Most modern holidays come with a lot of unnecessary waste. Single use plastic, paper packaging that ends up not decomposing in the landfill and presents that people don’t actually want or need. Having a zero-waste Christmas isn’t as hard as it seems. You can follow some or all of these steps to make a difference.
“Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week!”Quora
1. Gift Bags vs. Packaging
I love to give people gifts in simple sturdy gift bags. Almost everyone I give these to end up re-using them. If gift giving and opening happens in a group setting, I will ask people who don’t want them to leave them in designated area.
Collecting things you won’t use is also wasteful. So I am happy to take them back and re-use them next year. I bought 30 gift bags two years ago and I still have plenty left over. It’s worth helping the environment to come off as a little rude and weird. I also explain why I’m doing it and it seems to resonate with many people.
2. Compost Your Tree – Or Get a Plastic One
This topic is highly debated so I will give you my two cents. A plastic tree can be re-used for years. My parents still use the same one that they got 28 years ago and it looks great. Plastic trees also make it easier to hang decorations because the twigs have wires that bend whichever way is convenient.
Living trees are great too. Christmas trees come from farms where they are grown specifically for this purpose. They do not cause deforestation. Having a living tree can be better for the planet than having a plastic one. The key is to compost it properly after holidays. Many farms accept them for compost if you bring them back. Some countries have special containers for you to dispose them in. These get composted properly instead of ending up in the landfill.
3. Christmas Cards Are a Questionable Choice
I am a hoarder and love to keep all Christmas cards. Most people are not like me and they will throw them away. If they are thrown in the trash, they will not decompose in a landfill. Even if they are recycled, well, they still existed. Keeping them isn’t helping either, cause when I die, someone will have a giant box of them to throw away.
“If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.”Quora
It’s 2019 people. There are many alternatives to physical post cards. Texts, tweets, emails, videos, the list goes on and on. A Boomerang of you and your family in front of the tree will be just as treasured as a photo. Except it moves and doesn’t pollute the environment when it is deleted.
4. The Actual Presents
Someone recently pointed out that all stuff was once money and that was once time. This stayed with me because it’s painfully true. As I already mentioned, I tend to hoard things so I am not a great example. But consider giving people something other than stuff this year.
Many people would rather get money or gift cards to use as they wish anyway. But it can be more personal than that. Concert tickets, coupons to restaurants, any sort of experience that you can gift someone can be as or more meaningful than an item. You can even gift stocks, which can grow over time and double as a great educational tool for children.
Zero-Waste Christmas Conclusion:
I always like to end these articles with a reminder. It is impossible to be perfect. Being zero-waste is impossible in our modern society. Aim to be less wasteful. Do a little better. Follow one of four steps on this list. The goal is to grow and get better, not to be perfect overnight. So do your best this year and the environment will thank you. Enjoy your holidays!
Feature photo taken from Recycle Ann Arbor.