Zero Waste Christmas guide for a low-waste Holiday Season.
It is that time of year again!
Between the holiday gatherings, cozy snowy nights, and Christmas cookies, your days seem to be filled with so much joy…or are they?
Many people find this time of year to be really stressful. Our consumer culture has turned this season into an excuse for spending money and overconsumption.
For those of us trying to live a simple, sustainable life, trying to find gifts for the ones we love can send us spiraling:
“Do they really need more stuff? Why are all of these products packaged in plastic? What are the environmental impacts of this gift? How do I show this person I care about them without harming the planet?”
You may feel overwhelmed, but it is good you care about these things.
Americans throw away 25% more trash during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years. This amounts to an extra one million extra tons of solid waste per week!
Thinking about the planet and caring about your impact matters. However, this does not mean that you have to give up on Christmas. It just means you have to approach it from a new perspective.
In this post, I will be sharing with you my “2019 Zero Waste Christmas Guide.” I will be sharing some zero waste gift ideas, sustainable products, eco-friendly gift wrapping, low-impact decorations, and some new concepts around holiday meals and treats!
Sit back, sip on some hot chocolate, and enjoy!
Let’s do it:
Experience Gifts: The Only True Zero Waste Present
Every product, even if it is sustainable manufactured, has some sort of impact on the planet. Some things are obviously way less than others, and that is okay, but if you really want to give an entirely waste-free gift, consider giving an experience gift.
What is an experience gift? Well, instead of giving someone a physical thing, give them the opportunity to go do something that they will enjoy.
Here are some ideas:
-a gift card to their favorite restaurant, cafe, brunch spot, or coffee shop
-ice skating/roller skating date
-tickets to a concert, musical, opera, festival, or show
-sign up for an upcoming local workshop
-a spot in an art class they have been wanting to take (ceramics, painting, woodworking, sewing, drawing, etc.)
-money for a fun weekend getaway
You get the idea. The possibilities are endless! When gifting them the experience, you can just give them the tickets/gift card/money or you can write what the experience is in a card.
Get creative with it!
Also, consider whether you will be present during the experience. Are you gifting them an afternoon out with you or perhaps an evening out with their partner? Either way is fun!
The memories they make during this experience are way more valuable than any physical object you could ever give them. See?
A zero-waste holiday gift is possible!
The Best Sustainable Products to Gift
This guide is about the zero waste Christmas experience as a whole, so I do not want to get too deep into zero waste swaps or products. However, I would like to share with you three different sustainable gift ideas that could be used by anyone.
We all have people in our lives that may not care as much about the environment as we would like them to. You also may know someone who does care but does not know where to start when it comes to zero waste. Think of gift-giving as a friendly suggestion.
Check it out:
No matter what age, gender, or place they are on their sustainability journey, here are three zero waste gifts that are awesome for anyone:
- Reusable Safety Razor
Plastic razors are a thing of the past. I love this stainless steel razor because it is an reusable and long lasting product. This is also just more aesthetically-pleasing in my opinion.
I love the EcoRoots Rose Gold Safety Razor so much. In fact, I have purchased this several times. This is great gift for either a women or a guy.
By investing in a reusable razor, you are doing your part in reducing the plastic pollution in the ocean. In fact, EcoRoots donates a portion of their sales to the Ocean Conservancy Inc. Almost everyone shaves, so consider gifting a plastic-free & reusable razor to someone this year!
2. Reusable Cutlery
It can be hard to remember to always carry around a fork and a knife with you. However, if you had a product that was specifically for that and even came in a little roll up pouch, it might make it easier to remember.
I think this EcoRoots Reusable Bamboo Cutlery set makes a lovely gift. It comes with a fork, spoon, knife, chopsticks, straw, and straw cleaner. It is all the cutlery that you would ever need when eating a to-go meal.
Bamboo is a very sustainable material because it is naturally regenerative and does not require pesticides or a large amount of irrigation. By helping someone switch over to reusable cutlery rather than plastic single-use, you are helping them live in a more eco-friendly way.
3. Shampoo Bar
Shampoo bars are great because they introduce the concept that not everything has to be packaged. By being in the form of a bar rather than a liquid in a plastic bottle, this shampoo makes huge strides in cutting down waste.
I know I would love receiving a shampoo bar as a Christmas gift, so consider gifting one this season!
I hope that these zero waste gift ideas were beneficial to you.
Find more awesome swaps in our shop.
