Since American Thanksgiving has come and gone, the Christmas season is undeniably upon us! With a focus on low-cost (even free!) and low-waste activities, we’re looking at ideas for a sustainable 12 days of Christmas activities. Whether you celebrate Christmas or simply want to get into the festive spirit, I hope there is some inspiration here in this sustainable 12 days of Christmas for you and your loved ones!
Sustainable 12 Days of Christmas Activities
Pick and choose from the list. Do them in order or mix them up. This is a DIY type of list filled with low-cost, eco-friendly activities. I hope this list for a sustainable 12 days of Christmas inspires you to focus on intentionally spending time with loved ones instead of a focus on stuff as all of the mass advertising would like us to.
Day 1: Day of Gratitude
Start off your holiday season by focusing on the many things you have to be grateful for. I will be the first to admit, the practice of gratitude isn’t always easy–especially during stressful holiday seasons–but having a mindset of gratitude can benefit our lives in so many ways.
Shifting our mindset from what we lack to what we have will hopefully set the tone for our holiday season. When things are joyous we can add to the number of things we are grateful for and, when things are tough, we can return to the thoughts of gratitude as a reminder.
Some ideas for a Day of Gratitude:
- Share what you are grateful for at the meal table.
- Write notes of gratitude for your loved one to take and open during the day.
- Send a note of thanks to someone.
- Write a list of five, ten (or more!) things you’re grateful for.
- Create a running list of things you are grateful for on a white board, poster board, or other place for everyone in the family to add to through the day.
Day 2: Act of Kindness
Channel all that gratitude from day one and pour it out into the world by intentionally performing acts of kindness. Showing love and care to others is a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays and to share the festive spirit.
Whether it is one act or a number of acts throughout the day, every small gesture of kindness can truly have a massive impact on someone’s day.
Some ideas for an act of kindness:
- Buy a stranger coffee.
- Make a donation to a trusted charity.
- Go out of your way to help a neighbour (shovel their snow, bring in their garbage cans, leave them a gift or a kind note, or anything else that comes to mind).
- Pay someone a genuine compliment.
- Visit the social media pages of local small businesses and share/like/comment on their content.
- Offer to babysit your friend’s kids so they can have a date night.
- Phone a friend you’ve been meaning to, but haven’t gotten to in a while.
Day 3: Christmas Card Campaign
Now is the perfect chance to sit down and write out those necessary Christmas cards, but it’s also a chance to set your sights higher than the obligatory friends and family greeting cards.
Spread some cheer a little bit further by writing out cards for your coworkers, neighbours, a local care home or homeless shelter, or even the people you ride public transit with.
Don’t forget to focus on sustainable and recyclable cards to give out.
Tips for more sustainable greeting card choices:
- Avoid cards with glitter and plastic embellishments.
- Cards that are solely cardstock paper are more easily recyclable.
- Find unused second-hand cards at thrift stores.
- Send e-cards instead of paper cards.
- Handmake your cards.
- Buy from small businesses and local makers who focus on recycled/sustainable materials.
- Write only on the undecorated side of the card, so the card can be upcycled after use.
Day 4: Make Christmas Decorations
Sometimes the simplest added decoration can add a cozy, homely feel to a room. Where store bought decorations can often be purely plastic, homemade ones can be made from anything–even recyclable and compostable items.
Take some time to get creative together and make some added decorations to fill your home.
Some decoration inspiration:
- Popcorn garland.
- Dried orange garland.
- Paper snowflakes.
- Paper ornaments.
- Upcycle toys or other items about to be tossed in the bin.
- Head out into nature and find foliage, pinecones, branches, holly–anything to add a festive flair.
Day 5: Create a Gift
Set aside time to create a gift for your loved one.
Homemade gifts can feel extra special because you’re not only choosing what to give someone, but you are also crafting it yourself. Christmas is a season filled with so much “stuff” and gift giving can get out of hand. Taking the time to make an item slows down the process and allows for that intention behind the gift to shine through.
Homemade gifts have the potential to be more sustainable and eco-friendly, too, because you get to choose what materials you use in the making.
Ideas for homemade gifts:
- Homemade ornaments.
- Homemade DIY Spa Day Gifts.
- Have a family photo shoot and create special picture frames.
- Make seed paper and write a thoughtful letter or make a card.
Check out our Sustainable Gift List for more DIY gift ideas!
Day 6: Explore Local Small Businesses or Craft Fairs
Shopping small and local is a fantastic way to get in the holiday spirit, be more sustainable, and support local families. If you’re wondering why to support small businesses, check out our post on 6 reasons why.
Take time one day to head out in your city or neighbourhood to explore what locals have to offer. Christmas craft fairs are such a fun way to spend an afternoon and get inspired by the holiday spirit.
