The holiday season is filled with joy, but it can also be filled with a whole lot of waste. According to the EPA, American household waste jumps 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Make this year’s a no-waste holiday, with the following top ten tips shared by members of our We Hate To Waste community. They will not only help you cut down on the waste, they’ll save you some money, and importantly, time that can be spent with loved ones — the greatest gift of all!
1. Make Room for the New Stuff
Sell your unwanted stuff via Craig’s List or event Harvard’s new Tradr app. Or simply feel good and do good by donating it to your local Goodwill or thrift shop. As Ann Stone so poignantly tells us, the items you donate could be a true gift to the people who receive them.
2. Think Global. Celebrate Local.
Instead of heading out of town this holiday season, save some money and cut down on your carbon footprint by staying close to home. Visit local landmarks, try out some new restaurants in your town, or invite friends and neighbors in for old-fashioned cheer and fellowship. While you’re at it, try to buy local too. Ask your local butcher for the turkey or ham, and get seasonal vegetables from the local farmer’s market.
3. Decorate a ‘Greener’ Tree
Approximately 33 million live Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. and another 6 million in the UK. Consider a living (potted) tree that can be planted in the backyard when the holidays are over, even asking your local nursery to rent you one. Or, simply decorate a live tree that is already in your yard or porch.
If you do opt for a cut tree, recycle it into mulch, a birdfeeder or even a soil erosion barrier with these tips from the National Christmas Tree Association.
When trimming your tree, make decorations that you or the birds can eat, like strings of cranberry and popcorn. Use LED lights to save energy (they’ll last up to 10 times longer and use 80% less energy), and of course, plug your holiday lights into a power strip so it will be easy to turn them off when not in use.
4. Give Gifts that Help Cut Down on Waste All Year Long
On-the-Go Gifts that Cut Down on Single Use Disposables
Give everyone on your list a set of People Towels, handy personal towels that can save an estimated 3000 paper towels per year. You can even order our very own branded WeHateToWaste designs, (pictured left) straight from the People Towel ladies in Monterey, California.
Stuff the stockings with Erin’s favorite Starbucks Reusable Coffee Mug with Detachable Handle, stainless steel lunch boxes, ChicoBags, and KleenKanteen water bottles.
Gifts that Cut Down on Food Waste
Not everyone has an urban terrace like Marja to compost the scraps on. To compost indoors, repurpose a yogurt container, or check out Maggie’s favorite, the Sure-Close kitchen container. Help family and friends use up all of their leftovers by giving a copy of Suzy Bowler’s The Leftovers Handbook. With 34 recipes for using leftover bacon, who can resist?
Give No-Waste Experiences
Sometimes the greatest gift doesn’t come in a box. It’s a yearlong membership to a museum or gym, theater tickets, movie passes, dinner at a local restaurant, massage — even an e-book. Classes count too! Give the gift of a class on cooking, rock climbing, spinning or crafts. Help friends and family discover the wealth of classes now available online at sites like Udemy.com and Lynda.com.
5. Upcycle a Gift
As Kate Gloede reminds us, ordinary materials and objects can be creatively repurposed into a litany of extraordinary gifts. The list of possibilities is endless: upcycled spoon rings, coasters made out of CDs, and old records and cassettes transformed into end tables, chairs, placemats, lamps, clock faces, disco balls and more. Got one of those shorter iPhone cases still hanging around? Consider turning it into ornaments for the tree and other household items.
6. Shop in Your Attic for Zero-Waste Gifts
Change the way you think of a ‘new’ gift from an item you buy to something that can be simply new to you or a loved one. Give a gift of history this year. Pass on a piece of jewelry, like the one Fredrica adores, or a family heirloom that will be cherished by someone else. Search through your attic to find vintage treasures such as beaded sweaters and antique furniture. As Jacquie has told us year, good vintage finds are likely to last for a long long time.
7. Change What You Think of as a Gift
The Center for the New American Dream suggests we think outside the gift box and consider giving and getting alternative gifts. To help your friends and loved ones discover the kind of things that are most meaningful to you, consider hosting an Alternative Gift Fair in your town, and display your wishes on an alternative gift registry using a resource such as SoKindGiftRegistry.org. Consider the possibilities: who couldn’t use gifts of time, a little help mending clothes, charitable donations, some pretty potted flowers and more these days?
8. Use No-Waste Gift Packaging
Alternative gift-wrappings let you express your personal creativity while cutting down on waste. Try cloth wrappings inspired by the Japanese Furoshiki tradition— a beautiful and sustainable alternative to wrapping paper.
Have fun using recycled newspaper, matching the newspaper articles and pictures to the recipient’s interests like Kate suggests in the comment on this post from Mike Graham.
Patronize retailers that make it easy to cut down on packaging. Lush Cosmetics sells many colorful ‘naked products,’ keeps packaging down to a minimum, and will wrap gifts in their distinctive ‘knot’ wraps.
9. Throw a No-Waste Holiday Party
Turn up the cheer and cut down on the waste out of holiday parties by planning your meal before you shop, Use dinnerware and place cards that will compost along with the food scraps in your own backyard like that from our friends at Verterra; have guests bring dishes potluck style and send them home with leftovers.
10. Throw a Re-Gift Party After the Holidays
Once the holiday craze slows down, invite your friends over for a re-gift party — to make sure some of the gifts you and your guests receive will end up in appreciative hands. Who knows, you might find something really useful yourself. Check out this post describing our very own regift party for ideas.
What ideas do you have for going zero waste this holiday season? Share them below. Happy No-Waste Holidays to All!
This post originally submitted by Kate Good in 2013. It has been lovingly updated by the WeHateToWaste crew with some of our favorite new ideas submitted during 2015.