Zero-Waste Holiday Guide

The holidays for many of us are a time of gift giving, family reunions, and celebration. This time of year can be very stressful, as the pressures of buying gifts for many people and the perceived lack of time on top of our other responsibilities and obligations can be overwhelming.

Christmas in our home a couple years ago. We decided not to get a christmas tree this year due to being zero-waste. 

Christmas in our home a couple years ago. We decided not to get a christmas tree this year due to being zero-waste. 

My mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year...making a christmas list was never a part of my family tradition, but I usually could think of at least one thing that I wanted. Now that I live a zero-waste life and live simplistically, my desire for material objects has greatly diminished and instead of buying new things to give, and receiving new things, I want to cultivate new traditions that give experiences, create memories , and are trash free!

My favorite gift idea:

Giving a goat, a cow, a llama, or chickens to a family in need in the name of one of your family members is a wonderful gift! These animals provide sources of food and income to families who are suffering from lack of their basic human needs.

Giving the gift of an experience. For example:  Make memories, instead of making trash.

Tickets to the movies

Tickets to the theatre or a concert

A meal at a restaurant

A museum pass

A Monterrey Bay aquarium pass!

A state parks pass.

A wine or beer tasting certificate.

Ticket to attend a class (dance, yoga, pottery, drawing, etc..)

Go on a hike, a walk, a stroll along the beach if you live near the ocean.

Go out for ice cream or a glass of wine.

Treat your friend to a morning stroll and coffee!

Give the gift of relaxation: a massage, or an hour at a tea house to soak in a tub and enjoy the sauna.

Volunteer with a friend or your family. A couple Christmases ago, a good friend and I served lunch at our local homeless shelter. It was a really fun way to connect with some of the folks I usually wouldn't talk to, and it felt good to give my time to serve others.

Give gifts that do not add new trash to the waste cycle. For example: Choose quality over quantity!

A plant (cut flowers are a huge waste of resources to grow and only last a couple days)

Chocolate. Last year I made candied chocolate cremes. They were delicious!

Make something! If you knit, potholders, dish scrubbers, hats, and scarfs make great gifts.

Bake something! Fudge, cookies, candies, that you can gift in a jar are also perfect.

Support your local artisans. If crafting and baking are not your style, then buy locally made gifts. If you live here in santa cruz, check out my talented friends! and

Shop second hand for gifts, or re-gift something you have that you know someone else will treasure. I think this is perfectly ok to do, as adding new things to the waste cycle is a risky business.

A bottle of fine olive oil or balsamic vinegar.

A bottle of wine, or a beer local to you.

Make your own body care products! Bath salts and body scrubs make great gifts!

Make your own soap or candles!

Offer your time to someone: babysitting, yard work, moving, etc...

Zero-Waste Gift Wrapping

Continue to boycott the excessive production of plastic and paper goods by not supporting it!

Instead of wrapping paper, use newspaper. My mom has cute little stamps that she uses for decorating cards and tissue paper. If you have a christmas stamp, dip it in beet juice and decorate your newspaper in holiday style. You can also wrap gifts in cloth.

Instead of plastic tape, use tape made form cellulose.

Mason jars, or rescued cardboard boxes from the recycling make great gift containers.

Zero-Waste Decorating

Thinly slice apples (so you can see the star) and oranges, and let them dry. You can then string them up with hemp twine, yarn, or biodegradable floss and hang them on your tree, or around the house. And bonus, this decoration is compostable!

If you have a habit of buying new ornaments every year, a green alternative is to buy ornaments second hand, or to make your own from straw, wood, or hand-made gingerbread cookies.

Instead of hanging plastic tinsel on the tree, string cranberries and popcorn together to decorate. I did this with my family growing up.

Go on a walk and collect fallen pine branches and pinecones to make a holiday wreath. 

To create a lovely holiday scent as well as decoration in your home, stick cloves into a clementine orange.

You can up-cycle any scratch paper you might have to make snowflakes and holiday origami.

It's wonderful to simplify our lives, as well as our traditions by reducing our waste. When we have fewer material objects, we take better care of them. The thought of, “if it breaks, i'll just get a new one,” seems to get further away as I continue to simplify my life.

Happy Holidays!

What are your ideas of reducing waste during this time of year?