A zero waste Christmas. Is that really possible?
I mean Christmas is ALL about excess isn’t it?
Huge piles of Christmas gifts around a towering Christmas tree. Bulging Christmas stockings. Glittering Christmas gift wrap waiting to be torn off. And a Christmas party table laden down with food and crackers.
How on earth can we go zero waste at Christmas without being a complete Scrooge and losing the very spirit of the season?
We can, I promise you BECAUSE the truth is, we’re all exhausted by the excess aren’t we?
We whizz around Christmas shopping, wrapping presents and decorating so fast we don’t have the energy to truly enjoy the time. The piles of Christmas gifts quickly become the curse that is clutter. And half the Christmas food we’ve slaved over goes in the bin!!!
It easily becomes anything but joyful.
So, a simpler Christmas, with a lot, lot less waste – if not totally zero waste – will actually help us reclaim the true joy of Christmas.
Zero Waste Christmas Secrets
But, but, but … I’m sure you’re yelling … how practically, can we have a simpler, zero waste Christmas, without it feeling, well, “scroogish”.
Well the big secret I discovered on our zero waste journey, is that it is NOT just about buying less – although, less helps loads – it’s about doing Christmas, and especially Christmas shopping, differently.
Because, it turns out, there are loads of Christmas gifts that actually help to cut waste AND pollution AND build sustainable communities. So our zero waste gifts spread Christmas goodwill even further.
And these super practical zero waste Christmas tips will help you do just that …
Zero Waste Christmas Tips
1. Amazing Experiences
Many, if not most, of us are drowning in clutter.
So the last thing we want for Christmas gifts are more things we’ve no time nor space to enjoy.
So gift awesome – clutter free – experiences instead. Tickets for a show or sports match are big winners. As are travel vouchers. We used ours for an unforgettable train trip to Paris.
You could also gift – or ask for – something indulgent : an expensive hair cut, a massage, a manicure or a makeover.
Or a chance to learn something new. Gift a class on a favourite hobby or that illusive skill someone’s always dreamed of mastering.
And the wonderful thing about all of these experiences, is they NOT only cut waste but slash factory and air mile pollution AND support skilled jobs in our local communities.
Wow! That’s some serious Christmas goodwill.
And the great news is, even when we DO buy actual stuff, there are loads of clever ways to make those zero waste gifts as well.
And first up is gorgeous vintage stuff.
2. Gorgeous Vintage
You can give real style this Christmas with a gorgeous vintage dress or handbag or shoes.
Or vintage furniture. Or jewellery. Or a watch.
The other Christmas, I was given a red vintage Burberry mac and just love that feeling of classic style every time I wear it.
And buying vintage – whether from eBay or Oxfam or a lovely local junk shop – stops one thing going to waste AND cuts out production and shipping pollution of new stuff.
We can enjoy the same zero waste benefits by buying kids brilliant pre-loved toys.
3. Brilliant Pre-Loved Toys
A great bike or scooter or a play kitchen or climbing frame are worth their weight in gold.
They will get played with over and over, but they don’t come cheap new do they?
So buy the best quality you can pre-loved. Young kids won’t even notice they’re second hand. And you can sell good stuff on in the future AND actually make a profit.
We bought this play kitchen second hand on eBay as a gift and after loads of use sold it onto another local family. Zero waste & quids in!
Passing on pre-loved toys within a community is lovely way to enjoy a zero waste Christmas. So do ask around in local Facebook groups and the like for toys on kids Christmas lists before even thinking of buying new.
But if we do buy new, we can still help to slash waste by buying recycled gifts.
4. Ingeniously Recycled Gifts
There are more and more brilliant recycled gifts out there ingeniously making use of our plastic and other waste. Take your pick from …
- Toy trucks made from plastic milk bottles
- Recycled silver and brass jewellery
- Belts & bags from reclaimed fire hoses
- Lovely cosy recycled blankets
- Recycled glasses and tumblers
- To recycled outdoor wear from brands like Patagonia and Finisterre
They may not be the very cheapest BUT if we’re all buying less clutter, we have more money to spend on what we do buy.
And in fact there are a growing range of great value zero waste Christmas gifts out there, including stocking fillers.
5. Zero Waste Stocking Fillers
Fewer stocking fillers are a good thing. They TOO easily become crazy never used clutter.
BUT stocking fillers are a clever way to gift super handy little zero waste products that will cut clutter and waste all year round.
