How to have a reduced waste Christmas this year

How to have a reduced waste Christmas this year

I’m dreaming of a Zero Waste Christmas! Or at least a ‘reduced waste’ Christmas.

I know it probably won’t be completely waste free. However, my family aim to create less waste than we generated last year, or the year before that. I am going for ‘Progress over Perfection’, as I wrote about here.

Read on for ideas for gift giving, and dealing with food waste over the holidays.

Paper Christmas trees
Credit: Paper Christmas trees from Kave Home

Christmas is a fun time of year for many people …

… but we can end up creating so much extra waste over the holidays.

This article from Envirowaste in the UK has some shocking statistics. Most surprising was the estimate that ‘1 billion Christmas cards could end up in the bin after December 25th’. It seems like an incredible waste of resources, when there are alternatives such as e-cards.

Where is all this extra rubbish coming from?

The excess waste at Christmas can come from many sources, such as:

  • packaging waste,
  • unwanted presents or novelty gifts
  • cheap gifts that break too soon,
  • food leftovers.

There are many ways to reduce waste this Christmas

There are lots of fantastic articles and posts online with tips for having a lower waste Christmas. It’s amazing to see how much more mainstream this subject has become over the last few years. I have included a couple of links below.

Gift giving

Firstly, you don’t have to buy gifts at Christmas! While gift giving in general is an old concept, Christmas gift giving only become more popular from the mid 1800’s. The focus on consumerism that we are so used to now is a relatively recent idea. We don’t really need to buy gifts in order to celebrate Christmas.

That said, I do like to find gifts for family and friends. It’s fun to find presents for them that they will enjoy. And I do like to receive useful and beautiful gifts too.

These are my gifts ideas when you are trying to reduce waste:

  • Second hand treasures – books, clothes, jewelry, toys, games, charity shop gift vouchers.
  • Consumables in recyclable packaging – homemade biscuits or sweets, nuts, fruit basket, fancy cheeses, tea or coffee, and wine or beer.
  • Toiletries – low waste ideas include shampoo bars by companies such as Ethique, bamboo toothbrushes, homemade bath bombs.
  • Vouchers or gift certificates for:
    • Movies, concerts or sports events,
    • Annual memberships to museums, zoos, or nature parks,
    • Homemade certificates for gifts of time, such as babysitting, helping in the garden, etc.
    • You could even give money (at least the recipient can buy themselves something they really want or need).
  • Flowers from your garden, or plants, seed packs, and gardening tools

Homemade biscuits in tins - Christmas gifts for teachers
We made these gifts for my children’s’ teachers in 2019 – homemade biscuits in thrifted tins, with reused ribbons, and brand new Christmas decorations from a second hand shop.

I also love these posts with low waste gift ideas:

List of 52 Clutter free gifts for Christmas
Source: Becoming Minimalist Facebook page

Food waste over the holidays

Christmas, and the summer holidays here in New Zealand, are perfect times for some fabulous food! I love the summer fruit available now, especially strawberries, blueberries, plums and peaches.

Summer Pavlova - a favourite NZ Christmas recipe
Credit: Countdown Supermarket website
– recipe for Summer Fruit Pavlova

At this time of year though, it is easy to buy too much food, and let it go to waste. The amount of food we waste in the developed world is crazy. Considering the amount of time and resources spent growing and processing food, the water used, fuel for transportation, and the packaging involved, it’s pretty ridiculous to end up throwing away food. Especially if it ends up in landfill where it can’t decompose and be useful as compost.

Here are some ideas to cut down on throwing food away:

  • Make a general meal plan for the Christmas period. You don’t have to stick to it completely, but having a rough idea of the main meals you are going to make will help you buy what you need. See my post about Meal planning to save you money, food and time
  • Use up leftovers in creative meals. The website Love Food Hate Waste has some quick and easy ideas for creating meals from leftovers – see their page ‘8 ways with…’ for inspiration.
  • Freeze portions of leftovers for meals later on. We usually have a ham for Christmas, which is a gift from my husband’s work. There is too much for us to eat in a few days. So, we freeze portions of it for meals such as pea and ham soup, risotto, or pasta dishes.
  • If you have guests round for meals, give them some of the leftovers to take home.
  • Still have leftovers a few days after Christmas? If you have a compost bin, you can compost fruit and veges. If you have a worm bin you can put in fruit, veges and meat scraps. And if you have chickens, they will eat most leftovers for you.
  • Thinking about food safety relating to leftover food? There is useful advice on this government website. The information about reusable bags and containers is particularly handy for anyone aiming to reduce packaging waste.

There is a great post on the ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ website about reducing food waste at Christmas, which goes into more depth than I have here. Check it out for more ideas on reducing food waste this holiday season.

Love your feedback on reducing waste at Christmas

What are your ideas for a low waste Christmas? I’d love to hear what you are doing to reduce waste this year.

Leave your comments below!