How to Have a Low-Waste Holiday Season

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 Written By Taylor Shinal & The Ecoversity Team 

The Ecoversity Team takes on Zero-Waste Holiday Ideas, Holiday Gifts for Environmentalists, Cheap Eco-Friendly Gifts, & Low-Waste Holiday Preparation.


Happy Holidays from the Ecoversity Family! ✨🌲🎁

Our team has created your one-stop-shop for all things low-waste this holiday season. It’s now more critical than ever to evaluate your waste production… from transportation and food waste to gift giving. We know this time of year is going to look a little different than usual due to the global pandemic, but there’s no better time than the present to revamp your traditions to become more eco-friendly. Little changes to old practices can make a massive impact on our planet! Remember, as zero waste chef Anne-Marrie Bonneau (@zerowastechef) says, “we don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” 


Consider These Stats about the Holidays in America 🌟

  • Americans alone throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year, amounting to about 1 million extra tons per week. 
  • If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.
  • If every American family chose to wrap just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
  • The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold in the United States annually could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.

 Source: Stanford University’s Holiday Waste Prevention Page


First, let’s talk gifts. For some, gift shopping is one of the best parts of the holiday season; others find this the most stressful. Luckily, we have options to suit both sentiments.

One of the main things to think about when purchasing gifts (or anything, really) is the ethical standard of the company. For example, do they pay their employees a living wage, maintain safe working conditions, and dispose of waste responsibly? Be sure to look for specific labels like Fairtrade Certified, B Corp, and Rainforest Alliance Certified. You can also check out websites like The Good Shopping Guide or Ethical Consumer to ensure that your dollars have a net positive impact on the world. It's important to be on the lookout for Greenwashing, “the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company's products are more environmentally sound” in order to convince well-intended consumers to make a purchase. Greenwashing can take many forms. It often looks like a company making claims that their materials are recycled, reused, “energy-saving,” or potentially false claims that they will plant trees for every purchase. This can be easily avoided with a little research. In the list below, you’ll find some of our favorite practices for shopping ethically and sustainably this holiday season:

    • Gift Experiences Rather than Products. Surprise your friends and family with a few nights away at a lodge, plan a fun day hike and picnic, or buy your loved one an online course from Ecoversity (😜). 
    • Eco-Friendly Kitchen Goodies: Think reusable grocery bags, stainless steel drinking straws, reusable baggies, beeswax food covers, hemp dish towels, biodegradable sponges, homemade house cleaner, bulk dish soap, and other life-long and reusable items! 
    • Buy Second Hand. We love websites like Poshmark and TheRealReal for clothing and LetGo or Ebay for all kinds of clothing and household goodies! Visit your local thrift store to shop for your gifts this holiday season as well! You never know what you will find. 
    • Shop Local. Head downtown to your main street filled with local shops (masked up, of course!) and purchase your holiday gifts there. Every purchase in a local shop supports a small business owner’s dream! We also love Etsy if you’d rather shop online.
    • Make your Zero-Waste Gifts! Cook, bake, build, paint, knit, or write your holiday gifts this year! Nothing beats a homemade gift. Other fun zero-waste ideas include: lotion, soap, salt scrub, bath bombs, face masks, dried oranges (ornaments), fire cider, and other elixirs. We recommend searching through Pinterest for cute holiday ideas.
    • Purchase Gift Certificates. Check out this website, plug in your town, and get started on buying gift cards from your local businesses. Be sure to ask for a paper certificate or receipt that is not a traditional plastic gift card if possible! 

Second, let’s talk about wrapping. Believe it or not, those fancy glossy wrapping papers are not recyclable or easily reusable. They go directly into the landfill post-celebration.

We totally understand the appeal of covering a gift to protect the element of surprise. This list goes through a few ideas on how you can decorate your presents without hurting the planet...

  • Repurpose Paper Bags and Newspapers as Gift Wrap. We especially love the comics section for kids and the young at heart!
  • Reuse Fabric Wraps or Scarves as Gift Covers. You could even cut up old t-shirts for this!
  • Use Old Boxes, Jars and Cookie Tins. Find these cooped up in cabinets!
  • Save Your Old Holiday Stuff. Gift bags, tissue paper, and boxes from past holidays!
  • Use Natural Items as DécorUse small branches and flowers instead of bows and ribbons. 
  • Make the Bag Part of the Gift! Try putting other gifted items inside of a canvas reusable bag for others to keep using.
  • Use Paper Tape. Instead of traditional plastic tape, try something like Kraft paper tape.


Third, let’s discuss the meal and party preparation. The list below features tips for keeping ourselves and our guests more eco-friendly this holiday season:

  • Ask Guests to Bring Their Own Containers. These can be washed and sent back home with them full of leftovers!
  • Buy Food in the Least Amount of Packaging Possible. Tips for this include buying in your bulk aisle, looking up waste-free recipes to cook, buying ingredients in glass and cardboard, avoiding plastic bottles, and making your own dressings. This is also super cost-effective!
  • Compost & Recycle. If possible, cook vegan and organic so your compost can thrive this holiday season! Remind your guests before and after eating that the fresh and organic food matter can be placed in the compost. Leave the compost and recycling in an easily accessible place for guests to use. 
  • Use Natural Items as DécorTry small branches and flowers instead of bows and ribbons.


Remember, going green is not about perfection. What matters is your willingness to live more intentionally and adjust old habits. From a million small changes grows a movement.