6 Zero Waste Holiday Tips to Help you Kick Butt During the Holidays
6 Minute Read
It’s kinda crazy that one of the most family focused, “it’s important to be present,” times of the year also happens to be the most consumer-driven, shopping crazy, and wasteful. And even though I’ve already mentioned this stat in my zero waste holiday gift guide, it’s so startling that I wanted to mention it here: we create 25% of our waste during the holidays. This is crazy considering it only lasts for a few weeks. So to help you be the most mindful with the way that you consume, decorate, and wrap your gifts this holiday season, here are 6 zero waste holiday tips to make sure you make this your least wasteful and most mindful holiday season.
The planet will thank you.
Zero Waste Holiday Tip #1: Make/forage your own decorations
Whoever said you had to buy your decorations? That sh*t’s usually cheaply made in China (as in: it’s probably gonna break any minute now and was shipped across the planet). It’s also laden with plastic (and glitter! . . . also known as: micro-plastics), and doesn’t involve a whole lotta creativity. But by making and foraging for your own decorations, you can save your hard-earned cash. And you can ditch the plastic and the crazy carbon footprint associated with that made-in-China crap!
So what does this actually look like? Walk around your block or your local park and see if there’s anything you can use to decorate your place for the holidays. Are there any trees, pieces of driftwood, shells, acorns, funky branches, leaves or flowers that you can use to create your dining table centerpieces or your front door decorations? The cool thing about this DIY is that you get to create your decorations, put your personal spin on ’em, and use what’s already available (maybe even something your backyard!). And it’s a fun holiday activity to do with your partner, roomies, or kids.
Growing up, there were many years when my dad cut off a large tree branch to use as our Christmas tree. Even though those “trees” weren’t your quintessential Christmas tree, they were always full of character and made killer conversation-starters. Which takes me to my next tip. . .
Holiday Tip #2: Ditch the tree
Yes, you can go out and drag a freshly-cut tree into your apartment, or buy a fake tree that’ll last you for many years, but you could also just decorate a tree that’s already at home. This year, I’m decorating two of my potted plants to serve as our Christmas tree: a banana leaf tree and a dwarf spruce. I don’t have to bring them in or take them out; all I have to do is put the lights and decorations on (or maybe I’ll be extra lazy and just do the lights 😉 ).
This zero waste holiday tip not only majorly cuts down on your waste, it also makes your life a whole lot easier. Down in Trinidad, everyone has fake Christmas trees because it’s way too warm to have locally grown pine trees. And my mom usually spends the better half of a weekend taking the Christmas tree out of storage, putting it up, and getting those lights on. Then, 2 months later, she spends the same amount of time taking it down.
I know you’re stretched for time, so do yourself a favor and take the easy route. In this case, it also happens to be the eco route.
Zero Waste Holiday Tip #3: Gift better
Sure, you could go the traditional route of buying something new for your holiday gifts. But you could also opt for getting all your gifts secondhand. This allows you to give something a whole new life, and it also gives you more bang for your buck. You see, secondhand gifts are less expensive than buying new. This means you’ll either save a ton of money, or you’ll be able to buy something that’s much better quality for the same price.
Another option is to give experiences instead of physical presents. Gifted experiences are more memorable than traditional gifts and will no doubt stand out among all of the “things” under the tree.
Holiday Tip #4: Opt for Secret Santa instead of giving to everyone
I’ve participated in many Secret Santa events over the years. And if you were to ask me if they were any less fun or memorable than the years when I gave and received tons of gifts, the answer is unequivocally: no. In fact, it’s the reverse. When there are so many gifts, it’s easy to lose track of who gave what. And you’re often so focused on unwrapping everything that you forget to really appreciate what you already got.
I especially see this when it comes to my nieces and nephews. On Christmas morning, there’s this frenzy of unwrapping. They barely know what they’ve gotten, usually never end up appreciating or playing with most of their presents, and are more focused on “what’s next?” than what’s actually in front of them. And I honestly don’t think this is the best lesson to be teaching them.
That’s why I love the idea behind Secret Santa. Everyone gives one mindful and well-thought-out gift, and everyone gets one gift that was chosen just for them. That gift is treasured and appreciated, and it’s remembered for far longer than a few hours.
Zero Waste Holiday Tip #5: Use reusable gift wrap
Today, there are so many alternatives for single-use wrapping paper. And they aren’t boring AF! You can get reusable organic cotton gift bags, upcycle old clothes into swanky gift wrap, or try your hand at furoshiki (a Japanese wrapping technique that’ll allow you to use those cloth napkins and scarves buried in your cupboard). Plus, you’ll nix all that wrapping paper and tape from ending up in the landfill. Most of which isn’t recyclable because of the inks and adhesives used to make them.
Holiday Tip #6: Host a swap party
This one kinda combines Tip #3 and #5: Secret Santa + giving secondhand + gifting experiences. First of all, what is a swap party? Well, it’s a get-together where everyone brings a specific number of items that they wanna trade. They can be clothes, shoes, jewelry, household items, picture frames, funky ceramics—anything that you no longer want or need that’s still in good shape. Everyone goes around picking one item at a time from the loot, and everyone leaves with the same amount of items they came with. Hosting a swap party also gives you a chance to meet up with your favorite peeps or even some rando’s you’ve never met before.
The thing I wanna drive home the most with these tips is that there are so many ways to be more sustainable and more mindful during the holidays. And even if you just apply one of these tips, that’s progress. And that’s what counts. After all, cleaning up all that waste isn’t going to happen in one season, right?