The Holiday season seemed to come a little earlier this year, and as much as I LOVE the Holidays it unfortunately so often becomes a time of over consumption, mass consumerism and excessive waste.
With that in mind, I decided to put together a series of easy tips for ways you can reduce waste and even save money over the Holiday season! It’s not about throwing out your old traditions, it’s just about making small changes that, when added up, can make a big impact.
I’ve been sharing these tips as part of a Low Waste Holidays series on Instagram so if you follow along on there then this will be a good reminder and if you don’t, then please enjoy and I hope you find some useful tips that you’ll put into action this year and in the years to come.
With that said, let's get into it!
Tip #1: Get Creative & Upcycle your Holiday Cards
A lot of us send & receive cards throughout the season and as lovely as that is, those cards don’t last much longer than the few moments after you open it and read the thoughtful message. You may keep them displayed on your mantle or a side table for a few weeks but then what? Unfortunately many of them cannot be recycled so they end up in the trash. But they don’t have to!
Instead of tossing those cards, turn them into new items that you can use throughout the Holidays and beyond. Here are some examples:
Turn them into Bookmarks
Make holiday Gift Tags
Make new, scrapbook style cards that you can send next year
Try your hand at some simple folding techniques to turn them into cute little tree ornaments
Tip #2: Decorate with Nature
This doesn’t mean you need to throw out all of your existing decorations, the most sustainable and low-waste thing you can do is to use what you have. But if you are looking for a refresh or to add to your collection, using nature is a great way to do it!
Here are some fun and creative ways you can incorporate nature and/or natural materials:
Add pine cones to a decorative bowl or basket as part of your centrepiece or on your coffee table
Use fresh Eucalyptus (which smells wonderful) to decorate your mantle and cut small sprigs to use as gift toppers *Bonus: the eucalyptus will naturally dry over time and you’ll be able to use it for lots of other projects like homemade candles, soaps, herbal teas and more!
Dehydrate orange slices and place them amongst your eucalyptus display, add them to your centrepiece, hang them as tree ornaments or use them as gift toppers.
Make garlands in various lengths out of natural wool felt balls or wooden beads and jute twine to decorate your tree or add texture and interest to a vase or table/mantle display
Use dried grasses & flowers, sticks and branches foraged from around your neighbourhood to make ornaments, gift toppers, or to create a beautiful arrangement
Use cinnamon sticks as ornaments, gift toppers or decoration
Tip #3: Repurpose Your Glass Candle Jars
The warm glow of candlelight is synonymous with the holiday season. There’s something so cozy and inviting about lighting a candle or two when it’s cold and snowy out and you’re snuggled up inside. And a Holiday dinner just wouldn’t be the same without tapered candles adorning the table.
But what can you do with the jar once the candle burns out? Most of the jars are recyclable as long as you clean them and remove any labels first but we all know that only about 9% of what is put into the blue bin actually gets recycled. Most of it, unfortunately ends up in our landfills.
The best way to live sustainably is first, using what you already have and second, reusing and/or repurposing as much as possible. There are so many great ways to repurpose your glass candle jars. I’ve listed several here but there are so many great options!
Use them in the bathroom to store makeup brushes, toothbrushes, hair pins, facial rounds or cotton swabs
Use them in your office to store pens, pencils, clips and other supplies
Use them for small plants or succulents **This makes a great little hostess gift!
Use them in the pantry to store spices, grains, or any of your dry bulk items **ensure you wash the jars extremely well several times with hot water and dish soap before using them for food storage
A few other things I’ve seen them used for are storing paintbrushes, nails/screws or crayons & markers. I’ve also seen people get creative and paint them with a mix of acrylic paint and baking soda to achieve a faux terracotta look. Get creative!
Tip #4: Reduce Food Waste with Proper Planning
Now that your home is decorated beautifully with the handmade, natural, #plasticfree decorations, it’s time to think about the main attraction, the food!
The turkey, the stuffing, the side dishes and desserts, it’s all SO good but it’s also so easy to go overboard and make WAY too much.
