Written by editor Nicole Bennett.

I know many of us are baby-stepping our way to a different lifestyle than one we grew up with, and one of the challenges we face is adapting our family traditions to our current philosophies. Sometimes it’s as simple as substituting a homemade addition to a familiar recipe, but other areas can be hard to adapt.

This time of year, it’s important to remember that every bit helps, and also to not be too hard on yourself. I like to think of being in a constant state of transition. Life on earth is never going to be perfect and there will always be more we can do to lessen our impact on the world. So even if we start small, we’ll be making a difference.

We’ve talked about handmade gift ideas and Christmas tree options this year so far. Now let’s look at a few more ways we can work to green our holiday traditions, a little bit at a time.

1. Consume less.

A few years ago, I read a great book called Hundred Dollar Holiday

, by Bill McKibben. It’s basically about rediscovering the joy of Christmas. Less presents, less wrapping waste and less money spent are all ways to consume less and instead, focus more on the true meaning of the holiday.

With less time spent shopping and stressing out on gifts, more time will be left to spending with people. Time is essentially one of our culture’s most valuable commodities these days; it seems we never have enough of it. So why not make that more of a focus during the most special time of year?

Photo by eren/thisvintagechica

2. Update old traditions.

Sometimes we don’t have to eliminate traditions, but simply update them. For example, we can gradually trade out our old Christmas lights for more energy-efficient LED lights. Or instead of fancy paper napkins, we can make or invest in holiday-themed cloth napkins.

I like how McKibben, in Hundred Dollar Holiday, points out that this change can be gradual. It does not have to happen overnight, especially if your kids are older and accustomed to a very commercial holiday. Making small changes each year will allow older kids to get used to new twists on family traditions.

3. Start New Traditions.

As wonderful as they are, traditions can eventually become more of a burden than a joy if we’re not careful. Recently on her blog, Amanda Soule said, “A little thing I’m learning about traditions is that – just as important as instilling and nurturing them – is recongizing when it’s time to let them go, or at least for them to change.”

One of the exciting things about being a family is being able to pick and choose which traditions get carried on from the previous generation. Even within our own generation, we can try things out and then later decide to move on if we want. Traditions should bring joy, not feel constraining or sway us from our philosophies and goals.

Think about the values that are most important to your family and then brainstorm together ways to incorporate those into new traditions, whether it’s celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree, giving to others with an Operation Christmas Child box, getting creative with all recycled wrapping materials, or taking a healthy holiday meal to a family in need.

This post is brought to you by Hazelnut Kids, a wonderful online spot to discover natural toys for your children’s natural curiosity. Hazelnut Kids carries natural, earth-friendly, wooden, and organic cotton toys for babies, toddlers, and big kids, and is a perfect place to begin for new gift-giving traditions.

What are some ways you’ve “greened” your family holiday traditions? Where have you updated, and where have you started new ones?