Less is More! Reduce Holiday Gift Waste

December, 2016

Who doesn’t love the holidays? The scent of artificial pine wafting from a cheap candle, the quiet rustle of needles floating to the floor from a farmed Douglas-fir tree, the last minute trips to the mall for more presents to outdo yourself from last year. There is pressure to host a perfect holiday party complete with little plastic toys for the children, lavishly packaged presents and cheesy ornaments. Why do many of us still celebrate with our families with outmoded wasteful ways? This holiday season, Zero Waste Humboldt offers a few valuable tips for reducing your holiday waste.  

Let’s start with gifts.  Over time, religious celebrations have metamorphosed into a winter holiday season of gift-giving—where friends and family quantify their love with stuff. All kinds of stuff. Stuff that doesn’t fit, stuff that won’t work next year, stuff that sometimes you don’t even like. Holiday-themed stuff, stuff that is kitschy at best and only used on the holiday. 

On top of the sheer quantity of stuff, is excessive holiday packaging.  It comes in paper and plastic and metal and styrofoam and cardboard.  Add up all the cost of holiday gift-giving and you’ve got a hard hit on the wallet. Not only do Zero Waste practices encourage creativity, exemplify sincerity and the true spirit of the season, they’re also cost-saving.

This season, give a gift of an experience! A home-cooked meal, a concert ticket or a movie night are all waste-free options to show your love. Don’t stop there! Offering your services (i.e. babysitting, cleaning, shoveling) are all well-appreciated gifts. If you must give a tangible gift, give something homemade! Cookie and cake mixes, tea blends, jams/jellies, sugar scrubs, and body lotions are all ideas to get you started. For extra points, wrap it in newspaper, recycled paper, or last year’s wrapping. 

Then there’s the dilemma of the holiday card. Step Number 1: Email it. I do not mean mass email a link to a cheesy holiday cartoon skit that you found online. I mean attach a picture of you and yours, type your holiday wishes and just press send (you can even Bcc everyone on your list and do it all at once). Not only will it save you paper and money, but it saves your recipients from wondering if they should save all 23 of your holiday cards. 

Aside from gifts, decorations are one of the hardest things to make Zero Waste. Celebrators all over the country spend countless hours putting up and taking down decorations that 355 days out of the year, sit in storage.  Pinecones, branches, squash, and flowers all make beautiful decorations that can get composted or put back outside when you’re through. We at Zero Waste Humboldt also encourage edible decorations—like gingerbread houses.  For more Zero Waste gift giving pointers, email contact@zerowastehumboldt.org.