According to research, almost 2.2 million tons of edible food is wasted in Canada each year which comes at a horrifying cost for both the economy ($17 billion) and the environment (9.8 million tons of CO2)
In the US, Americans throw away about 40% of edible food on average each year with that number growing substantially over the Holiday season when 5 million more pounds of food are thrown away
There are a lot of ways we can reduce the amount of food wasted over the Holidays (and throughout the year) but it starts with the planning. Meal planning will not only reduce the amount of food that gets wasted but it will also save you money and time and likely a lot of stress since you’ll be so organized!
I’ve put together a quick list of 5 simple things to do and remember when you’re planning and shopping for your Holiday meal.
1. Create a guest list so you know how many people you’ll be serving (even if it’s just a few, this step helps in the planning process)
2. Decide on the full menu including appetizers, drinks, and any special dietary preferences or restrictions
3. Think about realistic portion sizes per person, leaving room for dessert of course
4. Create a detailed grocery list including where you’ll shop for each item and STICK TO IT! It’s so easy to get tempted when you’re out shopping. I also like to bring a little snack to avoid hunger impulse buys
5. Bring your own bags, avoid pre-made or pre-packaged foods & buy local and bulk as much as possible
Tip #5: Store Leftovers Waste-Free & Plastic-Free
As much as we plan, there will likely still be food left over after your Holiday dinner, and that’s okay! This tip is all about storing those Holiday dinner leftovers without the use of harmful, single use plastics, foils or throw-away containers.
Again, I’m not suggesting you go out and replace all of your plastic containers, but maybe just start small with one or two swaps and then when the time comes and you do need to replace them, consider opting for a non-plastic alternative.
Here are some great reusable, plastic-free options to consider for your Holiday leftovers, as well as for everyday storage and on-the-go meals!
Use food grade stainless steel containers or glass instead of plastic
Cover bowls or baking dishes with reusable fabric covers instead of plastic cling wrap
Beeswax food wrap is another great plastic wrap or foil alternative, perfect for wrapping cheese, sandwiches or also for covering bowls and baking dishes
Use reusable fabric bags like Lunchskins instead of plastic ziplocks that you’ll only use once or twice. Lunchskins are dishwasher safe, BPA, Phthalate, and lead free, quick drying and will replace 1,500 plastic baggies in their lifetime! AND...they are Coming Soon to Pōedik!
Also, make sure to have a plan for your leftovers and if you have too much to eat in the day or two that follow your dinner, make sure to freeze what you can so you can enjoy them later and they don’t go to waste.
Tip #6: Use Repurposed & Reusable Materials as Gift Wrap
According to a recent report, people in the U.S. spend $12.7 billion on gift wrap, including wrapping paper, tissue and gift bags. Which is all designed to be torn apart and thrown away in a matter of seconds. Such a waste!
Also, most wrapping paper is not recycled or recyclable which means it all ends up in landfills. While you may think that you can recycle the discarded paper and bags, much of it is actually lined with plastic and not only cannot be recycled but will actually take years to break down.
Not only will using repurposed or reusable materials as gift wrap save you money but it also gives a second life to materials heading to the garbage or blue bin and reduces the amount of non-recyclable gift wrap used!
Use a chip bag! The inside of a chip bag is a shiny silver foil that, when cleaned and used as gift wrap, can look quite beautiful! Love this tip from https://www.sustainably-chic.com
Use fabric produce bags instead of paper gift bags. The recipient will be able to use the bag over and over for many years instead of just tossing it like traditional gift bags.⠀
Use a tea towel, a scarf or some scrap fabric. We'll get into this one and the art of Furoshiki a little later
These are just 5 ideas, but I encourage you to get creative!
Tip #7: Reuse Gift Wrap, Bags and Ribbons from Holidays Past
If you’re just starting your transition to a low waste, sustainable lifestyle first of all congrats and thank you! Second of all you likely still have old wrap, bows and gift bags kicking around and it’s always best to use what you have instead of throwing it away and replacing it (that’s the opposite of sustainable living!) But, now that you’re being more mindful in what you use and how you use it, after the gifts are torn open on Christmas morning, save the remains!
Anything that’s still in tact like bows, ribbon and gift bags can be reused next year and the wrapping paper? Well that can be reused or repurposed too! Here are some ideas for ways to repurpose your used holiday gift wrap:
Shred it with scissors or a paper shredder then use it as festive, protective box filler for gifts that you’re mailing.
Make bows for future gifts with scrap tissue and gift wrap.
