off the TV (and all the holiday lights) to get outside with your loved ones for a hike in the fresh air. After a large turkey dinner, or when you finally crawl out of bed on a brisk New Year’s Day, there’s nothing like an invigorating walk to recharge your personal batteries (no electricity required!) (You can find great places to enjoy the great outdoors at Nature Conservancy preserves or national, state and local parks.)

Lisa Hayden is a writer for The Nature Conservancy. Opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.

Image Credit: jennypdx /Flickr (Holiday bread fresh out of a hot oven.) Used under a Creative Commons license.

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Carolt M.
Carolt M.4 months ago

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Mark Bill
Past Member 9 months ago

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago


Nancy Gregg
Nancy Gregg2 years ago

Those coffee cakes look pretty good!

Nirvana Jaganath
Nirvana Jaganath2 years ago


Bonnie M.
Bonnie M.2 years ago

Very sensible and practical suggestions. Thank you.

Rose Becke2 years ago

Leds are great

Magdalen B.
Magdalen B.2 years ago

IYou'd need really thick curtains* if you neighbour left his decorative lights on over night.I blame "Home Alone" for starting the fashion of lights round the roof here

*Of course, really thick curtains are a good idea in the Winter.

Sheri J.
Sheri J.2 years ago

what i find tacky is that are some people who request a receipt for their gifts before you give them anything.

John S.
Past Member 2 years ago

Thanks, I try to keep it minalistic myself.