Did you know that this holiday 6 million tons of holiday waste will be created? From Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. In the US, annual trash from gift wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons. 2.65 billion holiday cards are sold every year. That’s enough waste to fill a football field 10 stories high. (source)
Seriously, that’s so much waste!! And most people don’t take the time to think about it, because it goes in the trash and out the door. But it does go somewhere! It doesn’t just disappear.
So, I’ve decided to change the way we do Christmas this year, because I didn’t want to contribute to all of that waste. Not to mention, after ridding my house and closet of items I didn’t need or want, I’ve taken on more of a minimalist approach.
Don’t get me wrong, I used to be the girl who couldn’t get enough gifts, clothes, shoes, accessories, bring it on! But now I see how so many of those items just end up getting tossed aside. I never really wanted them anyway. It was the thrill of the buy or a new gift from someone or just simply having more things.
For some reason, things makes us feel safe, taken care of and provided for. But we can change our mindset about these things and realize that it’s our family and connections that should make us feel safe and taken care of. From these ideas, I’ve started to focus on what I really want and need. And now that I’m trying to live more minimally in my life, I wanted to carry that over to Christmas too.
My Steps To A Very Merry Zero Waste Christmas
- Give experiences, not gifts. This was a huge change for us, but I’m loving it! We tried to get everyone in our family experiences, this could include a nice dinner out together, tickets to a local event, movie, concert, play or activity, an indulgent gift like a massage, facial or spa day or an active gift like a few sessions of fitness classes or visits to your local yoga studio or rock climbing gym. Switching to giving only experiences has taken so much of the work out of gifts. We end up only buying one thing per person, because experiences can end up being more expensive, which made “shopping” so much easier. Honestly, I didn’t even leave the house. Most of our experience gifts were bought online. And we always travel for the holidays, so I don’t have to worry about carting around all of our gifts! When it came to what we asked for, we told our families that we would like to get experiences as well. And since our honeymoon is coming up next year, we asked for donations to our honeymoon fund. Costa Rica here we come! All in all, this step has been a big win. And other family members have agreed that it’s a great idea, so they’ve started doing it too!
- If you do give gifts, wrap them with eco-friendly gift wrap. There are so many eco-friendly items out there that you can wrap gifts in. From recycled gift wrap to making your own gift wrap out of fabric or newspaper, there are so many options. I like the idea of making my own gift wrap out of fabric or newspaper. I even found some great fabric at my local GoodWill and had some extra yarn to create these beautifully wrapped presents. If you don’t have the time to make your own, here’s an exhaustive list for all of your eco-friendly gift wrap options.
- Make your own cards on recycled paper. Let’s be honest, most people enjoy getting hand made cards more than a store bought card. I mean how many store bought cards do you end up throwing away every year? And a fun craft session is always relaxing. Get a group of friends together or corral the kids, and get all of your cards done in one day. Even if people don’t keep them, they’re recyclable!
- Re-gift. What?? I know, it’s taboo. But re-gifting can really work. If you have something that you want to get rid of, but know person X would love it, why not re-gift it? Just because you didn’t personally go out and buy that gift, doesn’t mean you didn’t put thought into it. You probably put more thought into that re-gift than you did toward buying a gift card. A good tip for re-gifting is to add something special that you did buy yourself. Say you have some earrings you know your friend would love, buy a nice bracelet to go with them and you have the perfect present. Another key to re-gifting is don’t re-gift just to give away your crap! Only re-gift if you know the person will truly love that gift.
- Make your own gifts. DIY everything!! There are so many great DIY gift ideas out there that you can make with products you already have. Like this Hot Chocolate Mix in a Mason Jar or a homemade sugar scrub. Check out Pinterest for many, many more ideas.
- Use zero waste decorations. Second hand stores have a huge variety of decorations. Seriously, I went yesterday, so many! Or you can make your own out of materials you’d normally recycle, like snowflakes out of newspaper or garlands out of paper scraps. Another important key is to not go overboard. Every area of your house does not need to be decorated with the latest trend. You can enjoy Christmas with a minimally decorated home.
- Get a real Christmas tree. Fake trees often contain PVC or lead. If you really want a fake tree, buy it from a second hand store. If you live in a place where they let you cut down trees from the forest, that’s the best way to go. You usually have to buy a permit to cut down a tree, but that tree will be organic and pesticide free and it’s usually much cheaper than buying a tree from the lot. You’ll also be helping the environment by managing the forests and preventing overcrowding.
- Stick to stockings. If you do want to give some small items, put them in a stocking. This will eliminate the need for gift wrapping, but you still feel like you get the surprise of opening something.
Having a very merry zero waste Christmas is not just about reducing waste. It’s also about spending more quality time with family, eliminating the focus on material items and enjoying what we already have. We know that we put way too much emphasis on material goods in our country and I feel it’s important for us to get back to what really matters, family and friends. By giving experiences, reducing the focus on opening gifts and consciously paying attention to what we’re purchasing and throwing away, we can create a holiday we enjoy and look forward to.
How do you have a very merry zero waste Christmas? What are your zero waste ideas for the holidays?
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. However, all of my opinions are my own and are not swayed by being an affiliate.