Here are a few to get started :
- Stainless steel water bottle
- Keep me coffee cup
- Bamboo toothbrush
- Soap & shampoo bars to cut out all those single use plastic bottles in the bathroom
- … and a handy little soap tin
- A plastic free lunch box
And then we can also help build a “recycled” economy by hunting out those little products that are actually made FROM waste.
There’s everything from …
- Cute kids storage from recycled bottles
- chalkboards from recycled paper
- and coloured pencils from newspaper
- to recycled & recyclable lip liner!!!
OK, so there loads of ways to buy zero waste Christmas gifts for the whole family that spread Christmas joy and goodwill far further.
But there are also a bunch of other ways to enjoy a zero waste Christmas including zero waste gift wrap and decorations.
AND three more super clever zero waste Christmas tips I’ll come to in a moment. But first zero waste Christmas gift wrap.
6. Use & Use Again Gift Wrap
There’s much more recycled and glitter free recyclable Christmas gift wrap available these days, which seems like a good thing.
BUT it is still single use, and we waste energy – and cause pollution – every time we recycle it.
So its even better to reuse zero waste wrapping over and over and over again. You can
- Make your own gift bags with fabric ends
- Or if you’re really not a sewer you can buy gift bag sets in all sizes
- Or if you’re fantastic at wrapping just wrap in fabric squares and tie with ribbon
- Or buy adorable ready cut reusable Christmas gift wrap
7. Natural Zero Waste Christmas Decorations
Christmas is a wonderful celebration of light in the depth of a bleak mid winter. And glistening Christmas decorations are part of that.
But obsessively, over decorating our homes with yet more new colour coordinated ornaments when we already have an attic full of unused Christmas glitter, really isn’t the secret to enjoying the spirit of Christmas!!
Taking the time out, with our families, from the hustle and bustle of our crazy busy lives to make a few natural Christmas decorations from pine cones and the like is much more joyful.
AND it’s zero waste!!!
For simple inspiration try these natural zero waste Christmas decorations ..
Right, we’ve got zero waste Christmas gifts, zero waste stocking fillers, zero waste Christmas gift wrap and zero waste Christmas decorations.
Now we need to talk about food waste.
8. A Leftovers Plan
We all chuck away obscene amounts of Christmas food every year don’t we?
It’s crazy. And expensive.
Less food on our table is an obvious answer. But the best zero waste trick is a leftovers plan.
When you concoct your Christmas food shopping list, write down exactly how you will deal with all your leftovers, e.g.:
- Freeze – make sure you leave room
- Rehash – into a different recipe
- Donate – to which food bank by when
Be really specific about how to deal with each item and stick your plan somewhere visible, so its super easy to keep to.
And even better, make it a family affair and assign everyone jobs on it.
Looking after all those leftovers isn’t the most fun bit of a zero waste Christmas but my next trick, beautiful Christmas berries, can be.
9. Beautiful Berries
Some everyday zero waste lifestyle swaps are to be honest much easier than others.
Buying berries plastic free can be hard.
We’re lucky to have a local old school greengrocer who sells most fruit and veg zero waste, but the berries come in plastic.
However, blueberries, raspberries and the like are it turns out super easy to grow in pots even in a tiny garden or on balcony.
I am a pretty rubbish gardener but we still manage a bumper crop of zero waste raspberries every summer …
So gift the family a berry bush or two for Christmas and they’ll have scrumptious zero waste berries to devour come summer.
And the subject of planting things brings us onto the BIGGEST zero waste question at Christmas: are Christmas trees zero waste?
10. Zero Waste Christmas Trees
Christmas trees are natural, so surely they must be eco friendly, and better than artificial, right?
Hmmm. It’s a bit tricky.
Obviously they can be recycled and composted and go back into the land. A good thing. And zero waste. And they absorb CO2.
But grown as a mono crop with a whole load of pesticide they trash the soil, a bad thing. And much more of a bad thing than we knew.
Unfortunately, it can be very hard to find sustainably grown Christmas trees and most of us don’t have room to grow our own.
So this year, start a new family tradition to give a gift back to the planet, by planting a sapling for every member of the family.
In time that gift will grow into new forest land and protect our planet from our waste.
What could be lovelier?
And more true to the real joy of Christmas.
I hope you and your family have wonderfully joyful Christmas. And for more help on your zero waste journey next year read these:
- Zero Waste Made Simple
- 30 Frugal Zero Waste Products
- 101 Things You Need To Stop Buying To Go Zero Waste
Original cover image source : Marco Verch