Tag Archives: zero waste christmas

An early season’s greetings

Decorating before Thanksgiving feels sacrilegious.

But we’re in the middle of a pandemic and near the end of a heck of a year. I’m learning to appreciate the little joys each day brings.

Like yesterday. While putting up my indoor Christmas decorations I glanced over at my window and it started to snow.

So I blasted Nat King Cole’s Christmas album and went to work decorating my living room for the holidays. It was joyful moment. And one I really needed.

This year, I tried to opt for sustainable decorations.

I don’t own many Christmas decorations to begin with, so it was fun finding thrifted items and making some holiday diys.

This post is aimed at giving some suggestions for people who want to make their home feel cozy for the holidays, but are hoping to choose some more sustainable options.

But for folks who are huge decorators and have spent years and many dollars investing in holiday decorations, you may still enjoy this post!

Many Christmas decorations don’t last that long, meaning you’ll likely have to replace a few things here and there. That’s where this post comes in πŸ™‚

FACTS ABOUT WASTE + THE HOLIDAYS

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s blog, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, U.S. household waste increases by more than 25%. Holiday food waste including shopping bags, bows and ribbons, packaging, and wrapping paper contribute an additional 1 million tons a week to landfills.

That’s a lot of waste.

And some of it can be prevented. Think back to wrapping presents. Most wrapping paper is not recyclable because it’s made from a mixture of plastic and paper.

Again, that’s a lot of waste.

When it comes to wrapping presents, here’s what I do…

GIFT WRAP ALTERNATIVE IDEAS

Pinterest is saturated with gift wrapping ideas. And many of them are more sustainable alternatives. I also have a whole blog post dedicated to sustainable gift wrap. Check it out here.

But here’s a few suggestions…

I recently bought a large roll of white kraft paper. This year, nearly all of my gifts are going to be wrapped in that white kraft paper because it’s what I currently have and it will work just fine!

I also have loads of twine in a natural color, a black color and a white and gold color. That’s what I’ll be using as my bows this year, again, because that’s what I have.

Using up what you have a the most sustainable thing you can do. If you have left over wrapping paper – use it up! If you have a bunch of “Happy Birthday” wrapping paper, consider using it inside out!

If you have a bunch of bags, use them!

Other options lots of people have on hand? Tissue paper, newspaper, construction paper, kraft paper, or go paperless and don’t wrap your gifts (though that seriously takes so much of the fun out of it lol).

Consider using natural elements like twine and burlap. Instead of a bow, maybe go outside and cut off some pieces of a pine tree or bush to add a pretty element.

For tape, use up your tape! If you need more, consider using paper tape. I found mine off Amazon, though I’d recommend finding one from a small supplier if possible. Here’s a shop on Etsy that sells paper tape! Or, try wrapping your present without using tape. I did that for nearly all of my gifts last year and it worked out fine! Or, just use the dang tape. πŸ™‚

DECORATIONS

I’ll say it again because it bears repeating…

The most sustainable item is the one you already have.

Before buying more Christmas decorations, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I need it?
    Does it need replaced or do I just want a few more?
  • Is this item cute for the moment?
    Will I likely only enjoy this item for a year or two and then want to pitch it?
  • Can I fix it?
    Is this an item I can easily glue together or have fixed?
  • What’s the most sustainable option for this item?
    Does one come in wood, metal, glass, or a material that is sturdy and will hold up?

USE WHAT YOU HAVE

I already owned some Christmas ornaments that were given to me and made by family members. Obviously, rather than going out and buying new ones, I have these perfectly good – and extra precious – ornaments for my tree!

This little guy is an elf I painted last year with my family. It can be difficult to find elves and Santa decorations that are racially/ethnically diverse. Sometimes making your own gives you that opportunity.

My family also got me these holiday hand towels/napkins. I currently have the hand towels hanging on my oven door, and the napkins on set out on my kitchen table.

UPCYCLE/DIY YOUR DECORATIONS

To dress up my tree, I wanted to use something I already had on hand. So I found some stale, off-brand Cheerios and some twine and made a little garland for my tree.

It didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would, and it was relaxing.

I think it turned out pretty good! If you have pets, just beware… they may want to nibble on these bad boys.

I also made a wreath using a French horn from the thrift store, some greens, twine and burlap.

I think it turned out pretty decent!

GO OLD-SCHOOL

Kick it out school with some dried out citrus as ornaments!

