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Try 9 easy ideas for zero-waste holidays

‘Tis the season to celebrate, but how can we do it without sending an extra five-million tons of trash to the landfills? Try these nine easy ideas for gifting, wrapping, partying and more

  1. Go natural, or reuse holiday decor

Using natural items from your yard or garden, such as flower heads, holly or pinecones, is a great way to get a fresh holiday look. As a bonus, the beautiful bounty can be composted after the season. Make an inventory of your holiday decorations and try to use them instead of buying new. Trading with friends gives everyone a new look without buying anything new. If you want to get rid of old decorations, donate them to a good cause. Just try to keep them out of the landfill.

  1. Wrap it up

Most wrapping paper and bows are not recyclable. Look for 100-percent recycled-content or recyclable paper to wrap your gifts. Or, reuse packing paper, boxes or bags. Paper can be decorated with stamps, snipped greens from the garden, fabric scraps and buttons, or festive recycled bows. Or, get creative with a cloth bag, old maps, posters, newspaper or leftover wallpaper. For kitchen gifts, wrap it up in a dishtowel, tablecloth or napkin. Oftentimes, bows and ribbons can also be reused from year to year. If every family in the U.S. reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

  1. Give an experience or a gift of time

Instead of exchanging gifts with siblings, plan a holiday outing. It could be a hike, a game night, cookie swap or a local-food dinner for siblings only. For an older relative, take a homemade dinner or give a certificate good for help with everyday chores like raking leaves or getting groceries.

  1. Stuff the stockings with sentiments

A favorite in some families is to stuff the stockings with hand-written (on decorated, reused paper) notes of appreciation and love, instead of disposable trinkets.

  1. Buy second-hand

If the tradition of exchanging gifts is an important one, start a new tradition where the group picks one name and everyone finds a treasure from a resale or thrift store. You can score usable clothes, household items, toys, tools and sometimes a rare treasure. For book clubs and friends, gifts could include a white elephant exchange with books or items you already own. Both options help keep usable items out of the landfill.

  1. Minimize unwanted mail

If holiday catalogues are clogging your mailbox, reduce paper waste by having your name removed from mailing lists. A free, quick and easy way to do this is by visiting Direct Mail. Be sure to recycle the ones you do get.

  1. Recycle shipping materials

With more shopping being done online this season, there will be more boxes and shipping materials. Most delivery boxes are made from paper that can easily be recycled. If the boxes contain Styrofoam packing peanuts, put them in a bag and check with nearby postal mailing centers to see if they can use them. If the packaging material is Kraft paper, you can use it to wrap gifts or make gift tags.

  1. Gather together with zero waste

Holiday gatherings don’t have to leave you with lots of trash. Use real plates, glasses, linens and utensils, instead of disposable items. If you don’t own enough, borrow some or check a thrift store for extras. The day of the party set up convenient recycling containers for any bottles or cans. Set out baskets to collect ribbons and bows that can be reused. Then offer them to guests as they leave.

  1. Share your meal & reduce food waste

Pull out the plastic containers you’ve saved from carry-out meals, whipped cream, butter and cottage cheese and send everyone home with leftover treats. If you’re cooking for a smaller gathering at home, make a plan to share some of the meal with an older friend or relative who is home bound. You can deliver your food gifts in reusable glass containers. Not only will you spread some holiday cheer, but you can also reduce holiday food waste.

Have more ideas? Send us a Comment below.

Photo: YouMakeIt Simple

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