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12 Days of Low-Waste Holiday Tips: How to celebrate eco-friendly, Covid-safe holidays – Part One

Yes, it is actually December. We are shocked too at how fast time has flew by this year. Between the Covid-19 global pandemic, important social justice movements, and personal moments of celebration and anxiety, it has been a whirlwind of a year for most people.

Get into the spirit and get ready with part one of our 12 holiday tips for an eco-friendly season.

Many municipalities have felt the dreadful impact of unemployment and many more municipalities have been placed under restrictions and lockdowns to contain the Coronavirus pandemic. These holiday tips aim to be budget-friendly, ecologically conscious, low waste and respectful of local Covid rules.

1. Plan ahead and coordinate with friends and family

You might look at this first item and say, “Duh”. But we’re not talking about marking your calendar with which dinner party to attend at which time. Planning ahead and coordinating with your loved ones is ever more crucial now if you want to connect over the holidays.

  • Plan your budget. Is it realistic to give a gift to every one in the family, or will one gift for the family do? Gift ideas can include a welcome mat, a wooden tray with the family name engraved on it, or matching socks! With online shopping being the safer choice in many cases, plastic cards (and the subsequent dent to your pocket or amassed debt) can mean easily losing track of your expenses this holiday season. Be realistic about what you can afford, and document your gift giving costs.
  • Write down your menu plan and the grocery shopping list. A possible upside to restrictions on large gatherings is that you may serve a smaller group of people this year, which is easier on the pocket and in the kitchen. Still, keep your holiday grocery shopping documented so that you can take more accountability for it and stay on track. If you are spending time with family, share your lists online to avoid doubling on dishes.

Planning ahead will keep you on task and on budget, and help avoid confusion with friends and relatives during the holiday rush. Staying on track will keep you from purchasing unnecessary things, things that ultimately may just go to waste.

2. Explore gift wrapping alternatives

Gift wrapping paper can be shiny and sparkly and even have three-dimensional elements – how fun and pretty! These kinds of gift wrap, however, are likely not recyclable and will end up in the landfill. This holiday, explore gift wrap alternatives that are more eco-friendly and low waste.

  • Reuse old holiday gift bags. Chances are that you have received presents yourselves that were in gift bags. Give them second life this holiday. If someone had written on the bag, why not try to cover it up with a gift tag sticker and a bow?
  • Use old newspapers to wrap your gifts for a unique look.
  • Recyclable paper, like plain kraft paper, works well as a gift wrap, too. Tie a ribbon around it made of twine and insert a small twig of a pine tree or rosemary for embellishment.
  • If you are feeling even more creative, you can take an old piece of clothing, handkerchief, or scarf with a cool print that you no longer use and wrap your gift in it!

These low-waste gift wrapping alternatives encourage you to reuse what you already have and prevent creating new waste.

3. Consider donations and experiences over physical presents

The holiday season is known as the giving season. For many of us who may have been affected by Covid, it may be harder to give expensive gifts – no matter how much we want to buy our children, friends, parents the best holiday gift.

  • Is there a charitable organization that you or your family feels strongly about? Make a one-time donation toward that cause in the name of your family or friend. It is truly a gift that keeps on giving!
  • Choose charitable gifts that give back. Around the world, organizations and social enterprises exist – they offer products that make lovely gifts, and a portion of the profits go to noble causes that promise positive impact in the world. Here is a list of gift ideas that give back.
  • While many businesses may be closed due to the global pandemic, there may still be services that are open or that will open in the future. Why not buy a gift card or future reservation for a friend or family to their favourite spa or to visit a gallery?
  • If money’s tight, you can even handmake a coupon book. You can fill it with favours that don’t cost much or any at all, such as: breakfast in bed; 10-second long hugs; chore swap for when your gift recipient does not want to do the dishes; hot cocoa on demand.

4. Pick low-waste holiday décor from nature

Clean pine cones from the outdoors. Apples and orange slices turned into garlands. Popcorn on a string! There are so many beautiful, low-waste or natural decorations that are possible to use and DIY this holiday season.

As for the usual highlight in a room, you may be wondering whether a real pine tree or an artificial one works best as a Christmas tree? There are plenty of pros and cons to each. While your choice will depend on your budget and your priorities, a locally grown real tree may be the best long-term option. Artificial trees are made of plastic after all. Plus, many local municipal recycling programs accept real trees and haul them away after use, so it’s less of a challenge to get rid of your real tree.

5. Buy from small, local businesses

The impact of the pandemic on small businesses cannot be overstated. This holiday season choose to support small businesses in your area by buying from them. Free shipping and online shopping may be more convenient, but let’s remember that the holiday season is intended to show charity and generosity, and supporting the small businesses in your area is a definite show of that.

6. Borrow what you can instead of buying new

If you are having a festive party, one of the best things you can do to make it an eco-friendly event is to borrow materials instead of buying new ones. Here are a few things that you can borrow instead of buy:

  • Holiday serving trays
  • Holiday party glasses and champagne flutes
  • An ugly sweater to win an office party doesn’t need to call your wardrobe home
  • Party props and games

Stay safe by sanitizing and washing borrowed items before use. If you don’t have someone to borrow from, you can also consider renting.

This is the first half of our 12 Days of Low-Waste Holiday Tips. What are some of your favourite ways to stay low-waste and eco-friendly, especially during a pandemic?

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