When it comes to the holidays, a lot revolves around showing your friends and family that you care. But with a little extra effort, you can also show you care about the Earth in the process and reduce your environmental impact this season. Here are a few options to have a greener holiday season in North Carolina.
Buy Experiences Instead of Things
Most people don’t need more physical things or stuff, especially as minimalism is on the rise. Consider buying your relatives and friends vouchers for unique North Carolina experiences instead, like some of these below:
- Hux Family Farm Goat Yoga in Durham
- The Hux Family Farm is a small 4.5-acre farm in Durham, NC. They believe in preserving natural ways of living and connecting with our environment, as well as using animals to create happiness and lightness of heart!
- Duke Lemur Center Tours in Durham
- The Duke Lemur Center is the world’s largest and most diverse collection of lemurs – Earth’s most threatened group of mammals – outside of Madagascar.
- Urban Axes in Durham
- Axe-throwing as an indoor competitive sport has taken off in Canada over the past decade. Similar to darts, axe-throwing is an individual sport played with and against other members of a group. Individuals throw 1.5 lb. hatchets at wooden targets marked with a bullseye and score points based on where on the target they stick the axe.
- Augmentality Labs in Durham
- The Triangle’s virtual reality arcade
- Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Durham, Raleigh or Greensboro
- SkyZone’s the originators of wall-to-wall aerial action. Their exciting indoor trampoline parks feature a variety of attractions & programs.
- Southern Season in Chapel Hill
- Southern Season is a Chapel Hill gourmet grocery store offering a wide selection of wine, cooking classes & gourmet international foods.
- Carolina Tiger Rescue Tours in Pittsboro
- The Carolina Tiger Rescue is a private 501 nonprofit wildlife sanctuary, as defined by The Captive Wildlife Safety Act, in Pittsboro, North Carolina. It is home to tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, binturongs, caracals, kinkajous, ocelots, servals and bobcats.
The Piedmont Triad
- Carolina Conservators Center in Burlington
- The Center is home to over 80 animals, and more than 21 species; employs more than a dozen full and part-time individuals; and is a hub of volunteer activity. The park welcomes over 16,000 visitors each year from all over the state and across the country.
- Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem
- Old Salem is a historic district of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It features a living history museum that interprets the restored Moravian community.
- Kaleideum North in Winston-Salem
- Kaleideum North is an Interactive, hands-on Winston-Salem NC museum and science center for all ages.
- Skywild in Greensboro
- Skywild is a treetop adventure course located high above the Greensboro Science Center’s Animal Discovery Zoo.
- The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro
- The North Carolina Zoological Park is located in Asheboro in Randolph County, North Carolina. At over 500 acres, it is the largest walk-through zoo in the world, and one of only two state-owned zoos in the United States. The NC Zoo has over 1,600 animals from more than 250 species primarily representing Africa and North America.
- Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord
- Don’t want to drive? Go for the NASCAR Ride Along around the superspeedway. Ride shotgun in a real NASCAR Race Car.
- U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte
- The U.S. National Whitewater Center is the world’s premier outdoor facility featuring whitewater rafting, biking, zip lines, live music, craft brews, and more.
- Carowinds in Charlotte
- Carowinds is a 400-acre amusement park, located adjacent to Interstate 77 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
- Discovery Place in Charlotte
- Discovery Place is a unified organization and family of museums that provides STEM education to the Carolinas through our museums, events and classes.
- The Reed Gold Mine in Midland
- The Reed Gold Mine is located in Midland, Cabarrus County, North Carolina, and is the site of the first documented commercial gold find in the United States.
- Equine Adventures in Frisco
- Coastal horseback riding with an experienced guide is a not-to-be-missed experience on the Outer Banks.
- The Lost Colony Drama in Manteo
- The Lost Colony is performed each summer on the same site where these actual events occurred. Under the direction of Ira David Wood, III, a company of over 100 actors, dancers, singers and technicians create a magical evening for your whole family.
- Kitty Hawk Bi-Plane Tours in Manteo
- Get a bird’s eye view of the incredible coastline and treasures that the Outer Banks offers with an airplane tour.
- OBX Air Tour Adventures in Manteo
- Open cockpit biplane, helicopter and warbird tours over the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina!
- Roanoke Island Dive Center in Manteo
- Scuba Diving, Wreck Diving, Spearfishing, Scuba Classes, Freediving, Dive Charters, Fishing Charters.
- Hang Gliding School in Nags Head
- Lessons & tandem flights are available every day through Kitty Hawk Kites, the world’s largest hang gliding school since 1974.
- Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures in Asheville
- Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures is a mountain bike guide service that specializes in professionally guided trips in Pisgah National Forest and Dupont State Recreational Forest, which are located in Western North Carolina near Asheville and Brevard.
- Skinny Beats Drum Classes in Asheville
- Djembe is Billy’s specialty, and he teaches classes that are fun and easy for beginners. Incorporating improvisation and different ways to play drums are some key components of Billy’s teaching style.
- Vagabond Vistas Photography Tutorials in the Blue Ridge Mountains
- Vagabond Vista photo tours are as educational as they are fun. They are perfect for locals and tourists alike, providing a mix of tips and tricks for more effective camera operation and composition.
- The Biltmore Estate in Asheville
- Visit America’s largest home, built by George Vanderbilt. Explore the 8000-acre beautiful and grand estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, NC.
- Tweetsie Railroad in Boone
- Tweetsie Railroad is a family-oriented Wild West theme park located between Boone and Blowing Rock. The centerpiece of the park is a 3-mile ride on a train pulled by one of Tweetsie Railroad’s two historic narrow-gauge steam locomotives.
- Gem Mountain Mine Trips in Spruce Pine
- Operations at the mine include the use of pneumatic tools by our staff to break apart large pieces of rock in order to locate and mine the aquamarine. Once the gemstone is free of the rock, it can be collected, cleaned off, and sorted for size, shape, and color.
- River Girl Fishing Co. in Todd
- South Fork New River Fly Fishing, Kayaking, Tubing, Biking and more!
- Sky Valley Zip Tours in Blowing Rock
- Riders zip over and through trees while enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
All Over NC
- Tickets for events at unique places like…
While Amazon might be convenient, the carbon footprint of the shipping and packaging can be significant. Shopping local both supports your local community and also reduces the carbon footprint of the items you purchase!
- Videri Chocolate Factory in Raleigh
- Videri Chocolate Factory is a bean to bar chocolate factory and shop that offers a tasty selection of organic nut free, gluten free, and vegan options.
- Escazu Chocolates in Raleigh
- Escazu Chocolates is a Raleigh, NC based bean to bar chocolate maker and retail shop that crafts chocolate from directly traded, organic or fair trade cacao.
- Bee’lixir in Raleigh
- Bee’lixir is a Jun Kombucha made in Hillsborough, North Carolina with organic green tea and local honey. This “champagne” of Kombuchas is full of flavor and beneficial probiotics.
- Larry’s Coffee in Raleigh
- Slow-roasted coffee with an emphasis on sustainability, using fair, organic & shade-grown beans
- Bone Suckin’ Sauce in Raleigh
- The serious barbecue, grilling & marinating sauce for land & sea
- Crude Bitters and Sodas in Raleigh
- Crude Bitters is NC’s first cocktail bitters company.
- 4th Dimension Coffee by Cocoa Cinnamon in Durham
- With 4th Dimension Coffee, Cocoa Cinnamon presents a wide range of coffee tasting experiences that stem from the historical dissemination of coffee and the history of espresso.
- Big Spoon Roasters in Durham
- Big Spoon Roasters makes handcrafted nut butters from scratch in Durham, NC. Uniquely fresh, delicious, and nutritious, each small batch is made to order with the best possible ingredients sourced directly from local and like-minded producers.
- Tom & Jenny’s in Durham
- Delicious, sugar-free, individually wrapped Keto friendly caramels created by a dentist with a serious sweet tooth and her husband in their home kitchen
- Guglhupf Bakery in Durham and Chapel Hill
- Guglhupf is an innovative bakery, cafe and Biergarten serving contemporary cuisine with southern German roots, emphasizing local and seasonal ingredients.
- WomanCraft Gifts in Carrboro
- WomanCraft Gifts was founded by a handful of local women 41 years ago and continues to carry on the tradition of being owned & operated by local artists.
- Moon & Lola in Apex and Raleigh
- Moon and Lola is a North Carolina based jewelry and accessories brand with one mission: to make people happy!
- Seagrove Pottery Gallery in Seagrove and Cary
- Seagrove Pottery Gallery is an outstanding location of traditional and contemporary, pottery and crafts. We feature local pottery, sculpture, glass, basketry, lawn and garden items, and so many more things to enhance both your home and office.
- La Farm Bakery in Cary
- An authentic French bakery in the heart of Cary, North Carolina
- Dewey’s Bakery in Winston-Salem
- Dewey’s Bakery has been baking sweet treats in Winston-Salem since 1930. Visit them at Thruway Center or Reynolda Manor.
