Contact Us

Choose to Reuse Logo

Waste less, live better.

Back to home

Hennepin County’s guide to an eco-friendly holiday season

We all go into the holidays with the best of intentions — we want to shower our loved ones with great gifts, tasty food and plenty of together time. But there are ways you can have plenty to celebrate and enjoy while also saving money, cutting waste and keeping it green this holiday season. This guide gives you some easy ways to get started!

Page content

The goal is to encourage you to reuse wherever possible and check out some Minneapolis shops that make reuse fun over the holidays.


Ornaments in boxes


Many thrift stores carry artificial trees and stock up during the year, so you’ll likely find a more extensive selection.


Lights are a beloved part of the holiday experience — especially in northern climates like ours where daylight is limited. If you plan to hang holiday lights, the eco-friendliest option is LED lights. They’re up to 80 percent more energy efficient than traditional holiday lights.

And did you know that you can recycle old string and holiday lights at the Hennepin County Drop-Off Facilities in either Brooklyn Park or Bloomington (sorry, you don’t put them in with your regular curbside recycling).

Decorations and ornaments

Check out your local thrift or vintage stores for decorations and ornaments you can reuse and enjoy for years to come. Just check the seasonal end caps and store displays at Hennepin County-area secondhand shops like Arc’s Value Village, Hopkins Antique Mall, and Bethesda for inspiration. Another great option is Time Bomb Vintage.

Nature also offers a variety of beautiful holiday decorations, including evergreen branches and flowers. Just gather and arrange them however you’d like.

Finally, reuse what you have on hand to make your ornaments rather than buying plastic decorations. Think twigs, bark, pinecones, cinnamon sticks, twine, flowers, herbs and more.

Return to the top of the page.


Homemade plant holder holds house plant in front of window

When shopping for eco-friendly gifts, look for long-lasting items that can be reused or recycled later. In addition, look for battery-free and plastic-free toys, and always opt for minimal packaging. The following examples are other ways to make gift-giving more sustainable.

Gift experiences

Experiences are great gifts and Minneapolis has wonderful experiences to offer. You can give gift cards to local museums, concerts, restaurants, theaters and more. Here’s an entire guide for giving experiences rather than physical gifts.

DIY gifts

Making your gifts is not only a sustainable practice, it’s also one of the best parts of the holidays, especially when it comes to edible gifts. From homemade bread, cookies, or other classic holiday treats to snack and nut mixes, jams and jellies, herbed oils and vinegars. The options are unlimited. And you can take this idea one step further by packaging your edible gifts in reusable containers.

There are also several ways to get crafty and reuse items as gifts or as parts of gifts. For example, you can upcycle twine or rope to create a macramé plant hanger. Or, reuse t-shirts to make quilts and upcycle sweaters to make potholders. A quick search on Pinterest will give you plenty of ideas to last until next year’s holiday season.

Eco-friendly gifts

If you’re trying to encourage people in your life to adopt more sustainable practices, give them gifts that enable them to use less stuff.

Maybe it’s a book about reusing items to make crafts, a cookbook specifically designed for leftovers, or a reusable carry-out container.

Thrifted and secondhand gifts

Thrift stores are an excellent option for holiday shopping because used gifts are kinder to the environment and tend to be more unique. You can find books, DVDs, CDs, sports equipment, tools, cameras, children’s toys, musical instruments, tech and more.

The Hopkins Antique Mall has two full floors with a total of 78 booths, packed with things such as vintage clothing, estate jewelry, vintage costume jewelry, vinyl records, older technology such as manual typewriters and old cameras, as well as repurposed furniture (hello old sewing-machine table turned into a refreshment station).

If tech is what you’re after, secondhand is still an option. For example, if your child is old enough for a cell phone or a computer of their own, you can find some great deals at local tech shops that allow you to sell, trade in, or upgrade devices. Check out Device Pitstop and Free Geek Twin Cities.

Another popular gift category is sporting goods (because, as all parents know, these items can be incredibly expensive). Check out Play it Again Sports for a wide range of gear like hockey, golf, soccer and snowboarding.

See our Secondhand Holiday Gift Guide for more great ideas.


Don’t shy away from re-gifting items you received but don’t plan to use. For example, if you received a lovely candle as a gift, but have a fragrance allergy, don’t toss it. Instead, reuse it as a hostess gift or gift it to your sister, who loves scented candles.

You can also plan a re-gift swap party with eco-conscious friends and family. Encourage everyone to bring gifts they’re not using and swap them for items they like or that would make perfect gifts for someone they know. Ask everyone to bring their own reusable bag or tote to transport their new gifts home.


Brown paper wrapped gifts with natural items instead of bows

Wrapping paper generates a lot of waste because it’s designed to be used once and tossed. But there are several hacks to get around that.

