8 Useful Tips For A Zero-Waste Festive Season

You needn’t miss out on the festivities while cutting down your consumption. Here are some ideas for how to have a zero-waste festive season.

A foraged Christmas wreath with cinnamon sticks, pinecones, dried orange and apple slices, and cranberries.

Going completely zero-waste for December is a really big ask of anyone. But if you can let go of perfection, you’ll find loads of opportunities to adopt a waste-less mindset during the often wasteful festive period. 

Natural Decorations

Unfortunately, many festive decorations are made entirely from plastic or covered in glitter, a microplastic. If you need new decorations, make your own from the winter wonderland outside. You could use: 

  • Cinnamon sticks, bundled and hung from string
  • Holly, ivy and red leaves fallen from trees
  • Flower petals scattered across the table for Christmas dinner
  • Pine cones on the mantelpiece
  • Pine branches suspended in water, inside an empty wine bottle
  • Rosemary twigs or dried orange slices in a garland

Pick Up Second-Hand Decorations

If DIY decorations aren’t your thing, buy second-hand instead. Search charity shops to give unwanted decorations a new life in your home. 

Your friends and family probably have festive decorations they’ll never touch again. Why not ask around to see what you can gather? Do they have any candles they’re not using? Light these instead of using string lights. You could even hold a decorations swap at your next get together so everyone can go home with something new.

Get A Potted Christmas Tree

Decorating the tree is an essential part of most people’s festivities. But fake trees are resource-intensive to make and almost always plastic. And while tree farms absorb carbon throughout the year, most real trees end up in landfill or a chipper by the end of the year. If you can’t compost your tree, it can be incredibly damaging to the environment. 

What if you didn’t have to throw away your tree every year? 

Buy a pot-grown tree and you can use it year after year. Potted trees are grown from seed to maturity in the same pot. Simply keep your tree on the patio until December, then bring it inside and decorate. Place it back outside once the decorations have come down, and wait until next year! No need to spend more money every Christmas, and you’re bound to get attached as you nurture your little tree.

Make Your Own Cards

Just like decorations, many greeting cards are coated with some form of plastic, making them nearly impossible to recycle. And Christmas cards are destined for the bin after just a few weeks. 

Why don’t you and your kids make the family’s festive cards from stationery tucked away in the attic? Better still, skip the cards this year and wish everyone a Merry Christmas by phone or in person.

Switch Up Secret Santa

Secret Santa is a notorious game for lumping people with things they don’t really want. Consumable gifts are less likely to be wasted, especially as they can be easily shared. Why not suggest a cookie swap instead? 

If you really can’t escape the usual Secret Santa present exchange, buy an experience or something that helps reduce the recipient’s waste. Some Secret Santa gift ideas are: 

  • An e-book
  • Fresh flowers
  • A crafty day course
  • Reusable straws
  • Fancy toiletries
  • A spa day
  • A stainless steel reusable coffee cup
  • An IOU for a task you’re good at

DIY Wrapping Paper

Yep, you guessed it – wrapping paper is often coated with a layer of plastic. Once it’s been ripped apart, it’s neither recyclable nor usable. What’s the alternative? 

Go DIY. Here are some ideas for how to make zero-waste wrapping paper: 

  • Tie a piece of reusable cloth to hold the gift, as in the Japanese craft furoshiki
  • Rip sheets from old newspapers, magazines or comics
  • Use other paper you or your family have lying around, like spare wallpaper
  • Place the gift in a nice reusable bag
  • Use a beautiful tea towel, which then becomes part of the gift

What’s more, you can cut up Christmas cards from last year to make unique and beautiful gift tags.

Prevent Unwanted Gifts

There’s no shame in asking someone what they really want or need as a present. You could even chip in with others to get your recipient a single gift they really want but can’t afford for themselves. 

If your receiver can’t come up with any gift ideas, gift them a consumable – wildflower seeds, a card that plants a tree, or home-baked festive cakes. 

And if you want to completely avoid buying things, get them an experience they’ll remember for years to come, or donate to their favourite charity in their honour. 

Don’t forget, you can direct the conversation about what others buy you, too. Maybe some of the ideas above will help.

Plan Your Christmas Meals

You might feel you’re missing out if you don’t buy all of your festive favourites, every year. But we also know how easy it is to over-shop for the food you’ll eat between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. 

You can still have a delicious Christmas while keeping things minimal. Here are some tips for a zero-waste approach to food over the festive season: 

  • Plan your main meals in advance and buy only the ingredients you really need
  • Shop at local markets and bring reusable bags to eliminate single-use plastic
  • Buy food that doesn’t come packaged, like fresh produce, some deli items, and canned foods
  • Set fridge temperature between 0 and 5 degrees C to help preserve food for longer
  • Choose recipes with less food waste
  • Use the whole of any vegetable you buy
  • Use your usual reusable silverware
  • Bring your own cutlery to Christmas parties
  • Plan meals for Boxing Day and beyond with leftovers in mind

The aim is that no food gets wasted, but if you can’t avoid it don’t throw it in the bin – compost your scraps in the garden.

Oddbox Fruit and Vegetable box