How to Have a Zero-Waste or Low-Waste Holiday?

Having a low-waste Christmas or Hanukkah could reinvigorate your soul, charge up your holiday spirit and get you and your family in touch with nature. Here are some easy swaps from waste to low-waste: swap gift wrap for newspaper wrap or cloth, and buy gifts from the heart that the other person truly wants and won’t put to waste.  

So what exactly is a zero or low-waste holiday season?

View a low-waste Christmas or Hanukkah as a fun-family challenge. Set goals of how many bins of garbage you want to reduce your waste to, and explore nature to scavenge for decorations instead of buying plastic ones at big box stores. 

The concept goes like this. The goal is to dispose of as little waste as possible and implement sustainable habits to reuse items, buy reusable items, or be mindful of what you are buying. Think before you buy. The holidays are known to be a stressful time, and many buy, buy, buy and think more about “I need to buy more gifts and decorations,” and think less about the impact of overconsumption and waste. 

For example: try not to buy one time use items, like a plastic toy a child will only play with once, or clothes that will only last a few washes then wear out. Think quality over quantity and be mindful about what you buy. 

Here are 6 tips to start a low-waste lifestyle this holiday 

1. Wrapping Paper

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Wrapping paper isn’t really recyclable and Canadian throw over 540,000 tons of wrapping paper end up in the landfill every season . Yes you can buy recycled wrapping paper, but why not go an even better route and wrap your gifts in something truly sustainable. What about paper bags, used newspapers turned into gift bags (that use no harsh chemicals to whiten the appearance of the paper), or cloth. Have fun finding cloth at thrift shops, your basement, or your grandmother’s house. Look up tutorials on how to wrap gifts with cloth and you will be amazed at the many ways and how fun the activity can be. Get the whole family together for a night of cheer and gift wrapping.

2. Bring the outdoors inside

Instead of buying plastic wreaths and tinsel, go for a nature walk and scavenge for evergreen tree branches, winter berries, and pine cones. Tie or glue together items to make a wreath or a festive table setting. You’ll love bonding on an outdoor adventure and the crafting will spark creativity and problem solving. Sounds like a win-win for the whole family. 

3. The Christmas tree debate

The second the nights start to get darker and the snow starts to fall, the Christmas spirit comes about. And there’s nothing that screams Christmas more than setting up your annual Christmas tree, and going to the Christmas tree farm to chop down the perfect tree. Sadly, this tradition is widely unsustainable, and we suggest if you cannot give up your Christmas tree (trust me I understand), then at least please please compost it. There is no more room in landfills for Christmas trees. According to 'Household Beautiful' publication in UK, over 6 million Christmas trees are discarded everywhere, and the 250 tonnes of Christmas tree waste could have been composted.

Want to go green and opt for a sustainable tree? Try a twine and stick tree. Here’s an example here.

4. Eco-friendly Hanukkah and Christmas candles

When lighting candles for the 8 days of Hanukkah or Christmas dinners opt for Beeswax, soy or palm oil candles versus traditional candles with paraffin. Eco-friendly candles are cleaning, burning, non-toxic and better for the environment, air, and your health. Why not enjoy the mood lighting and turn off house lights while the candles are burning, save on electricity and help Mother Earth. 

5. Homemade decorations and thrifting 

Time to buy your first menorah or is your current one worn out? Try shopping at an antique store or a thrift shop for a local unique find. Instead of buying decorations make DIY ones: marshmallow snow globes, gingerbread cookie ornaments or homemade ornaments with items from nature. Spark creativity and get back in touch with Mother Earth. Want the feeling of new ornaments? Go to a thrift shop and find unique ornaments to decorate your tree with. 

6. Give from the heart and be a conscious consumer

Do your research and be a conscious consumer. Shop a little earlier this year, and find out if the company you want to purchase from is Canadian-owned, has sustainable and ethical practices and if your values are aligned. Find out if they have low-waste shipping. The more you inquire, the more you will learn, and you may find some really cool eco-foward companies like ‘Love Your Mother Boutique’. Shop local and support local. Find local gift guides on Etsy, Instagram, Facebook and Google. Look out for online holiday markets on FB and Instagram, they have been popping up all season. Finally, try buying experiences or edible gifts, or buy something that someone really wants, so it doesn’t end up sitting on their shelf in plastic for another year. 

Give edible gifts like a charcuterie board, custom sugar cookies, challah, or a winter classic like Baileys and wine. 

Even if you only take one tip from our list above, every step counts towards a greener earth and a more sustainable lifestyle.

Happy holidays from Sarah and the LYMB team.

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