First, get creative and just skip the wrapping altogether. For example, a cookbook in a cake pan tied with a ribbon saved from last year is delightful.

You can also wrap just the lid of boxes so you can reuse them year after year. In addition, you can wrap gifts in recyclable and reusable materials. Think magazines, newspapers, maps, posters, children’s artwork and calendars — they all make excellent wrapping paper.

You can also reuse gift wrapping materials like ribbons and bows from year to year. And, of course, gift bags and baskets can be reused over and over again. If you don’t have any of these items to work with, make 2021 the year you consciously decide to hold onto them after the holidays to reuse them next year.

Finally, you can reuse last year’s holiday cards to create the “to” and “from” labels on this year’s gifts. You can also use ornaments as gift tags or reuse ribbons, bows and other craft items.

Return to the top of the page.


Man and woman laughing while man holds up a holiday sweater

During the holidays, it’s fun to sport a new, festive outfit. And yes, even when it comes to sequins and sparkles, there are more sustainable options.

New to purchasing thrifted clothing? Not sure if you’d be comfortable with it? You can find donated brand new clothing with the tags still on them at Hope Chest. You can also find affordable, stylish clothing at places like aLoom, Bethesda and many other shops. Just be sure to try on anything in-store to make sure you love them.

In addition, one of Arc’s Value Village’s unique services is free personal shopping with stylists who select items for you based on your individual needs, then show them to you virtually.

Finally, if your family needs ugly holiday sweaters for a neighborhood theme party, skip the mall. Instead, check out the holiday sweater selection at your local thrift store. Use our directory to find the one nearest you.

Return to the top of the page.


One of the easiest ways to have a more sustainable holiday season is when you’re hosting. You’re primarily in charge of the logistics, and influence what happens and how.

Get your family and friends onboard for having a no- or low-waste celebration and tell them why it’s important to you.

When serving dinner, avoid using single-use plastics and paper plates in favor of real dinnerware. And if you need more plates, bowls, or serving pieces, check with friends and family first. Then, go thrifting for anything you still need or rent the additional items needed from a party rental company.

Another eco-friendly holiday practice is to shop local for seasonal food items where possible and plan carefully to avoid food waste. Finally, arrange to send home leftovers in reusable containers like glass dishes or jars.

Return to the top of the page.

Home improvement

If you’ve been putting off a home improvement project, there’s nothing like company coming for the holidays to get you motivated. But you don’t need to rush out and buy a bunch of new, expensive tools — especially when the Twin Cities offers several great options for renting or borrowing what you need to get the job done.

The Minnesota Tool Library has 5,000 tools available to check out, making it a great entry point to DIY home improvement. The membership is an investment, but it includes helpful classes to assist you in getting your projects done.

Reddy Rents is also a local operation and has tools and equipment available for rent in their locations (St. Louis Park and Minneapolis).

Finally, local stores like the Twin Cities-based Jerry’s Hardware and Rental also offer tools for rent. Learn more at Jerry’s Hardware and Rental.

For more ideas about renting DIY home improvement tools, visit the Choose to Reuse article: Home Improvement and Repairs.

Related reading

Return to the top of the page.


Salesperson smiles in front of resale furniture

Looking for a cool bar cart, buffet, or hutch to kick up your holiday decor and add a unique piece that will get people talking? Visiting your local antique or vintage stores, like Paris Antiques and Gifts, Antiquified, or Hopkins Antique Mall, will provide you with some great options for pieces unavailable in mainstream stores.

Want to dial up the atmosphere? There are many options that you might not even have thought of, such as refinished pieces that look like they might have come from Pottery Barn. The Vintage Loft, Wabi Sabi, and Hope Chest have you covered and will leave your guests asking where you got such great pieces.

Return to the top of the page.

To help others enjoy an eco-friendly holiday, be sure to donate your unneeded winter and holiday gear. By donating your extra winter coats, boots and clothing, you’re helping other families stay cozy for the season and keeping items out of landfills.

If you donate extra toys and books, you’re helping others shop more sustainably for their holiday gifts. And your donations of holiday decorations you’re no longer using can help others bring a festive air to their homes as they celebrate their holidays in eco-friendly style.

For a list of places to donate items, see our “Find a Retailer” section on the Choose to Reuse homepage.

Return to the top of the page.

Retailer resources


Decorations, secondhand gifts and tableware


Furniture and antiques

Tools and home Improvement

Join the Circle

A part of Hennepin County’s Choose to Reuse program, Join the Circle encourages residents to buy used goods rather than new ones — not only to reduce waste and preserve natural resources but to save money. By joining the circle, you’ll receive useful tips, as well as exclusive benefits at participating retailers. You can learn more and Join the Circle today at

Return to the top of the page.