Zero Waste Christmas Ideas

I’m sad that we’re not going to see some family members this Christmas. But I have to admit, I’m a little excited at being able to break some bad habits. Some parts of our family exchange a lot of gifts, and so much of it gets tossed before January 1.

I haven’t been actively trying to have a Zero Waste Christmas, but I have been trying to spend less and have less trash each year as we go on.

A cup of coffee at Christmas time, with friends!

One point of pride that I do have is that I have not purchased wrapping paper in at least 10 years! I’ve just been reusing gift bags that we’ve been given or putting a bow directly on the gift.

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I cringe when I think back to some years when we had so much trash at Christmas time, it didn’t fit in our garbage can.

But, before you click out of here because you’re thinking “zero waste=zero fun” please stay tuned.

We have to save the planet for our kids. We are quickly approaching the point of no return.

Notoriously Christmas is one of the worst times of year for garbage. In fact, an extra 30% of garbage is sent to landfills every year during the Christmas holiday season.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, Christmas is a great time to reduce your waste and have a zero-waste Christmas.

And when you go with a zero-waste mentality, you’d be surprised at how much money you save. You might even be able to do zero waste and zero spending!

Zero Waste Christmas Gifts for Kids

Or adults! Any of these zero-waste Christmas gift ideas will work for all ages.

Give a Second-Hand Gift-By giving a gift that is secondhand you are extending the life of that item and reducing its carbon footprint over time. You’re also helping remove one more item that would have ended up in a landfill. There are a number of places you can shop for second-hand gifts including Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and Thrift Stores.

Give an Experience-Rather than giving a physical gift give the gift on an experience instead. Not only are you giving the gift of the experience chances are pretty good that you will be included in that experience so you’re giving the gift of your time as well.

Reusable Wrapping Paper-If you are going to give a physical gift, or you want to wrap up the ticket for the experience you’re giving then try to use reusable wrapping paper, aka cloth. You can find this in zero-waste stores but in reality, you can just as easily head to Walmart or your local craft store and buy a bunch of fabric. Also, use a cloth ribbon or string to tie the reusable wrapping paper closed.

Shop FreeCycle and Zero Waste Facebook Groups for Gifts-As soon as you know that money is going to be tight start keeping an eye out on FreeCycle groups and Zero Waste Facebook groups in your area. These are filled with people giving things away that you might be able to give as a gift.

Feel Free to Skip Some Christmas Traditions-When it comes down to it there are a lot of Christmas traditions that aren’t difficult to skip like the idea of having a “big gift” or stockings. Even traditions of giving gifts to family members outside the home can be put aside for a year. Have family discussions on what is most memorable for everyone, and focus on those activities.

Zero Waste Christmas Tree

You know what? Step out of your comfort zone and ask! I know that as my Dad got older, he was constantly unloading decorations and all kinds of stuff on me. Ask older relatives, and neighbors….lots of people don’t decorate as much as they used to.

If you want an artificial tree, ask around or shop secondhand.

If you want a real Christmas tree, look for a Christmas tree farm that ethically and responsibly grows them. And, here’s a tip. Goats love to eat many Christmas trees! Make sure you haven’t sprayed it with any chemicals, and advertise it for free pickup on social media.

I get rid of my pumpkins and my Christmas trees this way, every year.

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations

Decorate with Nature-When it comes to decorations some of the very best come from outside in nature. Decorate with pinecones and branches from the outdoors. You can also decorate with fruit, popcorn, dried flowers, and cinnamon sticks. Then when it starts to decay, or the Christmas season is over these decorations can go into the compost and you can find more next year.

Buy Second-Hand Decorations-Another option you have available to you is buying decorations second-hand. Before and after Christmas there are always people selling decorations they no longer want or need on the Facebook marketplace. But you can also find some amazing older decorations on websites like eBay.

Avoid Plastic Decorations-Whenever possible though, avoid buying plastic decorations. These are more likely to be damaged and thrown away. Their paint will chip easily and they are cheaply made. They aren’t built to last like other decorations are.

DIY Decorations-If you don’t have any decorations for Christmas this is a great holiday for DIYing. If you live in an area with pine trees you’ve practically got everything you need right there. Bring in some pinecones and other elements of nature. If you have some plain-looking candles sitting around you can spruce them up with some fresh pine needles. Look around your neighborhood and the local park to see what you can use to decorate. You can also find people giving away Christmas decorations on places like the Facebook marketplace.

Use Cloth Napkins and Placemats-Instead of disposable ones.

Zero Waste Christmas Dinner

Buy Meat from Local Butcher-Buy your Christmas meat from a local butcher who will allow you to bring it in your own container. Not only will you end up with higher quality, more locally sourced meat, but you’re also reducing the amount of waste you will have in terms of packaging.

Or Have a Plant-Based Meal-It might be a tough tradition to let go–that big Christmas turkey or ham. But we know that having more plant-based meals is better for the environment. If you’re not quite ready to get rid of the turkey, consider having only a turkey, and all your sides and appetizers will be plant-based.

Cook From Scratch-One of the many ways that plastic gets us is when we try to take shortcuts. Breadcrumbs for stuffing have to come in a plastic bag to keep out moisture for instance. But, if you made the breadcrumbs yourself using bread that came straight from a bakery or wrapped in paper then you have removed that plastic and removed that waste. Cooking from scratch like that allows for a lot of opportunities to avoid garbage.

Think of all the packaging that you throw away that your food comes in.

  • Make whipped cream with heavy cream in a carton and your mixer, rather than a disposable can (and it tastes better too!).
  • Buy your veggies raw (carrots, potatoes, brussel sprouts) in reusable bags at a produce market or stand, instead of frozen. Frozen often comes in a plastic bag inside of a box.
  • Homemade baked goods that you bake in your tins and pans, rather than disposable.

Buy Plastic Free Packages-When you do have to buy something that comes in a package, opt for plastic-free options like glass jars which you can reuse for other things. Also, be sure to remember your plastic-free produce bags when you go shopping.

Have fun and Merry Christmas!

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