The minimalism movement is slowing down—not in the sense that it’s losing traction, simply that it is settling in to stay. And the holiday season is as good a time as any to get cozy. Adopting a low-waste approach to the holidays has the added benefit of avoiding stress—it takes a bit more planning and organization to achieve, hopefully eliminating the Christmas Eve mad dash. More planning doesn’t have to mean more complicated, though! Here are a few simple tips for a low-waste holiday season.
Buy treats in bulk. Bulk Barn has an entire aisle of holiday treats that look fantastic, and they let you bring your own container. And of course, they have another aisle for all your baking needs.
Speaking of baking… in my humble opinion, the best gifts are baked. A past employer (and current friend) bakes ~30 different kinds of German Christmas cookies every year and gives big boxes to all her friends and family. While that kind of production may be unattainable for the rest of us, a single batch of sugar cookies (or a box from a local baker) is ALWAYS a great option.
And if that doesn’t sound like a great option, try to do your shopping in person. Shopping online might be convenient (especially if you live in the-middle-of-nowhere-Saskatchewan), but it comes with a lot of excess. Excess packaging, excess stress at the uncertainty of being delivered on time, and excess carbon emitted in its journey. Buying local also means hitting all the fun craft markets that pop up this time of year—a nice way to spend time with friends and family, while also supporting small businesses. Spend… time? Hey, that’s a good idea too! Experiences are great gifts, and you don’t have to worry about returning an afternoon on the outdoor rink.
January 2nd has been dubbed “National Returns Day” due to the flood of unwanted stuff being sent back; by one estimate, this “stuff” accounted for 5 billion tons of waste sent to the landfill and 15 million tons of carbon emitted last year (in the US alone). To that extent, re-gifting unwanted presents shouldn’t be awkward; it’s like a low-five for the planet (because low-waste, ha ha).
Wrapping paper also contributes to the surge of waste around the holidays, and it is usually not recyclable. My mom used to have a massive role of plain (recyclable!) brown paper perfect for small children to scribble all over, but it’s also perfect for wrapping gifts and decorating however one pleases. Personally, I like to use the comics section of the newspaper and make my own cards.
Food waste is another issue to be aware of over the holidays, but who doesn’t like leftovers? Taking a container along to parties/dinners is totally okay, and hosts may even be grateful!
Half the fun of the holidays is making your space look festive. Take your inspo from craft fairs and make your own decorations! Think popcorn/paper chains, wooden ornaments, cedar bough wreaths, dried citrus garlands… You get the point.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to take advantage of live Christmas tree rentals for all those handmade decorations. Evergrow Christmas Trees Co. operates in the Greater Vancouver area; you can pick up your tree in a pot, and return it after the holidays to be replanted and cared for year-round.
What do you do to reduce your impact around the holidays?
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