Make homemade greeting cards. You’ll just need some card stock paper, scissors and glue. Try to find card stock that is made from recycled paper and make sure it’s uncoated so it can be recycled again.
Get creative with mod podge and paper mache projects. This can be a great weekend activity for you and the kids!
Unapologetically use it as wrapping paper again! The creases add character and if you only have small pieces remaining, create a patchwork look with coordinating prints and colours.
Tip #8: Try Your Hand at Furoshiki
This year seems to be all about dehydrating oranges and wrapping your gifts with fabric and I am ALL about it!
Furoshiki is the Japanese practice of using cloth to wrap gifts, carry essentials or transport items. When it comes to wrapping your gifts using the Furoshiki technique, you can pretty much use any fabric you’d like. From a personally selected piece of fabric that you purchase at a textile shop, to a scarf, a piece of clothing or a tea towel. It’s really up to you!
The whole point is that the recipient of the gift will be able to use and/or reuse the wrap, creating zero waste.
Furoshiki is beautiful, functional, eco-friendly and surprisingly easy to do. Add some dried flowers for decoration and use natural twine or cotton cord if needed to keep it fully sustainable.
There are quite a few different methods to wrapping with fabric and you can find a lot of great tutorials on https://www.youtube.com or https://www.pinterest.ca
Tip #9: Give With Intention
The Holidays can be such a wonderful time of year and we all have good intentions when it comes to making them extra special but it’s easy to get carried away and get caught up in the consumerism and over consumption.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Gifting shouldn’t be about quantity (more, more, more!) or the price tag, it should be thoughtful and come from the heart. Gifts then become so much more meaningful, powerful and personal. Giving should be an act that is cherished instead of an obligation or burden (yes, even those office secret Santas)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Here are some things to consider for more meaningful gifting: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Give something handmade. Whether made by you or a local artisan, handmade gifts have an inherent thoughtful, meaningful and positive intention.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Give something with purpose. An item that will better their lives and the planet or you can make a donation to a charity that you know means a lot to them.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Give an experience. So many times these end up being the most special gifts. It’s time spent together, it’s memories made, it’s life lived!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Give a story. So many small businesses have such great and interesting stories behind them, wonderful values and an inspiring mission that when you purchase from them, it becomes part of the gift that you’re giving.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Give a gift card. Gift cards tend to have a bad rap but they can have a lot of meaning and be extremely helpful to someone that perhaps lost their job or is saving for school or maybe to buy a home. A gift card to somewhere you know they love or that can help them out in some way, can make a very thoughtful gift.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Take the time to wrap your gift with love and care, (using glitter free and reusable wrap of course!) Then add a personal message to a homemade card or gift tag for that extra special, personal touch
Tip #10: Less is More!
The final tip to ensure your Holidays are as Low Waste as possible, is about LESS and inspired by this quote:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
“The most environmentally friendly product is the one you didn’t buy” - Joshua Becker⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
When I was growing up (I’m a child of the 80’s which explains a lot) it was all about MORE! Tons of decorations and food and TONS of gifts! Everyone bought gifts for everyone.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Luckily we’ve changed our ways though and adopted new traditions that cut out all the excess and allow us to just enjoy the simple things and focus on what really matters.
Here are a couple of ways my family and I have adopted the less is more mentality when it comes to Holiday gift giving:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Secret Santa. Instead of everyone buying for everyone and gifting becoming a burden on our schedules and wallets, we draw names, we set a spending limit and just buy for one person each. We love it because it’s a surprise to see who drew your name and instead of an unwrapping FRENZY on Christmas Day, we can slow down, unwrap one gift at a time and really enjoy the moment.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
White Elephant. For the extended family, we each buy one small, unisex gift. Then we put all of the gifts into a Santa sack, draw numbers and take turns picking a gift out of the bag or “stealing” from the last person. We have a lot of fun and laughs and we all get a little something to open.
We’re not reinventing the wheel here! Versions of both of these have been around for years. But if you haven’t already, I encourage you to adopt one or both as part of your new Low Waste Holiday traditions too.
And that's a wrap! Thank you for reading along and I hope that you found these tips interesting, helpful and something you can see yourself using in your own life, whether for the Holiday season or just everyday living!
Wishing everyone a wonderful, happy, healthy, low-waste Holidays!