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How to Create Eco-Friendly, Low Waste Holidays

If you’re trying to live more sustainably the holiday season can be a real test.  With so much to do in so little time it can be difficult to stick to your principles.  Plus, there’s the pressure to follow tradition.  And, let’s be honest, the older the tradition the more pressure there is and the less likely it is to be eco-friendly!  So how can you create new traditions or at least twists on old ones that are more suitable to your minimalist, zero waste lifestyle?  Well, there are many options but here’s a great start to creating eco-friendly, low waste holidays!

Decorations

It seems that decorations for Christmas have gotten more and more over the top!  One of the simplest things you can do is be sure to reuse your decorations.  But to keep your Christmas as sustainable as possible try to avoid plastic décor (including glitter).

And for extra fun this holiday season, make your own.  There are so many everyday items that can be used to set the mood.  Consider natural candles, ribbon, pine sprigs and cones, and painted branches and twigs.  These all make beautiful decorations.

If you’re opposed to chopping down a tree and don’t want an artificial one (which are made from wire and PVC plastic) consider using a large house plant, rosemary bush or make one yourself.

This tree (made by one of my awesome Twitter Followers, Janet) was created using an old carpet scrap draped over her camera tripod and festooned with traditional beads and baubles (which are pinned on).  I love it!  And think it’s such a cool, creative idea!  It didn’t take her long to make and the best part is she plans to use it again next year! Such a cool way to create eco-friendly, low waste holidays!

Shopping

The earlier you start shopping the better!  Waiting until the last minute will likely leave you desperate and make it difficult to stick to your guns regarding sustainability.  Shopping early will also give you time to research the products you’re buying and the company you’re buying from.  Changing buying habits forces companies to change so spend wisely and support what you believe in.

Also, consider shopping locally.  Support small businesses in your community whose principles you agree with.  And, avoid the carbon footprint associated with extensive shipping. 

But most importantly, minimize your shopping all together!  It seems like we’ve become really wrapped up (punny) in holiday consumerism.  Don’t be swept away in it!  The holidays aren’t about spending tons of money.  They’re about spending time with our loved ones!  So, keep that in mind during this busy shopping season.

Don’t forget that you can still give gifts without all the shopping.  Some of my most cherished gifts are things that have been made for me.  And you can also minimize shopping by having a secret Santa gift exchange.  We’re starting this in my family this year and it’s been a lot of fun!  I encourage you to try it as well it’s a super enjoyable way to get everyone onboard with more eco-friendly, low waste holidays!

Gifts

Set a gift count you’re comfortable with!  You don’t have to buy 15 gifts per child or 2 gifts per sibling.  Even if your family has always done it that way you CAN make a change.  And this could be an excellent opportunity to encourage other’s in your family to consider a zero-waste lifestyle as well!

My sister-in-law always got her kids only 3 gifts a year.  This was quite unexpected by my in-laws, who were much more abundant gift givers.  She simply explained that Jesus only received 3 gifts so that was plenty for her girls.  I always thought that was the coolest idea!

Recently I also read of a family who created the tradition with their children to buy them something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. 

My point is there are some really great ideas out there about how to reel in gift giving.

And just because you’re getting a gift for someone doesn’t mean it has to be a tangible item.  Oftentimes the most cherished gifts are experiences and favors.  Consider movie theater or even zoo tickets.  And, babysitting and chore coupons are a great idea too!  Think about what the recipient could really use or really needs.  Very often in today’s busy times it isn’t something tangible it’s more time, help, and support.  Offering to take something off someone else’s “to-do” list is often the kindest and most thoughtful gift of all.  And better yet, it’s a great way to celebrate eco-friendly, low waste holidays!

Wrapping

I must tell you right now that I adore wrapping paper!  I have bought tons of it over the years and of course I will be using it all up! 

In the future though I plan to switch to cloth, brown paper and newspaper for wrapping.  Why?  Well even though I still might occasionally use paper it won’t be the glossy kind that can’t be recycled and is more damaging to make!  I already have newspaper in my house (we still subscribe to some print papers) so there’s no reason not to reuse it before recycling it.  And brown (unbleached paper) is pretty easy to come by and very versatile.

