5 Ways to Reduce Waste for the Holidays

diy low- and zero-waste Dec 01, 2023
A close up image of an evergreen tree branch or holiday greenery. There is text overlaid that says

The holidays are rapidly approaching, and I am always looking for more ways that I can be a little more sustainable, especially during this season. Between the gifts and giftwrapping, the decorations, and the food, so many parts of our celebrations can be tough on the planet.

This year, I thought I would put together this little list of ways to reduce waste over the holidays - since I know you, dear reader, are trying to live sustainably, too!

Here are my top tips for cutting down on what goes to landfill, without sacrificing the celebrations and traditions that are meaningful to us.

#1: Giving Consumables or Experiences

So often, we buy gifts because they are cute or fun, without really considering whether the gift will be useful or loved by the recipient. Of course, if you have someone on your list who you know is looking for something specific, then those things make a great gift! However, if you aren't sure what to get for someone, and want to make sure your gift doesn't end up as clutter or waste, consider gifting consumables or experiences as opposed to "things." 

Some examples might be... 

  • Home baked cookies or other treats
  • A nice scented candle
  • Bubble bath or Epsom salts (if you know they like baths)
  • Movie/show tickets
  • Child care

Just to name a few! Get creative and see if you can come up with something unique that the people on your list will love.


 #2. Making Gifts

So many of the gifts that you can buy in a shop come in excessive and often unnecessary packaging. If you do choose to give gifts that are not experiences or consumable, giving gifts that are handmade can help reduce packaging waste.

If you're looking for some gift ideas that you can make, you can find some low- and zero-waste options in my blog post here, and some fun handmade gift ideas in this post! Don't be afraid to get creative, though - for example, mending a loved one's treasured garment makes a lovely heartfelt and personal gift!

(By the way, if you'd like to give mending as a gift this holiday season, I have a free printable for that like the one below!)


 #3. Making Giftwrap

It's no secret that wrapping paper is a big waste problem over the holidays. While there are some recyclable options, many of the readily available options are shiny, shimmery, sparkly... and not recyclable. According to Global News, Canadians throw out up to 540,000 tons of wrapping paper and gift bags each year [1].

We can help cut down on this waste by reusing our gift wrapping - and handmade wrapping holds up especially well to re-use! Consider using cloth or furoshiki to wrap your gifts this year, or making a reusable bag that you can give as part of the gift.

I have a course on making the Origami Bag you see above here.


#4. Using Natural Decorations

As pretty as all those glittery, shimmery decorations are, they are usually made from plastic, or made to be thrown out. Instead of decorations that are destined for landfill, consider bringing some nature into your home as holiday decor. Natural greenery can be used for wreaths and garlands, and you may even find pine cones and holly if they grow near you. You can also make lovely garlands by cutting fun shapes like stars from your citrus peels and drying them for garlands.


#5. Have a Potluck 

Not only are big meals a big stressor when one person is in charge of everything, but we also often make too much food - even with careful planning! One way to help lighten the host's load and reduce food waste is to have a potluck style meal, with everyone bringing a dish. At the end of the evening, you can bring home whatever is left of your dish, or even divvy up the leftovers, so that no one is stuck with more food than they can reasonably eat.


These are just a few of the ways that we can reduce waste over the holidays! Does your household practice any of these, or do you have any suggestions for us? Leave a comment and let me know - I'm always looking for eco-friendly tips!

Hi, I'm Kate!

I am a strong believer in starting where you are and using what you have, wherever and whatever that may be.

Everyone should get to experience the joy of connecting to others through learning, experimenting, and creating.

Creativity doesn’t have to be expensive or wasteful. Whether we’re using natural materials, reusing materials, or shopping our own stashes first, creating mindfully goes beyond being present in the moment - it extends to being mindful of our environment and the other communities around us, too.