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How to Have a Zero Waste Holiday Season

Saving the Planet One Holiday at a Time

Image courtesy of The Decatur Minute.


The holidays are a time for giving and showing the people that we care about that we love them. This year, we should show the earth that we love it as well. It’s nice to celebrate the holidays with our friends and family, but we often don’t think about all of the waste that is being released into the environment because of these celebrations. Every year people throw away so much wrapping paper, plastic tableware, and other things that are harmful for the environment. So much food gets wasted throughout the year, but the holidays are a time where food waste is worse. So, what can we do to prevent all of this waste from being released into the environment?

In this article, we will be talking about the ways you can have a zero waste holiday celebration with your friends and family. We will talk about the following ideas:

  • Zero Waste ways to decorate
  • Environmentally friendly gift ideas
  • How to have an earth friendly feast
Some sustainable holiday decorations.
You can use crops such as fruit, pumpkins, and flowers to decorate your table in an eco-friendly way. 

Zero Waste Ways to Decorate

A Guide To Help You Decorate Your Home In An Environmentally Friendly Way

Let’s face it, October through December is the absolute best time of the year! You get to celebrate all of the best holidays within these 98 days of the year, and this is the time when you get to have some fun with decorating your homes. The only problem with this time of year is, people often do not think of how their decorations could potentially be affecting the environment. We have all been guilty of being wasteful and neglecting our beautiful planet, but it’s time we change our ways before it’s too late. 

One thing we can do to help protect the planet is change the way we decorate during the holidays. You probably don’t realize it, but some of the things people use to decorate their homes are harmful to the environment. If you are looking for zero waste ways to decorate, you can try using these ideas:

  • Use LED lights. For many years, people have enjoyed driving around and looking at all of the decorative lights people have on and around their home during the holidays. They’re so bright and beautiful and they really help to put you in the holiday mindset. If you are someone who enjoys hanging lights on their house and in their yard, make sure you are using LED lights. LED lights are better to use because they last way longer than the traditional decorative lights, and they use about 80% less energy. 
  • Alternatives for a Christmas tree. Instead of getting a Christmas tree this year, try decorating a houseplant that you already have at home. If you still want a tree, you can try to buy one that can be planted again in the spring. However, if neither of these options work for you, then what do you do? Well, there’s been plenty of debate about whether a fake tree or a real tree is better for the environment. We’re here to tell you that it is way better to get a real tree from a tree farm than to buy a fake tree. While fake trees last way longer, they are made from a non-recyclable plastic, and they will most likely just sit around as waste in the environment after they are thrown away. If you buy a real tree from a tree farm, you are not taking away a tree from the forest. Tree farmers will replant your tree after you take it from the farm which will create a new habit for the animals that hang around the trees. 
  • Eco-friendly party decorations. If you are planning to celebrate the holidays by having a party with friends and family, try to decorate your home with items you already have. Do not go out and buy plastic tablecloths and streamers, those items are not necessary for a party. Try decorating with glass ornaments, pottery you have in your house, fresh fruit, pumpkins and gourds, and pine cones. This way you can have realistic natural decor around your house and don’t have to feel guilty about putting plastic into the environment. 

If you are able to decorate in environmentally friendly ways, you should highly consider doing so. This would be a great first step to help save the planet, and you would be showing the earth that you care for it as well during the holidays. 

Zero Waste Gift Wrapping Ideas
You can wrap your presents with reusable items to help with your zero waste holiday. Image courtesy of Woodlark.

Zero Waste Gift Ideas

Sustainable Gifts You Can Give to Your Friends

Giving to others is one way that we can show our friends and family that we love them. We’re here to give you some sustainable ways to do your gift shopping and alternatives to going out and buying presents for your friends and families. 

  • Bring your own bags for shopping. Currently, you might not be able to do this because of the global pandemic, but once this subsides, bring your own reusable bags when shopping for friends. This helps prevent plastic from entering the environment by helping to decrease the amount of bags stores give to customers. A few stores are pushing for customers to stop using their plastic bags anyways, so get a headstart on this. 
  • Give boxes of homemade baked goods. Instead of buying your friends something they can use, make them something they can eat and gift it in a reusable container. You can give them boxes of the cookies you make around the holidays. Your gift will be homemade and delicious! What more could they want in a present? Then, they can reuse the container you gave them instead of throwing it away. 
  • Get recyclable holiday cards. If you are looking for cards to give your family and friends, look for cards that are paper only and don’t have any fancy non-recyclable materials on them. That way if they don’t want to keep the cards, they can just recycle them after. You can also consider buying cards made from recycled material to give out, they might be more money, but think of the impact you are making. To eliminate paper products all together, consider sending out e-cards this year. You can find some really funny and cool cards online to let people know you are thinking of them during the holidays. 
  • Eco-friendly gift wrapping. There are places out there that recycle wrapping paper, so if you are able to save your wrapping paper from your gifts, you can take it to a place that recycles it. However, it’s better to avoid using wrapping paper all together since it isn’t just made from paper. Instead, consider using other methods to wrap your gifts such as bandanas, other fabric, or posters. That way, people can reuse the wrap after they open their gifts.

Give these ideas a try when packaging presents for your loved ones this year. Then, tell them about your plan to start having zero waste holidays. 


Bringing reusable containers to take home leftovers.
Have your friends bring tupperware to your party so that they can take leftovers home to reduce food waste. Image courtesy of Fresh From Tupperware.

How to Have An Earth-Friendly Feast

Environmentally Conscience Ways to Enjoy Your Holiday Spreads

The food is one of the tastiest best parts of the holiday, but believe it or not, waste is created from our holiday feasts. To reduce waste, look at these ideas below:

  • Use reusable dishware instead of disposable dishware. We know the go-to move for holidays is to get plastic/paper tableware so that you don’t have to worry about washing the dishes after your celebrations. However, we encourage you to think about the environment and use reusable dishware. The plastic obviously isn’t good for the environment, so making the switch is better in the long run. 
  • Have guests bring their own tupperware for leftovers. Sometimes, after you are done eating, there is just way too much food leftover. Unfortunately, some people can’t eat everything they have left-over from a party, so it gets thrown away. So much food can be wasted from these events. To prevent this from happening, reach out to your friends and family about them bringing their own tupperware to the party to take home leftovers. That way all of the food can be eaten and whoever hosts the party isn’t left with it all. 
  • Make only enough food for the guests attending. If people don’t seem like they want leftovers, get a headcount of who is attending prior to the event. Then, when making the food, try to make only what you think will be necessary for the amount of guests. This will leave less leftovers which can help to prevent food waste. 

If you try these tricks, you can still enjoy your feasts without feeling guilty about creating any waste. 

Hopefully this article gave you good tips and tricks to help you to have a zero waste holiday and encourages you to try it. If you are able to successfully have a zero waste holiday this year, share your tricks with your friends and encourage them to try to do the same. 


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Gabby Haduch

Gabrielle Haduch is a senior double majoring in marketing and accounting at the University of Pittsburgh. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.
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