A Starter Guide To Zero Waste Holidays

Who doesn't love a good party, god knows we all deserve one after this year!
As the holiday season starts to appear over the horizon, social media gets flooded with themed photos. Halloween decorations, Thanksgiving meals (if you're in the US), perfectly-wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree - you name it. What we don’t usually see in these photos is the amount of waste (often plastic) generated during the celebrations, most of which can be avoided.

So, the more we talk about zero waste celebrations, the less daunting it should feel. Because we know, the idea of paying attention to every non-recyclable item you use and exerting efforts not to use it, can be a challenge. This post was written specifically to help you become more sustainable in the run up to Christmas and then all year round!

Threats of Too Much Plastic Waste

For the most part, we tend to be more focused on convenience rather than the waste we’re creating. Whether that’s during the holiday season or at regular times of the year, we all aim for convenience. But even when we don’t pay attention to it, we’re still accumulating plastic and other unhealthy waste with the kind of lifestyle we’re living. Non-recyclable waste that ends up in landfills and the ocean. No wonder why it is predicted that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

We should also take note that one of the ways landfills manage the waste is by burning them. In 2018, household plastic consumption in the UK totaled to over 1.5 million metric tons. This much plastic going down the incinerator poses major environmental concerns as it emits harmful acids and dioxins. These harmful gases and dioxins could negatively affect vegetation, animal health, and yes, human health. Burning plastic also produces black carbon which is considered a contributory factor to climate change and the worsening air pollution.

Importance of Reducing Plastic Consumption

It’s pretty scary that a plastic item that we use only for a few minutes, sometimes even just seconds, could collectively affect our planet so negatively. A plastic bag used to carry small items bought at a local store, the cling wrap and styrofoam used to pack fruits and vegetables in grocery stores, the plastic water bottle - all these and more are part of our normal, everyday life. But we don’t fully realize its effects on the planet.

So, let’s imagine what kind of ocean our great-grandchildren would enjoy if we continue living a lifestyle of too much plastic usage? Let’s think of the air they’ll breathe and the environment they’ll live in.

Reducing plastic waste takes time. Living more consciously takes practice. There’s a learning curve but it’s important that we exert efforts in saving our planet. Because by pausing for a while and rethinking our ways of living, we can help create a better environment for the next generations. And of course, set a good example for our children. And as the holidays start to roll in, what better time to begin practicing living zero-waste? Because wouldn’t it be great if, year after year, holiday after holiday, we can practice celebrating them with less and less waste?

Tips for an Eco-Friendly Approach this Holiday Season

Be mindful of the plastic items you use

Practicing a zero-waste holiday starts with mindfulness. This encompasses everything - the food you prepare, the decorations you make, the gifts, and the costumes you buy. In fact, Halloween costumes can be made instead of purchasing something brand new. Think black dresses and paper mache masks. Keep in mind that when we say zero waste, we don’t mean ban plastic items (though that would be awesome.) We mean minimizing waste by paying attention to the non-recyclable items you use.

Encourage friends and family to bring containers

Holidays mean hearty meals. Aside from sharing these meals on the table, we also love sending them to friends and family. Instead of shopping for plastic containers in anticipation of all the take-home meals, encourage your friends and family to bring their own containers. Sure, some may still bring plastic, but at least these are the ones they already have at home. No need to buy those disposable plastic microwavable containers.

Gift experience instead of material things

It’s been a tradition to gift someone with something that’s put in a box, wrapped in a cute gift wrapper, and topped with curly ribbons, often made of polypropylene. If we’re talking about Christmas gifts for kids, it’s usually toys that they’d get bored with in a few months.

Instead of gifting material items, consider gifting your friends and family with experience. Maybe buy your mum a gift certificate from her favorite salon. Or give your kids a trip to somewhere they’ve been wanting to visit. After all, experiences could be more memorable than material gifts.

Spark creativity when making decorations

It's fun to shop around for materials for a new decoration project you want to start on. But just before you hit the stores consider gathering items at home that you’re not really using. Even better, items you’d most likely toss in the trash bin. Scroll Instagram and Pinterest and let your creative juices flow. You’ll most likely come up with unique ways to decorate your house for any holiday with items you already have. And it’s definitely more fun for the environment when you reuse and repurpose.

Search at home before searching in malls and groceries

It’s also a healthy practice to search at home first before heading to the malls and groceries. You never know, the item you’re about to buy might be sitting in the back of your closet. Or the ingredient you need for that family favorite dish, you may have a good and even healthier substitute in your pantry. It may be easier to just make a list and head to the grocery but think of all the unnecessary waste you’ll accumulate. These may seem minimal but avoiding them can be impactful for the planet.

Check local shops that sell sustainably-made items

If you’re new to conscious living, this would be extra fun. Not to mention a great learning experience. Check your local shops for sustainably-made items. If you need candles for Halloween, check for local businesses selling natural, handmade candles. Instead of going mall-hopping, visit the small stores in your town that offer eco-friendly products. Not only are you shopping consciously, but you’re also helping small local businesses.

Consider zero waste starter kits as gifts

What better way to celebrate zero waste holidays than to gift your friends and family with zero-waste starter kits? There are many brands like Global WAKEcup that focus fully on eco-friendly items. And oftentimes, these brands have zero waste starter kits. If you can’t find one locally, shopping online is an option too. And online stores that sell zero waste starter kits are also good at zero-waste packaging. Many of them replace bubble wraps with shredded paper, greenwrap, or other similar materials.

Conscious living is a practice. It doesn’t happen overnight and it requires effort. But practicing a lifestyle that’s friendly to the environment is definitely worth it. And kickstarting that practice by celebrating a zero-waste holiday, or less plastic holiday? Now that’s an inspiring pursuit worth sharing on social media.

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