Staying eco-conscious can be a challenge during the holidays. The holiday season comes with giving and receiving, eating, and decorating – all of which can come with harmful consequences to the environment.
In fact, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, trash production in the United States increases by 25%, contributing an additional  million pounds of trash per week! 1 When trash heads to a landfill, it slowly decomposes in an oxygen-free environment resulting in the production of methane gas, which is harmful if allowed to accumulate underground and is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming . Therefore, the most effective way to reduce waste is to make an effort to prevent it in the first place. Believe it or not, recycling is the least effective strategy for reducing waste because it uses more energy and fossil fuels in the process. Staying eco-conscious can certainly be a challenge during the holidays, so we are here to give you a few ideas on how you might make this holiday season a little greener through thoughtful consumerism and mindful gifting!
Hosting A Low-Waste Gathering
One thing that many people do during the holidays, no matter what holiday they are celebrating, is host a gathering with friends and family. Although this year may be a smaller gathering than usual, here are some examples of ways to stay green and zero-waste for your safe and responsible festivities, not just this holiday season, but year round!
- Encourage your guests to bring their own containers for leftovers.
- Create homemade centerpieces and decorations from natural products, like dried fruit garlands, cotton garlands, or collect branches and plants from outdoors.
- Rather than providing plastic water bottles, encourage your guests to bring their own reusable water bottles or have a pitcher of water out with glasses for your guests.
- If you are unable or do not have the capacity to use reusable plates, silverware and napkins this holiday season (things that are fairly easy to find at your local resale store), try to revert to biodegradable options.
- Compost your food waste! If you do not have local compost pick up, you can freeze your food scraps and check your city for a local compost drop off spot! (be sure to include your biodegradable, single-use items.)
The Season of Giving: Low-Waste, Homemade Gift Ideas
This holiday season, you can create a gift from scratch that doesn’t have a negative impact on the environment! Here are a few ideas we love, and we encourage you to get creative!
- Use an old cotton t-shirt or old cotton towels to make cotton rounds to replace disposable, single-use cotton balls.
- A homemade hair scrunchie
- Homemade granola in a cute, decorative jar (cleaned out pasta sauce jars are perfect for this)!
- Homemade beeswax candles in repurposed jars (which you can sometimes find at a thrift store or use old, washed food jars).
- Homemade body sugar scrub
Although things are certainly different this holiday season, consider giving someone you love a gift from the heart! Here are a few ideas for holiday gift alternatives that allow us to reduce waste, remain eco-conscious, and give back. Gifting a shared virtual experience, safe quality time together, or donating to a cause or organization are all great ways to tell someone you care without producing any waste at all. It is not too late to get the perfect gift!
- Tickets to a virtual concert or at-home movie
- Plant a tree in honor of someone
- Donate to an organization in their name
- Voucher for an experience, such as a virtual art class, a cooking class, or a class to learn a new language
- Time together with the person you love!
Zero-Waste Items We Love
Help your friends and family kick-start their low-waste lifestyle this holiday season! Here are some zero-waste products we love!
- Reusable water bottles, coffee mugs, and thermoses
- Cotton dryer balls to replace dryer sheets
- Silicone baking sheets to replace parchment paper, wax paper, and aluminum foil
- Silicone sandwich baggies and beeswax wrap to replace plastic baggies
- Cloth tote bags and cloth produce bags to replace plastic shopping bags and produce bags
One of the problems with traditional wrapping paper is that it is not recyclable, meaning it contributes to the amount of trash headed to the landfill. So, here are some gift wrap alternatives for you to consider!
- Compostable or recyclable paper. You can buy it in a roll, it is sometimes called ‘craft paper’. You can then decorate your paper any way you want by drawing or writing a nice note, or even make some fun stamps out of potatoes to decorate your paper (be sure to rinse and compost them afterwards)!
- There are also options for compostable tape; however, we are a huge fan of natural twine made from jute, cotton or hemp!
- Use a scarf or bandana, which can be incorporated as a part of the gift itself!
- Use fabric scraps and save strips to use as a ribbon. These can be reused for years to come!
- Cloth tote bags
- Paper shopping bags can be used to wrap up your gift
- Reusable glass jars
- Chip bags!? Who knew!? Simply turn the chip bag inside out for cleaning and you are set to go with shiny, festive wrapping!
We hope these eco-conscious gift suggestions and ideas inspire you to purchase or make something beautiful and meaningful for your loved ones or yourself this holiday season and beyond! Get creative and have a safe and happy holiday!
 EPA – Environmental Protection Agency (n.d.). Reduce waste generated during the holidays. Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.state.oh.us/pic/facts/holiday
 Freudenrich, C. (2000). How landfills work. HowStuffWorks. com, October, 16.