How to Have a Zero Waste Holiday

The holidays can be a wonderful season of cozying up to enjoy time with loved ones.  It can also be a time of stress, chaotic schedules, and over consumption.  Here’s how to simplify your holidays this year and create less waste.

Decorating with natural materials

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, or just enjoy the festivities, there are beautiful ways to decorate your house naturally and simply, without creating plastic waste.

Instead of buying shiny gold and silver decor for your mantle or centerpiece, look for organic and natural materials.  Decorate with a beautiful live garland of pine or spruce instead, and you’ll get the lovely scent of evergreens wafting through your house.  Plus, at the end you can compost it instead of storing it.  Try the Seattle Wholesale Growers market or Pike Place for a good deal.

Try your hand at making a live wreath for your door instead of the plastic ones sold at the store.  Use greenery, berries or eucalyptus for a festive natural wreath that lights up your front door.

It’s not necessarily unsustainable to buy a Christmas tree.  Most cities will compost the trees, recycling them back into mulch for city parks or using them to enrich the soil at tree farms.  But better yet, decorate a potted plant or fir tree!

When you’re decorating your tree, if you open the box of lights to find you have a broken strand, you can recycle it through Holiday LED's online recycling program.

One beautiful and zero waste way to decorate is by making paper ornaments!  They aren’t breakable, there are so many styles, and you can make them as colorful or minimal as you please.  Plus it can be a fun activity to do with family or friends.

We save all kinds of sustainable holiday decorating ideas on our Pinterest.

Zero Waste Holiday Shopping

We put together a gift guide for sustainable and minimal presents.  Some of our ideas include shopping at ethical clothing stores, supporting local stores, buying secondhand books, handmaking presents or gifting experiences, like classes.

Keeping holiday parties low-waste

Whether you are hosting a Christmas party, heading to a friend’s holiday gathering or going over to your parents’ house for Hannukah, there are a few ways you can keep things zero waste.

Bring your own zero waste kit.

Your host might be using plastic cups, plates, or silverware to make washing up easier.  Zero waste is about leading by example, so although you might not say anything that would offend the host, your stainless steel cup, reusable plate and bamboo utensils will certainly be a great conversation starter.  Let inspiring others be a part of your intention.

Bring your food in a transportable container

Use a glass, metal or ceramic dish that has a lid, rather than a plastic wrap cover.  That way you don’t create any waste by bringing snacks or desserts to share.  If your family is like my co-founder Marimar's and won’t let you go home without taking leftovers, bring your own stainless steel container so you don’t wind up with ziplocks galore.  

Give a sustainable gift for your hosts.

If you’re going to a loved ones gathering, Bee’s Wrap makes a lovely and useful hostess/ host gift - after the party they can cover the plates and bowls of leftovers with their new beeswax sheets and discover the beauty of this sustainable habit. 

Bringing drinks to a holiday gathering? 

Buy beer, cider, wine or kombucha in a refillable growler.  Most breweries will fill growlers to go, and Wilridge Winery offers wine in a growler size (equivalent to 2 bottles) that you can refill at their tasting rooms or Pike Place.

 Zero Waste Holiday Dinner

Day-of traditions that center around loved ones instead of things

Regardless of your beliefs, the holidays are a sacred time to gather and be with loved ones and celebrate the end of the year.  One way my family slows down and takes the time to appreciate each other is gathering for a big family breakfast before we unwrap presents on Christmas Day.  We make cinnamon rolls and big bowls of fruit and cook eggs, bacon and coffee and we sit together at the table.  The rule when we were kids was that we were allowed to bring one small present to the table, to tide over our excitement.  Our breakfast tradition is my favorite part of Christmas, and it allows every one to enjoy a meaningful and centered morning and still partake in the excitement of giving and receiving.

After you’ve opened the presents and taken a break to enjoy them, do something together as a family to make a memory.  Do a puzzle together, go for a family walk or decorate Christmas cookies.  Zero waste is about simplifying your life by reducing your waste, and a big reason for simplifying your life is to enjoy more time with the people you love, doing the things you love to do.  Don’t forget to enjoy each other in the craze of the holiday season.

Wrapping your presents plastic-free

There are so many beautiful ways to wrap gifts that don’t involve shiny, non-recyclable wrapping paper.

One of the easiest ways to wrap presents waste-free is with brown paper or repurposed newspaper.  You can tie them up with compostable cotton twine or flax yarn and add greenery or flowers to spice it up. 

Another great method of gift wrapping is the Japanese art of Furoshiki.  It’s a beautiful tradition of wrapping gifts in reusable cloths called Furoshiki cloths.  We teach a Furhoshiki gift wrapping workshop every year during the holidays - this year it’s on the 18th!  Come join us and learn from our friend Keiko who grew up using Furoshiki in Japan.

Here’s some of our favorite inspirations.

Furoshiki by Eco Collective

Sustainable Gift Wrapping

Furoshiki Methods