How to Have a Waste-Free Holiday

Waste-Free Tips

Is it possible to have a waste-free holiday? It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the holidays and forget to be careful about the things we waste.  Check out these tips to help cut down waste in the areas of packaging, food, gifts and decorations, and start enjoying your waste-free holiday.

Check out these tips to help cut down waste in the areas of packaging, food, gifts and decorations, and start enjoying your waste-free holiday.

Holiday Packaging

According to, from thanksgiving to new years’, our household waste increases by more than 25 percent. With everything from added food waste, to wrapping, packaging, it adds up to over 1 million tons a week going into a landfill.

Half the paper used in America is used to wrap products. And the 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold in America (so this doesn’t include the cards not sold that are thrown away) could fill a football field for up to 10 stories.

If everyone reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, it would add up to enough to tie a bow around the planet. How’s that for a Christmas present to us and the Earth?

Waste Free Packaging Solutions?

  1. Use wrapping paper this year to use for next year. It takes a bit of effort and patience from everyone involved because everyone has to wait while you carefully unwrap your presents.
  2. Use recycled paper products. Recycled cards, wrapping paper, bags, etc. And you could always send an e-card, instead of paper. If everyone sent one less card we could save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.
  3. Use alternatives to the conventional wrapping paper. Newspapers, reusable bags (which is a gift in itself and it keeps on giving), use bags or used boxes, paper bags from the store, fabric such as tea towels, (fabric is harder to rip to shred, which makes it easier to reuse) jars or cans (mixes are adorable in jars), I will also tell you, unashamedly, that part of my parents gifts were wrapped in Pringle’s cans. Let your creativity run wild and feel no shame.
  4. Upcycle your paper. Most of these things are super easy. Gifts bags made from newspaper or wrapping paper, bows made from any kind of paper, paper confetti (we used brown packing paper and some used wrapping paper that wasn’t in such good shape and shredded with a paper shredder).
    Bows made from wrapping paper.


    Paper shred/confetti
    Packing confetti made from shipping paper and old wrapping paper


    Food waste is also one of the biggest waste contributors and a big obstacle for a waste-free holiday. It makes up to a quarter of the garbage thrown away during Thanksgiving and New Year’s. A household of four could save an average $100-$125 by reducing food waste.

    Mostly it has to do with planning ahead. Planning portion sizes, what people tend to eat more or less of, how you plan to store it, etc.

    Waste Free Holiday Food Solutions?

    1. This site, love food, hate waste, is site teaching about food waste and how to cut down. The statistics are based from the UK, but the principles can be applied anywhere. It helps with planning portion, storing and recipes so you can use the same ingredients in a different recipe.
    2. You can also donate it. I feel a little iffy about this sometimes, but if you can find a homeless shelter who will take unpackaged food then why not?
    3. Simplify your meals. Instead of making a huge meal, make a smaller, simpler meal than fit back in the fridge.
    4. Make your own broth out of the turkey bones.
    5. Make Apple Cider vinegar our leftover apple pie scraps.
    6. Have a potluck. Everyone bring a dish and take home the leftovers.
    7. Embrace the leftovers. I’m not a big fan of leftovers, but some things like pie are never eaten too many times. I try to just think of everything as leftover pie. I also pack things away in the freezer to eat them again at a later date.
    8. If you really get tired of eating the same thing over and over again in it’s original form, check out these awesome recipes to incorporate your Thanksgiving leftovers.
    9. Learn to use the whole food. Check out these awesome ways to use all parts of a pumpkin.
    10. Buy in Bulk. Even here in Oklahoma, bulk bins are becoming the norm.
    11. Compost your plain, raw fruits and veggies. Composting can be intimidating to a lot of people, but it doesn’t take a huge fancy set up, nor does it stick. In fact I’ve been composting my apartment for the past year. Check out this general composting overview for more information.
    If you’re interested in learning about vermicomposting, which is perfect for small spaces, subscribe for a free printable poster to remind you what to put in your worm bin.

    The main thing is to be aware of the waste and take it into a count when planning your holiday festivities. Feel free to leave a comment on how you plan to cut down waste during the holiday season.