Check out my post here for directions. Essentially, you cook them on 200 for 4-6 hours or until they look dried out but not too crispy.

USE NATURAL OPTIONS

I walked around my neighborhood, searching for fallen pine and pinecones! I found a bunch and then also cut some stems that look like pine off from a bush outside of my house.

Now, these likely won’t stay fresh for an entire month. They’ll probably stay looking green and fresh for 1-2 weeks, meaning you may have to go out and grab some more branches. (If that’s a bummer for you, consider buying some faux pine branches second hand! Thrift stores usually carry a bunch around the holidays.)

But if you soak your stems in some water for a few minutes each day or every few days, it’ll help keep them fresher, longer! Check out this person’s blog post about ways to keep greens fresh!

Greens + twinkle lights = serious Christmas vibes. (I don’t have a mantle, so this shelf is acting as a mantle for these stockings I was gifted a few years back.)

USE ECO-FRIENDLY LIGHTS

I already have a bunch of twinkle lights, but I also bought two packs of LED lights, too. And I’m glad I did! After I set up everything and took photos, one of my strings of lights went out. So I need to switch them out with some of my new LED ones.

LED lights are typically the way to go. They last a long time and emit less energy. While they tend to be a few dollars more expensive than traditional lights, they pay off in the end.

Only downer, they are a bit brighter and look somewhat different than traditional string lights. I personally don’t like the look as much, as they have a cooler tone rather than a warmer tone. I like warm much better πŸ™‚ But it’s no deal breaker for me!

TURN OFF YOUR LIGHTS!

Don’t keep your lights on during the day. Instead, put them on in the evening and consider turning your outdoor lights off before bed. If you have a timer for your indoor and outdoor lights, that’s even better!

BUY ETHICALLY

I don’t own any ethically or sustainably produced Christmas decorations. But there are plenty of places to buy them! Check out Ten Thousand Villages and Made Trade for some fair trade options. πŸ™‚ For low-waste options, check out Earth Hero. And for some unique finds from a B-Corp, check out Uncommon Goods.

(My blog post here has my sustainable gift guide, too!)

THE GREAT DEBATE: FAKE OR REAL TREE?

This is a controversial topic among environmentalists and zero-wasters. Whichever side you fall, you’re likely a staunch believer.

Here’s my thought….

They both have pros and cons!

FAKE TREE

PROS

  • They last for years and years if well-kept.
  • You can buy them second-hand.
  • They only produce waste at the end of their life.

CONS

  • They’re made from plastic.
  • When they do eventually need replaced, it’s nearly impossible to recycle fake Christmas trees. Therefore, they add a lot of arguably unnecessary waste to landfills.

REAL TREE

PROS

  • Nostalgia/family tradition to buy or cut down your own tree.
  • Can be considered zero waste if properly disposed.
  • That pine tree smell!

CONS

  • Most people don’t properly dispose of their tree.
  • Trees can’t break down naturally in a landfill, so throwing them in the trash isn’t helpful.

OK so then what?

I say, go with whichever you prefer! They both have great pros.

If you expect to keep using your fake tree for several years – go fake! If you can properly dispose of your real tree – go real!

HOW TO PROPERLY DISPOSE OF YOUR REAL TREE

In western Pennsylvania, this link gives you different locations where you can drop off your tree for recycling. The best options are to drop them off at a recycling facility that SAYS they recycle Christmas trees. Or, some municipalities will host Christmas tree recycling/shredding events once during the holidays. Contact with your local municipality and waste management location for details.

As for what I do….

I don’t opt for either one. I buy a potted little pine tree every year. For the last two years, I bought a Norfolk pine. I really loved it! However, it was often lopsided and it annoyed me.

This year, I went to Lowe’s and found a miniature tree in a red pot. Once it gets warmer outside, I can plant it in the ground. Or, I can keep in indoors until it grows too big to tame. And during that time, I’ll have a Christmas tree every year – saving money and time! And, it’s a real tree!

I understand a small tree isn’t as fun for children, and you can’t exactly put Christmas presents under a little tree. (Though you sort of can, just not the same result as a traditional tree).

But for smaller children, they can be helpful because you can keep them on a table/higher up so little ones don’t knock the tree over.

No matter what you choose, remember that it’s the season of new life, forgiveness and growth. May we give each other grace in more ways than by merely forgiving someone for putting their Christmas decorations up too early – or keeping them up too long, for that matter.

