The holidays are a season of giving, but it can be difficult to keep consumerism in balance with environmentalism. How do you spread holiday joy without increasing your carbon footprint and emptying your wallet? Read on for creative tips for greener holiday gift giving.

Skip the trip

Reduce the number of trips to the mall by shopping in your PJs. You'll reduce gas consumption and emissions — a win for you and a win for the environment. Buying online may also mean that product will be shipped from a warehouse close to your recipient, so you'll be reducing shipping miles as well. For more ideas on eco-friendly shipping, visit USPS.com.

Organize a book swap

Instead of exchanging new gifts with friends, why not organize a swap? Encourage children to choose several books to give to a friend, and have the friend do the same. Each child will get to enjoy fun new reads, and you'll get to save a little cash. Or host a book exchange at a holiday party — each child brings a book, and gets to choose one to take home.

Host a potluck party

Spending time with friends and family is the best gift during the holidays. Schedule a "Grub not Gifts" potluck party for your group of friends. Spend the evening sharing holiday memories and enjoying each other's company. The best part? Potlucks are one-size-fits-all!

Wrap wisely

Holiday packages can still be festive without fancy wrapping paper. Give gifts an understated look by wrapping in newspaper and tying with festive ribbon, or purchase solid wrapping paper colors that can be used throughout the year. Many stores switch to seasonal bags at this time of year, so you may be able to simply add a bow and a gift tag. Visit Fiskars Crafts to learn how to make simple fabric gift bags.

Give less

This one is simple — give less. We all know that our children don't need truckloads of new toys. It's OK to reduce the number of gifts that you're giving. Last year, we followed this rule with our children: something you WANT, something you WEAR, something you READ, something you NEED. Reducing the number of gifts also allows you to put more thought and energy into the choices that you make.

Using these ideas to make the season a little more eco-friendly may allow you to enjoy a less stressful and less costly holiday season. Wishing you happy green holidays!

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 This post was included in the latest All Things Eco blog carnival.