Sustainable Ways to Shop This Season
Instead of sharing my favorite sustainable shops and businesses, I would like to highlight some general guidelines to low environmental impact shopping.
Shop local whenever possible!
That being said, try to support small businesses. Large corporations are huge creators of waste. If there is a product you are searching for, see if there are any mom and pop shops that carry it before purchasing it from a huge retailer.
It makes a difference!
When shopping in person, come prepared. Make sure you have your reusable bags ready to go. Are you going to be out all day? Don’t forget to bring your reusable water bottle, coffee mug, and/or reusable cutlery. Being prepared for your day allows you to generate less waste.
If you do end up shopping online, do some research into the store before buying. What is their brand mission? Are they proponents for sustainable practices, eco-friendly materials, all-natural ingredients, and fair-trade employment?
Think before you shop:
If a brand’s values do not align with your own, perhaps reconsider purchasing from them. Remember, the ability to vote with your dollar is a great tool in combatting the waste crisis as a whole.
There is more:
Check to see if the website mentions the way they package their orders. It is always best to shop from places that promise to ship your order plastic-free if possible.
If they do not mention anything about packing materials on their site, you can always send a email to the company asking them to avoid using any unnecessary plastic materials when packing your order.
These are just a few tips and tricks to keep in the back of your mind when shopping this holiday season.
You got this!
Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap
If I were being honest, buying paper gift wrap from a store is such a silly concept to me. Why are we creating all this pretty paper just so it can be ripped off and thrown away?
Although it is bad for the planet, I understand why we wrap gifts. Opening something is much more fun than just receiving a present with no gift wrap. It makes it feel more special. Luckily, there is a happy medium.
We can maintain the excitement of opening a gift while still being kind to our planet.
Look around your house for fun paper that can be repurposed. I am sure you have something. A magazine, newspaper, or the comics section works just great! Flip through and find the pages that speak the most to you.
This method works best for small gifts but you also can tape pages together to create more surface area. The gift wrap you create will be totally one-of-a-kind and sustainable!
Another concept is to use any paper bags you may have around the house. If they have logos printed on them from the store, simply use the backside. Once the gift is wrapped, you can use markers to draw on your own patterns or decorations. Cute!
When putting a gift in a box, try not to purchase new boxes from the store. Get creative with what you have! I have used old shoeboxes, pasta boxes, and granola bar boxes to wrap gifts before. It may seem funny at first, but it’s way more eco-friendly!
This method requires a little bit of planning. You just need to get into the habit of holding on to boxes that can be used for gift wrapping. I keep my stockpile of potential gift boxes in a storage closet.
Another important thing to mention is that not all tapes are created equally. Clear tapes, such as packing tape and scotch tape, are made from plastic.
Listen to this:
When you recycle cardboard, the material is soaked in water, turning it into a pulp. All of the plastic tape then separates and is removed by a machine that then diverts that waste into a landfill.
If you used a paper-based tape, it will also turn into a pulp during this process and get recycled with the cardboard. My favorite paper tapes to use are washi tapes because have cute patterns printed on them. Kraft paper tape and masking tape also will get the job done.
Even if you are using repurposed boxes, recycled paper, and paper-based tapes to wrap your gift, all of those things will have to be discarded after the gift giving is complete. Always make sure that you sort your trash correctly and recycle or compost as much as possible!
Nothing is biodegradable when it is in a landfill.
That being said, there is a gift wrapping alternative that is completely zero waste and it is probably one of my favorite methods out there. It is a Japanese tradition called furoshiki.
Here’s how it works:
A furoshiki is a multi-purposed square textile. It can be used to wrap gifts, your lunch, or even wine bottles! It also can be used as a dish towel, napkin, wall hanging, handkerchief, or scarf. The reusable nature of this concept is what makes it so sustainable.
You can purchase textiles that are specifically intended to be furoshikis, but I think either thrifting fabric or cutting up old clothing is a cheaper, more sustainable way of going about it.
Think about it:
Do you have some old pairs of jeans you no longer want? Wash them, cut square pieces, and wrap gift with them! If you are the creative type, you will unlock a whole afternoon of crafting.
You could embroider the fabric, block print onto it, or even try out some patch working. Receiving a beautiful, unique textile is a gift within itself!
I hope you consider trying out one of these zero waste gift wrapping ideas this season. They are all fun, unique, and sustainable!