May 2021 bring us MUCH more peace than 2020. And may we all remember that we have much more in common than we think we do.

Grace and peace to you all, my friends! Happy Holidays.

plastic-free gift wrap that’s kind to your wallet and the planet

Nat King Cole plays in the background, as a hot cup of tea sits on your table. Your living room is littered with presents and paper and ribbon and tape, as you begin – wait, where’s the tape?

Sound familiar to anybody? (Yo, I can’t be the only person who loses the tape every. single. time. I set it down. ;))

I actually really enjoy wrapping presents. It’s therapeutic to me. But to some folks, wrapping presents is the worst part of the holidays – need I bring up the tape again?

For the last few years I’ve really tried to limit my waste when wrapping present. Here’s what you’ll likely need to wrap your gifts more sustainably this year…

MATERIALS

I’ve been collecting newspaper, ribbon, tissue paper and gift bags for the last year. Anytime paper was stuffed in one of my packages from Amazon or Earth Hero, I tucked the paper away and recycled the rest. If I got smaller boxes, like ones from RMS Beauty and Elate Cosmetics that contain my makeup, I saved those bad boys, too.

When it comes to reusables, save and save and save.

For example, glass jars. I’ve got a cupboard full of glass jars with lids. I use them for anything from grocery shopping (buying bulk!) to carrying left overs to holding salad dressings to stuffing them with gifts for the holidays!

Same goes for paper. If you get paper in the mail that you could reuse – do it! I have a box brimming with different size boxes and papers and ribbon and all sorts of stuff I’ve gotten over the past year.

If you’re looking for some cute ways to make your gifts more sustainably packaged this year, here’s a few tips.

SUSTAINABLE GIFT WRAP IDEAS

1. Buy twine/string that comes in paper. I got a spool of twine that came in black and white/red and the only packaging it came in was paper! I found this at Target. Also, I found ribbon that was mainly in paper. Clutch!

2. Opt for paper bags! I bought a bunch of brown craft paper bags from a craft store and I’m using them for lots of presents this year. You can jazz them up with some ribbon or greenery and add some tissue paper.

3. Look for tissue paper that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic. It can be hard to find sometimes, but it’s out there! Also, reuse your tissue paper as much as you can. I like to save tissue paper and other items from packages that have been shipped to me. I have a whole bin filled with tissue paper and other packing paper that I use for my Christmas presents!

4. Get creative/go outside. I cut off a few pieces of a pine tree to use as decoration on my boxes and bags. You can use sticks and pine and all sorts of wintery items to dress up your stuff.

5. Opt for paper tape, or use minimal tape. I didn’t use tape in 2019 when wrapping my presents. Instead, I reused boxes and wrapped ribbon or twine around it. The boxes stay shut just fine that way! This year, I invested in paper tape. I got mine from Amazon, but I’d recommend getting some from Etsy. Here’s a link to one I’d recommend.Β Or, if you want Christmas-y paper take, here’s an option.

6. Use fabric! This year I used an old piece of fabric (it was once a skirt), cut it, and tied a knot around my present. It’s a fun and free way to wrap your presents – and it’s helpful when you are trying to get rid of clothes, or have clothes that aren’t in good enough shape to drop off at the thrift store.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

Less is more. When you’re wrapping something, don’t feel like you have to go overboard. Often, a simple paper bag with some tissue is all you need.

If you see family and friends tossing out tissue paper or boxes, take them with you! Tissue paper can be reused over and over again. Same goes for wrapping paper, boxes, gifts bags, ribbons and anything else.

As far as name tags go, you could write the person name directly on the bag. Or cut a piece of paper into a circle; inside the circle write their name. Then punch a small hole through part of the circle and, using twine, tie it onto my gift. It’s recyclable and simple. Or, use paper tape! That’s what I’ve been doing lately.

How are you wrapping your gifts this holiday season?

waste-free holiday gifts that won’t break the bank

Christmas is around the corner and it’s easy to feel a lot of pressure to buy the perfect gift during the holiday season.

Let’s face it, Christmas can be suuupper stressful.

AND when you’re trying to be more mindful of your waste and plastic use, it can be even MORE stressful.

I’ve been doing some research (and trial and error!) recently and I’ve found some pretty cool, low-waste, inexpensive gifts for family and friends.

