Today, consumers are considering their environmental footprint at the holidays, and it’s easy to understand why. There are several costs associated with extraneous festivities. The most obvious cost is the one we associate with our own personal spending on things like gifts and cookie ingredients, but there are other costs as well; additional costs (both personal and on the system) associated with increased waste, and the surge to our personal carbon footprints. Additionally, in the age of the conscious consumer, there is a tangible impact when we vote with our dollar. We may not have control over how much things cost, or how much jet fuel is used, but we do have control over how (and what) our money goes towards. And that spending has a collective impact, especially during this time of the year.

Fortunately, there are several ways each of us can reduce our impact (and reduce those costs) around the holiday season, and that collective spending message can make a big difference. Here are some simple, easy-to-implement ideas to enjoy the holiday season while considering the larger impacts, both personally and environmentally.

Ways to Waste Less (and save more)

Food Waste Tips

  1. Make your own stock-All those delicious holiday meals mean veggie scraps and bones galore. Save them in your freezer and use them to make a delicious, nutritious, homemade stock! I typically have two 1-gallon bags in my freezer at all times- one for veggies, and one for bones (both raw or cooked will work). When they’re full, throw them all together into a large pot, fill with water, and let it simmer for 2 – 12 hours. Strain out and compost the remains, and presto! You’ve just gotten multiple delicious meals out of scraps that would have otherwise been wasted.
  2. Leftovers plan- Creating a plan for your leftovers is a great way to ensure the food you put so much effort into doesn’t go wasted after. You can repurpose them into new meals, plan a menu for the days following, or freeze them accordingly!
  3. Less meat, more plants- Eating less meat is a simple and effective way to reduce our carbon footprint. Plus, there are some incredibly delicious meals that are so tasty, you won’t spare a second glance for the roast turkey.
  4. Local sourcing- Sourcing your ingredients from local farmers is one of the most powerful ways to vote with your dollar. Even though it tends to be more expensive, the taste of your final meal will be worth it! If you’re still concerned about the cost, then sourcing your protein from a local purveyor is the way to go. If you do not have a winter farmer’s market in your area, then try visiting a nearby grocery cooperative for the best quality meat products in your area.

General Waste Reduction Ideas

  1. Reuseable gift wrapping- Finding ways to reduce, re-use, and repurpose gift wrapping is a great way to make less waste and spend less on all that gift wrapping. Plus, many folks don’t realize that conventional wrapping paper is not suitable for composting or recycling.
    1. Furoshiki is a cloth wrapping style that originated in Japan, perfect for the minimalist. In addition to being reusable, you can use almost anything already on hand- scarves, fabric, etc.
    1. Re-useable gift boxes and bows are a great option if you love the look of all those gifts under the tree! It will make the chore of present wrapping less painstaking and save you some extra dollars on tape too.
    1. Reusing old kraft paper or even newspaper is another good option, as it provides single-use wrapping with another use. Plus, with the right ribbons or accoutrements, it can look quite classy!
  2. Décor- Decorations around the holidays are a key part of the festive season. And with some thought, they can be done well and with very little impact. Say goodbye to the tinsel, or items made from plastic. Instead, opt for natural.
    1. Foraged conifer sprigs, holly, pinecones, and the sort are not only great for making the house smell fresh- they’re also the easiest on your pocketbook! Just make sure to pick your foraging location with care- if it’s private land, make sure you have permission beforehand- and be conscious of your impact on the local environment.
    1. Handmade ornaments are beautiful when made from natural materials. They also make great gifts as a bonus! Your friends and family will be touched by the effort and care. It’s also a great way to get creative, as they can be whatever you want them to be! I made mine this year from dried orange slices and holly leaves, and they will look beautiful for years to come.
  3. Re-usable advent calendars can be an exciting way to count down the days and create fond memories for the little ones.

Gift Giving

  1. DIY gifts are my personal favorite type to give and to receive. The thought and care that goes into them are never wasted on the receiver. Plus, these can be anything that fit your skills or interest. Here are some ideas to get your creative mind going:
    1. Handmade ornaments like those mentioned above
    1. Artwork or Crafted goods like a painting, a scarf, or even a framed photograph
    1. Recipes you love and the dry-ingredients or spices to go with it
    1. Plant starts like an ivy cutting or your favorite herb
  2. Experiences over things has been a popular practice in my family growing up. They are both exciting to receive and can make some of the best memories afterward. They can also be any size to fit your budget. Whether it’s dinner at that restaurant you’ve always wanted to try, or a family vacation, your loved ones are sure to appreciate the gift of quality time together.
  3. Shop locallyat small businesses to support your local community and find some one-of-a-kind treasures.
  4. Lightly Used items for re-sale are a great option for both the planet and the pocketbook. Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace provide platforms to find quality bigger gift items like an espresso maker, a nice piece of furniture, or a new tv!
  5. Thoughtful consumables are another way to support small businesses and give a thoughtful gift. Coffee, chocolate, or tea can all be sourced fair trade and from small businesses, for instance.
  6. Conservation gifts can be a thoughtful gift for those who say they “don’t want anything.” They also have an immediate positive impact. Examples include purchasing an acre of rainforest, or sponsoring a child in hunger.
  7. Gifts to encourage less waste year-roundcan come in all shapes and sizes, such as:
    1. Bamboo cutlery kit for traveling or camping
    1. Re-usable alternatives to single use-plastic items like saran wrap or sandwich bags
    1. Home or backyard composter for those who love to garden
    1. Home plant growing systems for herbs and fresh greens
    1. Soda-stream or similar device to make your own soda at home

The holidays are a time to rejoice with loved ones. Celebrate, eat well, embrace the season to your heart’s content! However, there’s no need for over-indulging practices that will have a lasting impact. Whether you find one, or many good tips for your lifestyle here, I hope you find inspiration for your waste-less winter tidings.