As the weather turns colder and the days get shorter, inevitably thoughts turn to Christmas. Unfortunately, it is also the time of year when we create most waste. We buy huge amounts of disposable decorations, wrapping paper, and novelty gifts. This year, why not try something different? Heres The Ultimate Guide To A Zero Waste Christmas.
Gifts Don’t Have To Be Items
A zero waste Christmas can be achieved in a number of ways. Experiences can last much longer than many gift items. Experiences come in many shapes and sizes, but one of the most valuable things we can give to anyone is our time.
Spend some time and think about each person you want to thank. A gift you have thought about will have more impact than one that simply cost more.
If it has to be a gift item, think about things that will get used over and over again. Look at the packaging too. Handmade items purchased from the people that make them will often come without any packaging. Looking for craftspeople in your local area may give you ideas you had never considered.
Avoid items you know have travelled halfway around the world. The environmental impact of the distribution can often outweigh the environmental impact of the manufacturing process.
Give gifts that are fulfilling. Think of something that will be truly appreciated. These are the sort of zero waste gifts people really cherish.
Buy To Last
If you are buying a gift item, choose something that will last. Well made products will always last better, but quality doesn’t always cost more.
With well known brand names you are often simply paying for the advertising and marketing. The extra money involved rarely equates to a significantly better product.
You may know someone local who has the skills to make something specific for you. If not, don’t despair, the internet is a mine of information. It has enabled many people who run small enterprises to advertise their services more easily. You might find the perfect person lives just down the road.
You will find that more manufacturers are now including “lifetime” guarantees with their products. Having the confidence to put a lifetime guarantee on something always says something about the confidence the manufacturer has in their products.
Second-Hand Is Great
It never ceases to amaze me; the amount of perfectly good items that get thrown away is terrible. In our quest for a Zero Waste Christmas, buying second-hand or re-purposing is the ultimate winner.
Below you will find some more of my favourite gift ideas. I’ve tried to include enough variety to suit everyone on your shopping list. I will define zero waste gifts as experiences, donations, products that are handmade, homemade or second-hand, and items that help someone reduce waste.
Treat Them To Tickets
Treating your friends and family to a night out gives you a multitude of options. Buying tickets for individuals or even planning a group visit for you and your friends or family to spend time together, can make a great evening even better. That might be a trip to the theatre or Cinema, or to see a band you know is someone’s favourite.
Tickets to a Rugby or Football match might be the right option. A day at the museum, watching a race of some kind, or visiting the ballet or opera could all be the right zero waste present for one of your nearest and dearest.
Allow Them To Learn
Many people love the idea of learning something new. Giving them the chance to actually do it, can be the perfect way to a zero waste Christmas gift. From Salsa Dancing to DIY and Self Defence to Yoga, you will find a course for most people you know I’m sure.
Maybe you have heard them mention something? If not, try chatting to other people they know if you are struggling for ideas. It may be something completely new, but it might also be that they are struggling to pay for the next stage of some training they want to do. Either way, it really is as close to a zero waste present as you can get.
Make Your Own
If you are a hands-on person, you probably already do this at times. People will always appreciate something made for them more than something simply bought from a shop. From decorations to presents and homemade food, this is one way that you can have a real impact on the waste produced at Christmas.
Christmas decorations have become an institution. Unfortunately, they are a wasteful and destructive institution. Long gone are the days when Christmas decorations were so well made that they could be handed down through the generations. Instead, now we accept cheap plastic imitations or items so flimsy they simply fall apart after a year or 2. Let us try to reverse that trend. Glass baubles look so much better than plastic ones, stored properly they will last for years.
You don’t have to limit yourself with just using less plastic during Christmas. Why not reduce your plastic waste all year round – make it a New Years resolution!
Natural Christmas Decorations
Taking pine cones and spraying them with gold or silver paint couldn’t be an easier way to make more natural decorations. A quick re-spray when needed will make them look like new again.
Natural evergreen plants will also always look better than their plastic throw-away alternatives.
If you like Holly, why not grow some? Tended properly, a single holly bush can give you (and your friends) all the berries and leaves you will need, for the whole holiday period. They will also reduce your carbon footprint throughout the year as they take up more carbon dioxide.
Buying Second Hand
To some people buying second-hand is something they never even consider. To others, re-purposing old items has become a lucrative business with a zero waste philosophy at its heart.
You will often find older products are made better, using superior components. This makes them both longer lasting, and easier to re-purpose.
Keep your eyes open, people often put unwanted items outside their property for many reasons. It may be that with a little love and attention that unwanted item could make the perfect zero waste present for one of your favourite friends. Many people get rid of things they have never used. Just because it was of no interest to them doesn’t mean it can’t make a great present for someone you know.
There are also many shops and outlets that sell second hand goods of all kinds. Personally, I would rather buy a very good quality second hand item than a cheap new one. Personal experience tells me it will often perform better and last longer.
Edible gifts are always a favourite at Christmas. They are zero waste and fun to make! Why not dedicate a day or two to getting creative in the kitchen. Making someone a homemade cake emphasises the sharing aspect of Christmas too.
Home-made bread, jam or chutney all make great gifts. Or maybe you can make your own wine, and know certain friends have a favourite? If not, infused alcohol can be easy to make too, mulled wine, coffee-infused whiskey or chocolate vodka can all make welcome gifts.
If you aren’t in a creative mood, find a local specialist. There is nothing wrong with picking up a nice bottle of locally made wine, supporting a skilled local cake-maker or buying some gorgeous local honey (take your own glass container just in case).
A Gift Of Life
As the year gets colder, it can be comforting to be surrounded by things that grow. Potted plants make wonderful zero waste gifts at Christmas time. If someone has a larger garden, you could give a tree seedling. It can be transplanted to the garden in the spring.
If you have friends who love to cook, potted herbs that grow indoors are great. Fresh herbs can transform a meal and give you a flavour that the dried herb simply can’t. Giving someone bulbs or seeds and a nice terra cotta pot might be a better option. It gives them the chance to grow their own!
Of course, you can never go wrong with fresh flowers at any time of year (just not ones that are wrapped in plastic!).
If we are honest, most of us don’t really need anything at Christmas time. We give gifts because it has become the expected thing to do. It gives us all a warm feeling of well-being, reinforces the ties of friends and family and makes us feel like we belong.
For some, the best gift is a donation. They are all zero waste and you can choose an organization that holds special meaning for that particular friend. You can make a donation in that person’s name through most charity websites now.
When it’s time to unwrap presents, simply let the recipient know that funds have been given to the charity they support in their name. You may be pleasantly surprised by the recipient’s response.
Hold The Wrapping Paper
Contrary to popular opinion, there is no rule that says you must wrap gifts before you give them. If you are willing to go rogue, give your gifts with no wrapping at all. If you feel you really can’t, try to recycle materials you already have. Save wrapping from any gifts you receive and re-use it for another gift.
Look through old magazines to find a visually pleasing spread and wrap a gift with it. Secure it with some jute twine or cotton string around the package. You could maybe even stick a sprig of rosemary in it. Use your imagination.
You may be surprised what happens when you set your mind to finding creative, zero waste solutions. Your package will be much more unique than the average glossy paper wrapped Christmas gift.