Some of these are more general ideas, others are more specific options. Here are a few questions to ask yourself while Christmas shopping this year:

  1. Why am I buying this person a gift? Is it out of obligation because they’re more of a distant relative that I’m not super close with, but I’ve gotta show up with SOMETHING for them to unwrap on Christmas? Or is it someone that means a whole lot to me?
  2. What’s important to that person? What do they value/talk about often?
  3. What are their hobbies? And what can I give that will be practical?
  4. Can I make them something?
  5. What will be something they will actually use?

HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with…

ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: PARENTS, FRIENDS, GRANDPARENTS, SIBLINGS…

dcb_1351I’m not saying to go out and buy a brand-new book (although, you could do that if that’s more up your alley, or better yet, buy one second-hand!). I’m talking about actually giving one of your parents or your best friend a book that’s been super influential to you.

I truly believe a used book is full of magic. Within the pages of that book, someone’s imagination and creative mind is seeped into the fibers of each page. Someone else was wrapped up in the same world you’re reading about… someone else was feeling the same overwhelming excitement you felt as you read those same words. There’s something raw and important about that. There’s some sort of deep connection between people who share a book — I don’t know how to explain it but I swear it’s gotta be true.

Share your favorite books with the people you love! You won’t regret it πŸ™‚

HANDMADE JEWELRY FROM A LOCAL ARTISAN/SMALL BUSINESS

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: MOMS, GRANDMAS, SISTERS, FRIENDS, COWORKERS, RELATIVES….

dcb_1373These earrings are made by my dear friend Maggy and her husband Evens. They run a business called Haitian Shore Beauty and all of their jewelry is made from sea glass from the beaches of Haiti. You can find their Facebook page here.

Check out some small businesses near you that sell artisan-made jewelry. Or check out some fair trade stores like Ten Thousand Villages or Mata Traders for some super trendy, quality jewelry (and other goods!)

MASON JAR CONCOCTIONS

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS, SIBLINGS, COWORKERS, RELATIVES, BOSSES…..

dafe (2 of 10)The options are pretty much endless when it comes to packing things into mason jars. The jars are glass, so they can be reused or recycled, and you can really customize these jars to fit whoever you’re shopping for. Remember to buy items in bulk when you can!

You can find lots of different sizes in mason jars, especially at second-hand stores!

Pinterest has more ideas that I could possible fit in one blog post, so check out Pinterest for some specific concoctions. But here are a few ideas….

Hot chocolate mix
Cookie or cake mix
Candy or chocolates (buy bulk!)
Recipes using dried ingredients

Hand soaps (buy a foaming pump and use Castile soap, avocado oil, essential oils and water and you’re all set!)
Homemade candles
Homemade face mask/beauty products

Homemade lotions
Snacks
Tea (buy loose-leaf and in bulk!)
Coffee
Popcorn (bulk)

QUALITY BEAUTY PRODUCTS

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: MOMS, AUNTS, SIBLINGS, COUSINS, FRIENDS, COWORKERS, BOSSES….

Below are some of my favorite companies where you can find quality products with sustainable packaging…

Meow Meow Tweet*
Fat and the Moon
Burts Bees*
Plaine Products
EarthHero products
Pacifica*
Shea Moisture * (Shea Moisture is black-owned, B-Corp!)
Dr. Bronner’s* (a B-Corp!)
Elate Cosmetics
Beautycounter (a B-Corp!) – a little pricey!
Zao Organic Makeup
*available at Target for easy shopping

If you’re looking to purchase some “treat-yo-self”-type gifts…. check out these guys! They offer plenty of face masks and lotions and lip balm! Lots of their items come in sustainable packaging, too!

REUSABLE WATER BOTTLES

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: LITERALLY ANYBODY

f1057e8e-17c0-4e1a-b747-09412ec7ccc4One of the easiest steps in limiting your waste is using a reusable water bottle and coffee thermos. Hydro Flask and Klean Kanteen are two top rated brands on the market. They’re meant to last for YEARS. They’re a bit pricey, but totally worth every penny. They come in different colors and sizes, too!

COMPOSTABLE PHONE CASE

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: AGAIN, LITERALLY ANYONE. BUT ESPECIALLY SIBLINGS AND YOUR NIECES AND NEPHEWS

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Pela case is a compostable phone case company. I’ve been using my case for months and it’s holding up great! Obviously it’s not going to give the same level of protection as an Otterbox… but I’ve dropped my phone a few times with this case on and my phone doesn’t have a scratch (knock on wood!).

