Saturday, October 27, 2012

I'm Dreaming of a Waste-Free Christmas

I know, I know - it's not even Halloween and here I am talking about Christmas! Actually, I'm a bit late getting around to Christmas-oriented discussions this year (just like I've been behind in most everything else these last few months.)

For the last couple of weeks I've been intending to write a "getting prepared for Christmas" type of post but as I've been mulling things over it's sort of transformed itself from my original intent. As so often happens in life (well, at least in my life!), a particular issue suddenly comes to the forefront of our attention and grabs us in a way that takes over our focus.

For me, it's been the non-sexy topic of waste. When I was writing my book, I ended up thinking about and researching food waste far beyond my original intent and it's an issue about which I've become passionate. I'll have a lot more to say about that in the coming weeks. Food waste issues led me to thinking more about packaging waste and garbage, recycling, and's snowballed and taken on a life of its own!

Although I consider myself someone who doesn't waste much (buying a lot of items secondhand and often finding second uses for things most people would toss), I've realized I could be doing even better than I am at avoiding waste of all kinds, and that it's time for me to take on some new challenges in this department. While there are many small changes that I plan on writing more about over the coming weeks, I wanted to start thinking NOW about ways I can reduce waste over the holiday season, since being prepared is half of the battle!

As I sat here and contemplated further, I realized not only do I want to avoid material waste, but wasted time, energy and money, too (well, that last one goes without saying around here!)

Here are some of my current ideas about how to reduce ALL of these kinds of waste this holiday season:

Just say NO: Well, that does sound a bit Scrooge-like, but I think you know what I'm getting at :) Your family's holiday time and resources are precious so don't overcommit to social activities or gift giving. Pick the few activities that are meaningful and politely decline the rest. More and more people seem to be open to discussions about toning down or eliminating gift-giving and now is a good time to start those conversations before people start shopping.

Favour experience-type gifts, food gifts, and other simple homemade items: These types of gifts are very well received in my experience, and generate little waste. I'm aiming for totally reusable packaging this year, with any "adornments" to the packaging from recycled and reused materials. You can find 10 of my favourite quick & easy homemade Christmas gift ideas here. If you do choose to purchase new items, pick ones with minimal packaging that is recyclable or reusable..

Consider giving less gifts: I am a big believer that less can be more when it comes to gift-giving. I've watched as my kids have gone from content and satisfied after opening a couple of well-chosen gifts, to frenzied and overwhelmed after opening a large pile more. When it comes right down to it, most of us don't really need much in the way of "stuff" these days. Taking the time to mindfully choose that one special gift ensures that the gift-giving experience will be satisfying for both the giver and the receiver.

Choose reusable wrapping options: Gift bags can be reused many times and most of us frugal folks have a big stash we've saved from previous years. Cloth bags or furoshiki are an even better option as they will last much longer than paper gift bags. I've recently become infatuated with the latter and plan to see if I can make some furoshiki squares from scrap fabrics I have lying around the house. Some extra-large T-shirts would be great to cut up for this purpose as T-shirt material doesn't fray so you won't have to hem them. I still have some wrapping paper in my stash and I want to challenge myself to have that be the last wrapping paper I buy!

Switch to a digital holiday greeting tradition: Christmas cards generate an astounding amount of waste. I know they are fun to receive, but where do they all end up when the season is over? We do save ours to recycle into gift tags, etc, but we already have more than we can use for the next decade or so! We stopped sending holiday cards a few years ago - both for environmental reasons and because neither of us particularly enjoyed the task of assembling and mailing (not to mention the cost of the postage). Also, with Facebook and email, we're in more regular touch with most people these days anyway, so the holiday greeting doesn't seem as necessary as it did when you didn't hear from friends and family all that often. One thing we neglected to do, however, was actually tell the people on our list that we no longer send out cards. I think some of them may think that we just don't love them anymore (oops!) This year I plan to send out a holiday email with photos and updates on our year. That way everyone will know that we're thinking of them, they'll get to see what we've been up to (if they don't already know), and there won't be any waste generated.

Tone down the decorating: Now, don't get me wrong - I love making the house all festive at Christmas time. I just think buying a lot of (usually way overpackaged) stuff to decorate with is unnecessary. I don't need more "trimmings or trappings" at my house. I can make good use of what I already have, and if I want to add something new I can probably create it with things I already have around the house or by gathering some natural materials from around the neighbourhood. Garlands can be made with cranberry or popcorn strings (both of which can be composted when you're done with them). If you really do need some "new" Christmas decorations, check Freecycle, thrift stores and yard sales - there are always tons of holiday items available! We do get a real tree every year (this is important to all 4 of us) and luckily our city recycles the trees for a variety of uses in the community.

Plan your feast carefully: I know this is the one time of year where it's easy for me to get carried away with all those special holiday foods. But you all know that food waste makes me crazy! So, yes, make sure your favourite foods are all represented at your festive meals, just try to be realistic about how much will get eaten and have a plan in place for dealing with any leftovers. For any leftover items that are highly perishable, consider sending extras home with guests (in reusable containers, please!) Also, if you're hosting a party, use regular dishes instead of disposables. If you happen to have a really cool group of friends, you could make it a BYOD party (bring your own dishes) where all the guests bring their plates and flatware, thus reducing the dish-doing strain on the hosts.

I'm feeling pretty optimistic that we can pull off a (nearly) waste-free Christmas this year!

Do you have any additional tips to add to my list?

Love what you read here? Find out how you can help support this blog. 

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

Click HERE to follow me on Twitter

Click HERE to like Abundance on a Dime on Facebook and get updates and tips on living frugally

Click HERE to like Cheap App├ętit on Facebook and get updates and tips on frugal eating and cooking


  1. Thank you for your wise holiday ideas! Each year I struggle to balance what our culture says about celebrations with what I am comfortable with regarding consumerism, waste, and wise choices around the holidays.

    I've written a bit about it here,

    and here,

    even here,

    including specific strategies that worked for me (gift ideas, gift wrap, book recommendations, etc.)

    Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Keri! I enjoyed reading your posts. I love how you used the mesh bags for wrapping - I'm going to try that this year :)


Related Posts with Thumbnails