A Zero Waste Holiday To Do List

December 03, 2020

A Zero Waste Holiday To Do List

If you want to be more environmentally-conscious and less wasteful holiday this year but aren't quite sure where to begin, I've covered everything from festive decorations to exchanging gifts with a holiday to do list for a more sustainable Christmas.

One of the easiest ways to reduce waste during the holidays is to opt-out of any traditions you don't enjoy. I stopped sending cards years ago, not just for the holidays but for birthdays and other celebrations too. I know some people might find this impersonal yet with 1 billion Christmas cards being thrown away each year, I'd rather skip the waste.

The holiday season is one of the most wasteful. Over 21 million people will unwrap at least one unwanted gift, 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away, and 4 million Christmas dinners are wasted. Whether you choose to make a couple of these changes or all of them, every habit shift has a positive impact on reducing waste and the potential for bigger changes in the future.



Declutter

Decluttering just before the festive season begins will free up space in your home for friends and family (if you're having them over), and the gifts they'll inevitably bring. It's also an opportunity to pass on decorations you don't want, as many people are looking to update their decor with affordable lights, baubles, and even Christmas trees. Clearing out unwanted festive decorations often gets left until the last minute but doing it early means you can pass them onto someone who wants them, and can use them this year.

Go through your storage box(es) and check if all the lights are working and the ornaments are still intact. Recycle or dispose of anything that's broken, and either give away or sell what you don't want. There's a few more things I recommend decluttering during the holidays, most importantly the kitchen to reduce food waste by donating anything unwanted and in date to food banks. Check your wardrobe for any winter-appropriate clothing you can pass on to those in need, like warm coats and thick blankets.



Make Plans

There can be a lot to figure out during the holiday season and it can be overwhelming. For a less stressful, more simplified holiday, it's all about planning. Who's hosting? Are gifts being exchanged? What time is dinner? I've written a guide to planning Christmas that includes everything from discussing gifts, creating a menu, and prepping your home for the big day.

This is an opportunity to find a more intentional approach to the holiday season, where old habits can be replaced with new traditions from changing the way we gift to decorating in a more minimal way. There are lots of ways we feel obliged to celebrate the holidays, making plans (and communicating our intentions to loved ones) goes a long way in making the festivities more meaningful.



Decorate

One of the most enjoyable activities of the holiday season: decorating. The smallest touches often make the biggest difference so even if you're not one for a big tree, gaudy tinsel, and lots of bunting; you can still decorate for the season with a few festive touches. It’s all about making your home a cozy place to be in when it’s cold and dark outside.

If you're debating which Christmas tree is more sustainable: a real disposable tree or a reusable plastic one, I've answered that question in-depth for you here. If you're decorating with lights, opt for LED ones and whether it's ornaments or baubles, reuse you already have each year and buy second-hand if you need replacements. Other suggestions for minimal festive decor include a DIY wreath, foraged wall hanging, and gift wrapped presents.



Celebrate Sustainably

When it comes to celebrations, worrying about sustainability can be a real buzzkill. Nobody wants to be fretting about plastic when they could be relaxing with friends and family. You want the occasion to be fun and entertaining not feel restrictive and tyrannical. Celebrating in a more sustainable way does require a little forward-thinking if you want to balance out the frivolities.

The following suggestions with help reduce waste without compromising on the festivities. Shop low waste at local markets and bulk stores where you can buy packaging-free food and plastic-free gifts. Shopping low waste online is an option too. Focus on plant-based dishes, prepare enough food to feed guests, and have a contingency plan for what to do with leftovers to reduce food waste. Reuse decorations, repurpose packaging as gift wrap, and make your own plastic-free cracker with fillers people actually want.



Gifting

Gifting in a sustainable way doesn't have to be complicated although sometimes it feels difficult. Finding a gift with meaning that's as personal as it is useful can be tricky, especially if your family's love language is gift giving and they aren't keen on reducing what they buy (or receive) or exchanging wishlists.

There are plenty of ways to celebrate sustainably and still exchange gifts; purchasing zero waste items, gifting experiences rather than things, buying second-hand gifts (here are some thrifted gift ideas), and even opting-out of gifting altogether (just be sure to tell everyone first!) Shopping small and supporting independent businesses is really important, as is buying sustainable gifts from ethical brands. Remember to skip store-bought wrapping paper and reuse packaging as low waste plastic-free gift wrap instead.




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