- Winkler Bakery in Winston-Salem
- The Winkler Bakery has been in business since the Winkler family first ran it in 1807. The bakery was originally constructed in 1800 and still uses the same dome bake oven to this day.
- UpDog Kombucha in Winston-Salem
- Brewed in Winston-Salem, NC, UpDog Kombucha is handcrafted and made in small batches to ensure the best product for its customers. Using local ingredients and perfected brewing techniques, UpDog offers a low sugar, low-calorie beverage packed with nutritional value and great flavor.
- Mast General Store in Winston-Salem, Valle Crucis, Asheville, Boone & more
- Mast General Store offers a variety of goods from fashion to fried chicken cookbooks and toffee to tents.
- Buchi Kombucha in Asheville
- Buchi Kombucha was born at the farmer’s market and grew up in a shared community kitchen in the mountains outside Asheville, NC
- The Asheville Soap Company in Asheville
- Homemade 100% kosher certified organic soap made for humans & their pets
- Asheville Bee Charmer in Asheville
- Asheville Bee Charmer curates the world’s best selection of pure honey including our local sourwood honey, infused honeys, monofloral honey varietals, and more.
- The Dulcimer Shop in Blowing Rock
- The Dulcimer Shop opened in Blowing Rock, North Carolina in 1971. It quickly became a dulcimer shop devoted to the Appalachian Dulcimer and other traditional instruments.
- Pure Stella in Charlotte
- Handmade botanical skin care for the whole family in Charlotte, NC
- Cape Fear Rum Cake in Wilmington
- Cape Fear Rum cakes are baked from scratch and hand glazed in Wilmington NC for the perfect gourmet gift for holidays and thank you gifts.
- Goodness Gracie Gourmet Foods in Wilmington
- From toffee cookies to salted pecans, Goodness Gracie packages salty and sweet.
- Edge of Urge in Wilmington
- Edge of Urge is a brand, retail space and a maker incubator from North Carolina with a strong emphasis on relationships with independent and small designers and makers from all over the state and the country.
- The Outer Banks Candle Company in Kill Devil Hills
- Delectably fragrant candles hand-crafted on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
- Scotch Bonnet Fudge & Gifts in Frisco
- Named for the North Carolina State Seashell, The Scotch Bonnet is located in Frisco in the heart of Hatteras Island on the beautiful, windswept Outer Banks of North Carolina.
All Over NC
- Local beer (too many options! Check out the NC Beer Guys map for breweries near you)
- Local arts (look up nearby art and craft guilds to see if and when they may be having holiday shopping events to highlight works of art for sale)
Most of these items listed here are local foods because, as noted above, it’s better to give consumable things if you’re going to give things at all rather than experiences. At the very least, a great goal is to give battery-free gifts – discarded batteries are a tremendous environmental hazard and even rechargeable batteries aren’t an awesome alternative.
Get a Real Tree
A plastic tree may last for a long time but a real Christmas tree can be recycled, which gives them the leg-up in terms of sustainability. According to Earth911:
Approximately 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in North America each year, according to the U.S. EPA. Luckily, about 93 percent of those trees are recycled through more than 4,000 available recycling programs.
Also known as “treecycling,” the act of recycling a Christmas tree is a leading reason many experts agree they are more environmentally friendly than their plastic counterparts.
Treecycling is an easy way to return a renewable and natural source back to the environment instead of disposing it in a landfill, where decomposition rates are slowed due to lack of oxygen.
Plastic trees are also made of petroleum products and are typically sent to landfills after a few years, despite the fact that they theoretically will last forever.
And on that topic – avoiding plastic and opting for wood, greenery, burlap or cotton decorations instead is ideal. Use a pine wreath on the door or have a basket of scented pine cones, for example. Candles made from actual beeswax, soy or vegetable wax instead of paraffin (which is derived from petroleum) is also an environmentally friendly switch.
If you’ve got lights on your house or your tree or anywhere else, do yourself a favor and put them all on timers. This keeps your house safer and also saves you money.
Offset Shipping Costs
If you must order online, whenever possible purchase from businesses that allow you to offset the climate impact of the shipment. UPS, for example, offers carbon neutral options for businesses and they use the funds to support projects that offset emissions like reforestation, landfill gas destruction, wastewater treatment and methane destruction.
It’s also beneficial to choose USPS Ground when possible, as they’re already going to be in your area delivering mail.
If you want to take it a step further, consider the packaging that vendors offer. Simpler, recyclable packaging materials are better for sustainability efforts than lots of packing peanuts or plastic bubble wrap.