The holidays are known as a time for giving—and, unfortunately, a season of waste. Every year, over 2.5 billion holiday cards and envelopes are bought and tossed, and 38,000 miles of ribbon—plus tissue paper, scotch tape, packaging, and the plastic bags to bring them home.
Perhaps the greatest, most conscious gift we can give to each other—and the planet—is a pledge to do no harm as we celebrate—to eliminate, or minimize, waste. In the process, we can create new traditions, spend more time together, summon our creative muses—and save money, too!
Talk with your family and friends about the difference between abundance of joy and abundance of stuff.
- Keep it Simple
make a plan to reduce stress and waste
- Need vs. Want
be a mindful shopper, make lists, and set a budget
- Share with Others
be generous with your time and thoughtfulness
How much stuff do we really need?
- Give an experience
a night out, a drive in the country, a sports event, or a show
- Give knowledge
an online magazine subscription, a class, or tickets to a lecture
- Give rest
babysit for a busy parent, gift a weekend away, or a housecleaner
- Give a hand
make a charitable donation, a holiday basket for a family in need, or volunteer
- Give it a go
make or bake a delicious handmade gift
- Go natural
seeds, bulbs, or plants for the garden or home
Entertain the Idea
Abundant doesn’t need to be wasteful.
- Avoid single-use plastic cutlery, cups, napkins, glasses, and dishes
- Plan your menus and be realistic about portions: snacks, meals, and parties
- Give doggy bags to guests
- Share leftovers, or immediately freeze in lunch- or meal-sized portions for busy days
- Share meals with shut-in neighbours
- Make soup
O Christmas Tree!
- Think twice about buying artificial trees and garlands. Many are made in overseas factories, and often contain toxic PVC, lead, and flame retardants. look for a second-hand or vintage tree to re-use
Find a locally grown or organic (pesticide-free) tree
- Buy a potted, living evergreen to plant after the holidays
- Try simple branches, potted miniature trees, or rosemary bushes
- Make your own with natural materials
Wrap it up
It’s all in the way you look at things, isn’t it? All year long, creative wrapping paper and ‘packaging’ ideas arrive in abundance, and you’ll be amazed at what you can find to work with. Keep everything handy and organized in a
box—ready when you need to wrap and roll.
- newspapers and comics
- paper bags
- old road maps
- old posters
- paper from wrapped flowers
- tissue paper from shopping
- mesh onion bags
- plastic bags
- envelopes of all sizes
- gift boxes
- designer tissue boxes
- lacy doilies
- sheet music
Note: Never Burn Wrapping Paper!
Much of our commercial wrap comes from countries with loose environmental standards. Paper may contain lead, plastic film, and synthetic inks, which release toxins and carcinogens when burned.
Decorations: upcycle + recycle
As tempting as retail displays are, resist buying plastic and glittered decorations.
- Choose wood, glass, metal, and fabric
- Cook up your own with popcorn and cookie dough
- Visit a thrift store
- Invest in one or two quality items (holiday sales!) to collect over time
- Twist wire and beads into simple shapes and spirals
- Upcycle rhinestone jewellery, chandelier crystals, little toys, and ribbon
Two Gifts in One
- Wrap gifts inside another gift.
- A tea towel, t-shirt, or scarf
- Socks, mittens, and hats
- Cloth or mesh bags with a drawstring (great for travellers to pack shoes, undies, computer accessories, etc.) or a pretty, reusable cloth shopping bag
- Shoe boxes or biscuit and tea tins
- A glass/stainless food storage jar, thermos, mug, candleholder, vase, or other useful container
- Wastepaper basket (no irony here!), wicker/straw box or basket, or a plant pot—preferably not plastic
- Paint or collage on plain paper wrapping
- Use non-toxic ink to stamp or draw on designs
- Use decorative punches like snowflakes on paper and homemade gift tags
Tie it Up
- Fabric ribbon, lace, or trim
- Decorative hair elastics
- A hat pin, pretty brooch, or giant safety pin (for cloth wrapping)
- Strips of leftover fabric
- Wool and string
- Pinecones, sprigs of holly, beads, or dried flowers
- Note: Scotch tape is not recyclable – try a dab of glue instead
- Cut-up old Christmas cards
- Hand cut and decorated reused card stock
- Paint chip squares
- Aluminum plant markers
Article was published in The Good Life magazine.