ESSENTIAL OILS + DIFFUSER

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: AGAIN, LITERALLY ANYBODY

I personally use Young Living oils. Just remember, essential oils aren’t the most sustainable product – but they have serious benefits! Use them sparingly and aim to find oils that are made as ethically and sustainably as possible.

HEATING PAD/WARMING PILLOW

A GOOD PRESENT FOR: LITERALLY ANYBODY

dcb_1386My local health food store, the Health Hut, sells these flax seed heating and cooling pads. You either warm them up in the microwave or cool them down in the freezer. They’re made with sustainable cloth and come pre-wrapped.Β  An item like this will last a while and it could be good for your family or friends who often get aches and pains. A standard heating pad is always a good option too!

ADDITIONAL IDEAS FOR ANYBODY

UncommonGoods: This is one of my favorite stores to buy birthday and Christmas gifts. First of all, they’re a B-Corp. Second, they support other smaller businesses who create quirky, nichy items. Third, you can just about guarantee your gift won’t be like anyone else’s πŸ™‚ They have a whole section dedicated to gifts for under $25. And there are options for more expensive gifts you could partner with others to give.

An experience!: Consider buying someone an experience. Date nights, concert tickets, museum memberships, etc. Buying someone an experience doesn’t produce waste, and it’s something they’ll actually enjoy.

Fair trade options: Check out Made Trade and Ten Thousand Villages for some dope fair trade gifts. From jewelry to decor and clothing, they’ve both got awesome options.

Etsy printable: Etsy has some awesome artists that allow you to pay a few bucks to print the picture out yourself! Grab a cheap frame from the thrift store and you’ve got a cheap and unique gift for someone.

For kids: Crayons and coloring materials; wooden toys (check out EarthHero for some dope options!); an experience like a membership to the Children’s Museum; secondhand toys that can be easily sterilized at home.

Sustainable beauty supplies: EarthHero is one of my favorite shops for all things eco-friendly. Check out their items here. Also, they’re a B-Corp – double win!Β Items like wooden hair brushes, bamboo tooth brushes, organic cotton hair ties, etc….can make great stocking stuffers.

Bamboo or wool socks: Two sustainable options for socks that you can find online on EarthHero, Etsy, Package Free Shop, and others.

DCB_9988

BANGS Shoes: This company sells awesome shoes. 20% of the proceeds go to Kiva, a company that invests in entrepreneurs around the world. Instead of giving people free shoes, this company supports the thought that if you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day, but if you teach a person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime. And it’s supporting entrepreneurship and creativity!

Wool scarf: Package Free Shop last year added alpaca wool scarfs to their site and they’re awesome.

Tote bags/reusable bags: Reusable cotton produce bags make awesome gifts. They can be used for, obviously, produce, but they can also store other things too! Or, they’re even cute as a wrapping paper alternative. My friend Agnes from Andinda Design makes all kinds of cool products using second hand cotton! She makes cotton rounds, bento bags, produce bags, pouches and lots more. Check out her Etsy shop here.

Quality blanket: Everybody could use a good blanket! Look for some that are made sustainably or with recycled or eco-friendly materials.

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Leaf cuttings: Trim off a few cuttings of your monstera or pothos and stick it in an upcycled jar with some water. It’s a fun little gift to give to someone looking to up their at-home jungle vibes πŸ˜‰

Loose-leaf tea + strainer: This is definitely a gift I’d LOVE to have. You can find some really great loose-leaf tea at the grocery store — or a local tea shop — and pair it with a strainer. Loose-leaf tea tastes better and it’s much better for the environment!

French press; coffee bean grinder; bamboo or stainless steel straws; to-go cutlery (check out EarthHero!); quality cloth + glasses case for those who wear glasses (anyone else struggle to keep your eye glasses clean!?)….etc.

dcb_1379

DIY foaming soap: Buy a foaming pump (unfortunately I got mine off Amazon) and add it to a smaller lid mason jar. Add castile soap, essential oils and some oil of your choice (I like avocado because it’s moisturizing!). Fill it with some water and you’re good to go!

dafe-1-of-10

Check out second-hand stores! This might sound like I’m just trying to be cheap, but I’m really not. Second-hand stores can have incredible stuff! I’ve gotten lots of friends and family members gently-used books that look like new! You can find toys and clothes with the tags still on. You can even find some pretty quirky items, too. Stop by your local thrift store and see what you can find πŸ™‚

Note: This story was updated Nov. 2020 with additional information.