But the best option in my opinion is cloth!  You can make t-shirt bags to wrap smaller items. And, you can get used sheets and other fabric very inexpensively at resale shops which you can cut to the sizes you need.  You can even paint, stamp, or dye your fabric or t-shirt bags in festive themes!  But the best part is that you can reuse it every year!  Think of all the money you’ll save on something that gets wadded up and thrown away anyways!  No to mention the trees you’ll be saving and the environmental damage you’ll be preventing! Eco-friendly, low waste holidays are looking a lot better now right?!?!

We also keep all of the gift bags that are given to us and reuse them.  I’ve even been known to take others!  There’s no reason to toss them out after one use.  They come in handy for so many purposes.  I never buy them but I’m happy to reuse and repurpose the ones I have.

Gift Tags & Bows

I came across such a cute idea for gift décor to replace bows that I had to share it with all of you!  Here’s how it works… Mix ½ cup of applesauce with ½ cup cinnamon (you can add cloves, nutmeg, or allspice if you like, just be sure that it equals a half cup).  When mixed well it will form a dough.  Place it between 2 sheets of waxed paper and roll it out until it’s thin.  Then cut with cookie cutters and poke a hole in the top (for a ribbon, string or hanging hook later).  Set aside and allow to dry for 3 – 4 days, flipping them occasionally. 

They can later be used as decorations and will fill your home with a beautiful cozy fragrance!  You can even cut different shapes for different people so they would serve as tags as well.  Or you can simply attach a small slip of paper or cloth to them to use as a tag.

This is a simple and fun craft that the entire family can help with and it doesn’t take much time at all!

Food

Shopping throughout the year makes it much easier to avoid eating out throughout the holiday season.  Regardless of the type of restaurant you’re eating at, eating out is not sustainable.  The food and hospitality industries as a whole are rife with waste and human rights violations!  So, try to avoid patronizing these establishments (especially fast food places).

When it comes to cooking at home, plan your holiday meals carefully!  Stick to as many local, seasonal ingredients as possible and be sure to purchase the right amounts.  Many people over buy and over prepare for holiday meals.  This can result in a lot of food waste!  If you don’t want to eat leftovers all week be sure to give some to your guests to take home or share with other family and friends.  You can often make soups or stews from leftovers as well and freeze them to eat later.  Most stay good in the freezer for up to 6 months! This is a super yummy way to dig into eco-friendly, low waste holidays!

Food waste has a tremendous impact on the environment!  Even at the holidays avoiding it should be top priority!

Holiday Greetings

Sending greeting cards at the holidays is a long-standing tradition and one that gets mixed reviews.  In recent years it seems to have fallen out of favor with less and less people participating.  Some seem to love it and others to hate it.  But the truth is, regardless of how you feel about it, it’s very impactful!

If you are going to send holiday greetings, it’s best to send homemade cards or ones made from recycled paper and avoid those with glitter and high gloss.  I hate to say that because I LOVE glitter and gloss but it is a microplastic and not recyclable. 

If you receive cards for the holidays, consider repurposing them.  There are many cute crafts you can make with them that are just a Pinterest search away! 

Make the Holidays Your Own

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Keep in mind that you can and should make the holidays your own!  There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting your own traditions and forgoing those that don’t work for you!  The holidays can be just as magical and special without the mass consumerism and waste!  You can stick to your principles and enjoy the holidays!

When you choose to uphold your zero-waste lifestyle throughout the holidays not only do you start off the new year right, with a clear conscience and great habits.  But you also get the pleasure of knowing that you took the time and made the effort to pay it forward to future generations and give the planet a gift this holiday season as well!

What are your best tips for zero-waste holidays!  Please share to encourage and support others who are making the switch to more sustainable minimalist holidays!

Get your FREE Holiday Happiness Workbook today to help you identify your holiday priorities and make your perfect budget and gift list! Plus, don’t forget to catch me live every Thursday at noon EST in my Facebook group where I’ll be sharing all things holiday happiness through all of Nov & Dec!

Posted in Christmas, Sustainability, Your World

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