If you don’t have a desire to shop or a budget to spend on shopping, that’s okay! You can still support small businesses in your area by: liking their content online, leaving comments or reviews, and sharing their promotions.
Find some amazing sustainable small businesses in these posts:
- Sustainable Small Businesses to Know about in the Tri-Cities
- Sustainable Small Businesses to Know about in the South Fraser and Fraser Valley
- Sustainable Small Businesses to Know about in Canada and Beyond
- Zero-waste Small Business Profile: Fulfill Shoppe
Day 7: Bake Night
I’m pretty sure a wise person once said that calories don’t count during the holidays, so why not have a bake night! Making food together can be a fun way to create memories. Some of my favourite memories as a kid were the times I’d bake muffins with my grandma. The added bonus is yummy treats afterwards!
If you’d like to double up on the bake night activity, you can use it as an opportunity to make gifts for people too.
As someone who rented suites and lived for many years without an actual oven, I understand how challenging a bake night could be. If you’re in a similar situation, perhaps some “no-bake” items would work!
Some baking idea inspiration:
Day 8: No Spend Day of Activities
Set aside a day to spend quality time with your family with a goal of not spending a penny. A no-spend day is a great way to get creative for how you will spend your time together, which can bring your focus to each other and what the holiday season is all about.
If you have a lot of ideas generated for the day, you can write them on pieces of paper and draw activities from a bowl. Or, if you need help coming up with ideas, check out the list below!
Some No-Spend Day activity ideas:
- Board games
- Christmas themed Pictionary or charades (no formal board games needed!)
- Dance party
- Arts and crafts with whatever supplies you can find/upcycle from around the house
- Scavenger hunt
- Nature walks
- Playing in the snow or jumping in puddles
Find more activity inspiration in these posts: 10 Activities to do at Home with Kids this Christmas and 10 Fun and Frugal Fall Activities to do with Kids
Day 9: Christmas Light Tour
Bundle up, grab a hot chocolate to go, and hit the road to view the Christmas lights in your neighbourhood.
Find some of the extra festive neighbourhoods by doing a Google search for “your town + Christmas light map” and see where is best to wander. Our local radio stations usually put out a map or a webpage with suggestions every holiday season.
In our area of the Lower Mainland, British Columbia, there are a number of free and paid Christmas light events too.
Where to see Christmas lights in the Lower Mainland:
- Lights at Lafarge Lake, Coquitlam BC
- VanDusen Festival of Lights, Vancouver BC
- Bright Nights in Stanley Park, Vancouver BC
- Heritage Christmas at Burnaby Village Museum, Burnaby BC
Day 10: Give Back
Take time to intentionally give back this year. Focusing on others and giving out of the abundance of what we have helps foster that mindset of gratitude and feels great to do. Giving back is a great way to bring a family together to support a cause and shift the perspective from what we want ourselves to what we can do for others.
Some ideas for giving back:
- Help out at a holiday meal or soup kitchen.
- Donate money to a reputable charity or someone in need.
- Contact a women’s or homeless shelter and ask about giving Christmas hampers/gifts.
- Find a project like London Drugs’ Stocking Stuffers for Seniors campaign.
- Share a charity’s fundraising campaign posts on your social media.
- Donate food to the food bank.
- Hand out socks and hand warmers to those living on the street.
Day 11: Christmas Movie Night
Christmas isn’t Christmas for me without a good holiday movie binge and it must include Die Hard (yes, it’s a Christmas movie!). Whether you agree with that or not, a movie night is the perfect way to get cozy and enjoy all things holiday themed.
Of course there are a plethora of paid streaming sites out there where you can find Christmas movies to watch, but there are also free ways to watch Christmas movies too.
Where to find free Christmas movies to watch:
- Sites like CBC Gem and CTV.ca stream movies for free
- Trade movies with or borrow from friends
- Local library
- Local Buy Nothing Group
Day 12: Book Exchange
Take part in the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod and exchange a book with your loved one. Every Christmas Eve in Iceland, people gift a book to one another and then settle in for a good read.
If you’re like me and haven’t been able to get on the e-book bandwagon, second-hand books are a great and sustainable way to gift physical books.
Ideas for where to find second-hand books:
- Used book stores
- Thrift stores
- Free little library stands (an excellent time to declutter your shelf and add to the library too!)
- Re-sale sites, such as e-bay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist
- Local Buy-Nothing group
- Give a book from your own collection
Wherever you find your books and whatever type you give, curling up with a good book and a warm cup of cocoa is a cozy way to ring in Christmas.
How will you be celebrating?
Do you have favourite Christmas activities in your household? What activities would you add to the list for a sustainable 12 days of Christmas?