Campus News

How to Celebrate Sustainably This Holiday Season

Consider using brown craft paper or newspaper comic strips, which can be recycled, when wrapping presents.
Consider using brown craft paper or newspaper comic strips, which can be recycled, when wrapping presents.

LEXINGTON Ky. (Dec. 10, 2021) — Looking for easy ways to reduce your environmental impact during the holiday season? University of Kentucky Recycling offers easy ideas to celebrate sustainably this holiday season.

  • Give reusable gifts. Today, there are more sustainable and low-waste gift options than ever before. This holiday season, buy your friends reusable water bottles, zero-waste beauty items, a nice metal razor, shampoo and conditioner bars, or any other low-waste essentials you think they’d like.

  • Reconsider cards. Greeting cards are popular because they’re so easy to throw into a gift, but do they really add any value? Since most people don’t keep the cards they receive, a ton of waste is created during this season (and all other holidays). If you don’t want to get rid of them entirely, consider replacing them with electronic greeting cards or a simple handwritten note — two great alternatives!

  • Buy secondhand. Utilize thrift stores this season. They are great places to find unique gifts for people, or to donate items you no longer need that could make a great gift for others. Buying secondhand lowers the carbon footprint of your gift-giving and gives a new home to items that may have ended up in a landfill otherwise — while also supporting local businesses or charities. A full list of resale places in Lexington can be found here.
  • Honor someone with a donation. Donate to a local charity or donate your nonperishable food items and good condition household items as a gift in someone’s honor. Items stay out of the landfill and you are helping the community at the same time. 
  • Give everyday items a new life. Turn a teacup into a candle or a mini planter, or a soda can into a unique ornament. With a little creativity, items can be reused and given a new life for your friends and family to enjoy.
  • Buy experiential gifts rather than material ones. Sometimes the perfect thing to get someone isn’t a “thing” at all! Giving concert tickets, day passes to a local museum, or gift cards to their favorite restaurant, are all wonderful ways to give thoughtful gifts that don’t hurt the planet.

  • Choose wrapping paper alternatives. When giving gifts this year, consider leaving out the wrapping paper. Most wrapping paper gets disposed of after just one use since it can be very difficult to repurpose. Instead of wrapping paper, use brown paper, fabric, maps, calendars or any other material you already have sitting around (or, reuse old gift bags). This is a great way to not only reduce your waste but also make your gifts stand out.

  • Recycle boxes. Cardboard is one of the most universally recyclable products, so when you order gifts online this year, make sure to recycle the boxes they’re shipped in (if you decide not to repurpose the box as a gift box). Same goes for gifts you receive from others — if they’re in a cardboard box you can’t use again, make sure to recycle the box. Some kinds of wrapping paper, greeting cards and paper bags can also be recycled, though you should check your local recycling guidelines for more specific rules.

  • Repurpose real trees or donate unwanted fakes ones. Many Christmas trees can be repurposed! If you have a real Christmas tree, instead of just throwing it out at the end of the season, look into local collection programs that can turn old trees into mulch or wood chips, use them for wildlife restoration, or even to feed goats! If you have a plastic tree that you no longer need, donate it to a local thrift store or shelter so it can find a new home.

  • Decorate sustainably. Decorating for the holidays is arguably one of the best parts of the season. However, a lot of holiday decorations are made of plastic, only relevant for one month out of the year and may break after only a few uses. This year, try using more natural decorations like seasonal fruits or plants, or making some upcycled crafts.

  • Continue to recycle during the holidays. Find out what is recyclable in your area and participate in the program. Recycle all your cardboard, aluminum cans and plastic bottles and jugs and help keep them out of the landfill. Bonus tip: Look for electronic recycling programs here.

For information about what is recyclable at UK visit

For any other information about UK recycling visit or contact           

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.