    Eco-Friendly Christmas Decorations

    Make edible decorations. Back in the day, people would make garland out of cranberries and popcorn. Once the season was over, they fed the garland to the birds. Pumpkins, apples, pears, gingerbread houses and other great ideas that can either be eaten, composted or fed to livestock or just your average bird.

    I also stumbled onto this adorable Ande’s Mints wreath and also this wreath made from brussels sprouts! It’s amazing what people come up with. If you have other ideas, but aren’t sure how to make it, just Google and I’m sure you’ll find a tutorial out there.

    Make decorations from repurposed items from around your house. These are not only eco-friendly, but super inexpensive to make.

    You can make Christmas ornaments from repurposed materials, such as light bulbs. They’re easy to make and the memories last forever!

    Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas

    Sometimes, the waste-free holiday boils down to gifts. It might just be the most difficult part of a enjoying a waste-free holiday.

    According to research from Optoro (a company that helps retailers process and resell returns), shoppers return nearly $70 billion worth of purchases during the holiday season.  According to the same study, 17 percent of recipients planned to donate an unwanted present, 13 percent planned to regift one and 10 percent would simply throw the bad gift away.

    That’s a lot of waste. Wasted time, wasted resources, some ending up in the landfill. Think outside the box and follow a green gift guide with these waste free gift ideas.

    Waste Free Holiday Gift Ideas

    It can be difficult to find great gift ideas year after year. But if you’re looking for waste free gift ideas in bulk, check out this post for wasteless gifts for co-workers.

    For zero waste gift ideas, check out these awesome ideas from SkiptheBag!

    If you know someone interested in transitioning to a more eco-friendly journey, finding them a gift like these reusable produce bags and jars for buying in bulk. If you’re interested in making your own reusable gift bags, you learn how to upcycle sleeves into reusable gift bags.

    You can also give edible gifts, which can also come in reusable packaging. Win-win for the environment. Check out these 50 edible holiday gifts.

    Making your own gifts or buying from local businesses can also help cut down waste. Both options give you more knowledge and control over what you’re buying. The materials to make the gifts don’t have to travel nearly as far either.

    Find more waste free gift ideas here.

    Eco-Friendly Cards

    There is nothing more special than a handwritten note from a loved one. Where do those notes end up? The landfill, the fire place, or wasting away in the attic? Why not save just the note part and reuse the picture to spread holiday cheer to the next person. Here is a great tutorial to make new cards from the old. And if that just seems like going too far, then there are plenty of other ways to reuse those cards each year.

    Give experiences instead of single use items

    As the survey mentioned, 10 percent of gifts are simply thrown away. That’s a lot of waste. Who could throw away gift certificates to any movie they wanted to see with their loved ones, or tickets to their favorite play? A spa, hair cuts, pedicures, a hot air balloon ride or the experience of driving a race car? These are perfect ideas that create very little waste in the landfill.

    Check out this list of experiences you can gift during the holidays.

    Gift cards

    Gift cards are great for waste-free holiday because they can be filled again and again. They’re also a great way to support local businesses. Your friend or family member can try a local restaurant or retail store without worrying they’ll be disappointed or waste their money. In a recent survey by the National Retail Federation showed that close to 60 per cent of respondents would rather have gift cards than other presents. Gift cards can also guarantee that the recipient will use their gift, instead of tossing it.

    For more inspiration on finding waste-free holiday gifts, check out this post.

    Waste Free Gifts for Children

    Children can be incredibly hard to buy for. Many times they have everything they want and need or they outgrow their toys so fast. With this great list, you can get the children in your life a gift that will actually last.

    Hopefully, these tips will get you started on your waste-free holidays. Please share your tips for a waste-free holiday in the comments below!

    Check out these tips to help cut down waste in the areas of packaging, food, gifts and decorations, and start enjoying your waste-free holiday.









4 thoughts on “How to Have a Waste-Free Holiday

  1. […] I love mason jar recipes because they’re easy to make for you and for the person you gift it to. They usually use common ingredients that the average person has. The best part is they don’t have to be used right away and will wait until they’re ready to use them. Check out these ideas to go green during the holidays. […]

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