Zero Waste Christmas Tree & Decorations
Holiday decorations can be tricky. Whether it be Christmas, Halloween, or Thanksgiving, big stores are filled to the brim with cheap, polluting, plastic decorations.
You may feel anti-holiday decoration because of this, but luckily, I am here to say that you do not have to sacrifice your festive cheer for the sake of sustainability!
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There are so many eco-friendly decorations out there. You just have to open your eyes to the possibilities!
The main focal point of any well-decorated home during Christmas is obviously the tree. Avoid plastic trees at all costs! These are usually made from PVC in non-fair trade factories abroad. There also is not really a proper way to have them be recycled.
If you do have to settle on a fake tree, try to get it secondhand if possible. At least you are giving it a second life!
Getting a real tree is your best bet. It is also a fun experience! Depending on where you live, you can either cut one down yourself or just pick from pre-cut trees. Either is fun because you get to pick out the unique tree that best suits your home.
Try to find out what your town does when you put the tree to the curb. Many towns will set a tree collection date so they can all be picked up and properly composted.
If a tree is not your thing, no worries. There are a ton of non-traditional zero waste christmas tree ideas on the internet. Perhaps you want to hang your ornaments from the ceiling! Again, keep it fun and be creative with it.
Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there is no such thing as plastic-free string lights. My only suggestion on that front is to get LED lights since they are more energy efficient. There also are fairy lights on copper wire that are great and use less plastic.
I love using real plants in my house as much as possible. A store local to me sells real pine wreaths and tree trimming swag branches. I prefer these to their plastic alternatives because I am stimulating local economy and they can be composted at the end of the season.
Using real pine branches also gives your house a lovely scent of natural pine. How festive!
As far as ornaments and other decorations go, always pay attention to the material. I would say organic materials, glass, metal, and fiber are generally your best bet when trying to master the zero waste holiday decorations.
One of my favorite activities is to make popcorn garland. It’s hard to make them without eating them all, but I love how it looks. I have also seen alternatives that use cranberry and eucalyptus, as well.
Avoid plastic ornaments if possible. I find the need for ornaments to be a great excuse to support artists and makers. I love a hand felted or glass blown ornament. Try searching for these either on etsy or at a local holiday market.
If you need a large amount of ornaments on a low budget, you could always try thrift stores. I also love making my own ornaments! They can be made out of anything: dried fruit, clay, felt, etc! It is a fun activity to do with the whole family.
Zero waste holiday decorations are easier than it seems at first. Consider trying out a new sustainable decoration idea this season!
Planet Conscious Holiday Meals & Traditions
Christmastime is a time of gathering with your loved ones and eating a lot of delicious meals. Consider revamping your old habits to include some more zero waste forward thinking this year. Are you hosting a meal? Here are some ideas for cooking more sustainably:
When gathering ingredients, try to shop local. Either a farmers market or a co-op that sells local produce is your best bet for purchasing fruits and vegetables. Also, try to shop plastic-free by bringing your own reusable produce bags and shopping bags. It is so easy!
Food waste is a huge problem. Try really hard not to overcook and make just what you need. If there are leftovers, no worries, just try to eat them all up and send your guests home with their own doggie bag. Just do not let anything go to waste!
Instead of buying prepackaged cookie dough, maybe attempt making them from scratch! Or instead of buying a gingerbread house kit, make that yourself, too. You never know, you could be initiating a new holiday tradition!
When sitting around after meals with friends and family, share your sustainable ideas with them. They could catch on with others! Share the gift of sustainability with others this holiday. Remember, no how small the swap is, you are still making a huge difference!
Your Zero Waste Christmas
That was a lot of information, so I am going to boil down my tips to a few closing points:
Consider gifting experiences rather than physical objects. If you do gift physical things, try to make sure they are ethically produced and made from sustainable materials. Reconsider your gift wrapping options to include repurposed paper or reusable fabric.
When decorating, try to avoid plastic. Either use organic materials or handmade decorations. Also, reimagine your current traditions to be more zero waste focused.
Have fun! The holidays are about relaxing and spending time with the ones you love. Do not put too much pressure on yourself. If you are stressed, you are doing it wrong.
Nothing is ever going to be perfect. All we can do is try. Even if you only attempt one thing in this entire guide, that is awesome! Every holiday season, make it your goal to work towards being more sustainable.
Small changes in our habits is what generates real change.
Happy Holidays from the EcoRoots team to you!