It’s the most wonderful time of the year . .

Unfortunately, it is also the most wasteful.

Mama, I know you’re overloaded with Christmas lists, cookies, concerts, santa sittings, and all the rest of the festive holiday mish-mash that comes about this time of year,… but let me bend your ear for a moment.

We owe it to our kids to think a little outside the box to reduce our waste this year. I mean, were you aware of the additional 1 million tons per week of waste that occurs between Thanksgiving and New Years?

It doesn’t have to feel impossible to fit in either. Just a few simple adjustments to your wrapping technique or the gifts you buy can really, truly make a difference in those landfill piles. And you can still keep all the family members from Grandma Rose all the way down to baby Susie happy . . well, at least as happy as they were last year.

Here are some of the best ways to hold true to the zero waste lifestyle this holiday season. Pick out at least a few of them that you find easiest to fit into your holiday routine. Then you can sit back, relax and feel good about your low waste legacy of holiday season 2019.

And then it’ll be time to comfort the kids as they woefully dump out a plethora of bamboo straws and toothbrushes from their stockings. I’m only kidding

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The Holiday Dinner

  1. Try to walk away from all of those adorable store bought decorations for your buffet table, and instead opt for natural decor such as seasonal potted plants, gourds, pumpkins and beeswax candles. Did you know you can preserve leaves as decor using beeswax?
  2. Buy local as much as you possibly can. Those local family farms are often selling fresh turkeys this time of year; doesn’t get much better than that. Sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash and apples are some of the produce items that you can often still find at farmer’s markets into November, depending upon where you live.
  3. Avoid the temptation to resort to disposable aluminum oven trays. Besides being wasteful, the toxins from heating aluminum can transfer to your food. If you don’t have large enough containers on hand, you can always borrow or hit the thrift store.
  4. The same goes for plates, cups and utensils when it comes time to serve. Just make sure your dishwasher is empty and ready to go. If you really feel the need to resort to disposable, at least make sure they are compostable.
  5. Leftovers are great, but not when they end up in the garbage because people are “over them.” Use this guide to better plan for the number of guests you are anticipating.
  6. If you do find yourself with more leftovers than you can stomach or even giveaway, try freezing the freezable dishes for a future date when you may be craving them again.
  7. There are also tons of ideas on pinterest and cooking sites like Allrecipes.com for repurposing those traditional dishes. Here are some great leftover recipes to try.
  8. For storing the leftovers, always opt for glass or stainless steel containers. Those disposable plastic storage containers that are so convenient are also very wasteful and unhealthy.
  9. Don’t forget about that compost bin out in the backyard all buried in the snow. It’s the perfect time to make use of it with that mass quantity of veggie scraps and used coffee grinds from your guests. If you don’t have one, try to find someone who does.
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Decorating

  1. Personally, I would try to avoid the retail stores this time of year, for many reasons. One of them being that there is a mass quantity of adorable holiday waste just waiting for you to succumb to. A better option for bringing the holiday spirit into your home is to hit up the thrift stores. There you will find plenty of lovely red & green knick knacks just waiting to be rescued from their future in the landfill.
  2. You can also go natural with items like pinecones, evergreens and potted poinsettias.
  3. Christmas trees get pretty personal as families become attached to their traditions. There is a big debate about whether it is more sustainable to have a real tree or not. The most zero waste option is of course to compost your tree. Yes, you definitely can.
  4. Or, maybe you already have an artificial tree in your decorating stash, like we do. In that case, go ahead and use it.
  5. If you’re feeling really adventurous, check out this eco friendly homemade tree alternative.
  6. When shopping for strands of lights, always opt for either the LED or solar versions and then recycle them when they’re no longer functioning.
  7. You can often find some awesome secondhand decorations at thrift stores, from relatives, or through online giveaway resources like Freecycle and The Buy Nothing Project. It seems as if almost everyone gets carried away with buying holiday supplies at some point.

Cards

  1. Sending out holiday cards is a longstanding tradition that many moms, including myself, may have a hard time parting with. As an environmentalist, though, I can’t help but think about all the trees that are cut down and chemicals dyes processed in the making of these cards. Times have changed, so I think it’s important to consider yourr holiday card list carefully. For example, you might consider only sending out cards to people you rarely have the opportunity to speak with, or those who aren’t actively online.
  2. If you do decide to include cards as part of your holiday season, try to find some that are made on recycled paper using only natural dyes. Keep it simple by avoiding extra embellishments or other materials.
  3. Try a holiday postcard as a substitute in order to save paper. You can even use the front sides of old cards that haven’t been written on!
  4. Skip the stamps with their plastic backings and have your cards ink stamped at the post office instead.
  5. Recycle the cards you receive, or reuse them for kids’ crafts and gift tags.
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Baking

  1. When tackling those holiday baking projects, remember to buy your ingredients in bulk and reuse items that you have on hand for decorating/packaging whenever possible.

Gifts

  1. Here is a list of great gifts for friends and family members you know to be interested in living a zero waste lifestyle.
  2. Experience gifts are always the best option for zero waste gifting. These gifts can range anywhere in cost from a spendy vacation to a homemade coupon book with activities that won’t cost you a dime! Do some brainstorming to come up with lists of your friend and family members’ interests. Think about classes they might like to take or memberships they might like.
  3. If you’re crafty, you might make your own gifts out of low waste materials. Can you sew, paint or bake? You could also find diy recipes for personal products like lip balm, soaps, bath bombs or candles. Try these beeswax wraps for kitchen storage.
  4. Don’t shy away from secondhand gifts, or even regifting. There’s nothing better than giving an unused gift new life with an owner that will truly value it. Thredup.com is a fabulous website for finding gently used namebrand clothing, that arrives packaged as if from a boutique.
  5. Most importantly, try not to purchase a gift solely for the purpose of gifting, with no regard to whether or not the recipient will truly value it. There is nothing more wasteful than a purchase that risks never being used.

Wrapping

  1. We’ve all watched a small child rip off the wrapping of a gift they’ve received in a matter of seconds. Now imagine that this waste can fill up thousands of football fields in a year’s time. Because statistics show that it can. That’s why I try to save every fancy little box, gift bag, scrap of tissue paper, and cookie tin that comes along throughout the year.
  2. One option, that will provide a uniquely wrapped gift and also keep the kids from becoming bored, is to purchase one of these huge rolls of plain brown eco paper. It can then be decorated in whichever way the artist chooses.
  3. There is also plenty of 100 percent recycled wrapping paper available now at places like Target. You can even use this version that is also compostable!
  4. Once the gifts have all been opened, you can reuse the wrapping paper as packaging materials.

So, there you go! More than 30 ways to celebrate while taking the environment into account. Happy holidays can be had, without “stepping on the gas” toward climate change. What other ways are you going green and making it a zero waste holiday?

Originally adapted with permission from Green Child Magazine with permission.

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