Alrighty folks, ‘tis the season!  Yes, that’s right; Bublé is ringing in your ears and lights are up all over town – it must be the holidays.

While the holiday season is a joyous time of year, we all know that it can also bring on less-than-eco-friendly consumption and waste.  In fact, Americans toss 25% more trash during the holiday season than any other time of year. So here is our guide to making this year’s holiday celebrations a little greener, with our list of 10 ways to be environmentally conscious this holiday season.

  1. If buying presents for people this year, there are a few ways to make your purchases as low-waste as possible.  Before you buy a gift, consider it’s qualities: can you find it made ethically, sustainably or from eco-friendly materials?  Is it durable and will it last them for a long time? Can you select minimal or low-waste packaging? Can you stick to buying practical items that the person really needs and will definitely use? Try to prioritize these factors over stuff given just for the sake of gifting.  If you’re still not sure what to get: gift cards for a local business or restaurant are a great idea: they support your community during these challenging times and the receiver can choose exactly what they want or need – no wasted items!
  2. Perhaps you’re looking for alternatives to material gifts entirely.  Consider gifting an experience or act. Making a lovely baked treat to drop off to a friend is incredibly touching without embodying a lot of wasted resources. In these times of social distancing, maybe an online class (cooking, art, zumba!) is the way to go.  A Minnesota State Parks gift card is the perfect excuse to get out of the house and plan some outdoor adventures.  Whatever you choose, there are plenty of options to gift a fun experience these holidays.  
  3. Decorating the tree or your house?  Try some cute, nature based decorations for your tree this year!  (Bonus if you have kids at home, you can make them together).  Cinnamon sticks tied with ribbon, dried orange rounds, painted pinecones, strings of cranberries…so many crafting ideas, so little time.  The best part is that you can decorate your entire tree for minimal cost and you’ll be able to keep or compost the majority of it at the end. Need some guidance? Check out this YouTube video on how to make a dried orange slice garland and ornaments.
Dried Orange decoration

4. Digital subscriptions are a great zero waste option. My dad once gave me a year’s subscription to my favorite online magazine and it was perfect: I never would have thought to buy it for myself but I could look forward to the new edition every month. Looking for a digital suggestion for that book reader in your life? The Feminist Book Club is a monthly virtual book club that supports BIPOC writers and makers and is a great gift. 

5. More recently in my family, my parents and I have mutually agreed that we don’t need any more presents at Christmas, so instead we make a charitable donation in each person’s name to an organization that means a lot to them.  Dedicating the time to picking the not-for-profit each year and thinking of the positive impact is a lovely lead up to Christmas, and they get a feel-good notification of the donation on Christmas day.

6. Don’t waste any of that Christmas deliciousness!  Food waste is a big problem year round, with American households throwing out an average of 27 million tons of food – but it gets especially bad around the holidays.  It’s understandable: cooking and eating is a big part of Christmas, and nobody wants to run out on the day so we tend to overstock and then waste perishable food.  Good planning and being realistic about how much food you’ll REALLY need is essential to counteract this. (Don’t get sucked into buying extra at the supermarket just because there’s a shiny special on something you don’t even eat anyway).  Once you figure out how you’ll be celebrating Christmas this year, consider how you might use up leftovers the day after so that nothing goes to waste. Pinterest is a great place to look for recipes on how to use leftover food. And for the food scraps, remember to compost them. Even if you live in an apartment like me and don’t have direct access to a compost bin, you can still utilize city compost drop off sites to make sure that your scraps don’t go to landfill!

7. Skip buying wrapping paper this year.  Beautiful wrapping is both lovely to create and receive, but did you know that Americans spent over $8 BILLION on wrapping paper last year? What a whopping waste of money on a product literally designed to be ripped into and then instantly discarded.   You also can’t recycle gift wrap with glitter, foil or velvet, so this goes straight to landfill. Instead, save waste and your pennies and think of what you have that you could reuse with a few creative twists to make it look festive: old wrapping paper, brown paper bags, kitchen twine with a pop of red ribbon and a sprig of evergreen.  (I’ve been doing this since I was a kid and I haven’t bought any new wrapping paper for years).   If stashing paper away all year isn’t your jam, how about reusable cloth gift bags?  We have holiday patterned gift bag sets at Tare Market that can be used year after year and come in a variety pack of different sizes – or try plain cotton produce bags tied with ribbon and a pinecone.

Gift bag sets

8. Haven’t organized Christmas cards yet? Save on paper and postage altogether and go digital!  This is the ultimate zero-waste alternative, and you don’t have to stress about buying stamps or getting them into the mail on time.  Paperless Post makes beautiful digital cards. If you do still want paper greeting cards, try to find options printed on recycled paper, with FSC certification or from companies that plant trees for each order (Paper Culture is one option).  Did you know that glitter and foil embellishments on cards are not recyclable?  Try to avoid these!

9. Once the holiday is over, be mindful of getting rid of packaging.  Your living room may look like a mini tornado went through and left paper, bags, and boxes around the place: but try to make sure when cleaning up that everything ends up in the right trash or recycling can.  The same goes for your Christmas tree!  If you have a real tree it can be disposed of as yard waste so that it can be turned into mulch, check details here.  

10. Ditch single-use from your gathering. While it’s tempting at large family gatherings to speed-up the cleaning process by being able to toss everything away at the end of the day, it’s the perfect chance to use real dinnerware rather than single-use cutlery and plates.  Besides, who feels fancy eating Christmas ham with a plastic fork? Get the good china out!

That’s all for now folks, have a merry holiday season!

For extra festive cheer, check out these links:

For some DIY, try A Little Rose Dust’s zero waste Christmas Decorations

For more present ideas, head to Zero Waste Nerd’s list of 101 zero waste gifts 

For some baking inspiration, check out Sally’s Baking Addiction for Christmas-themed sweet treats you could give as gifts.

Written by Pippa M., Tare Market Staff Member and wonderful person. 


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