Monday, December 19, 2016

(Closer to) Zero Waste Holiday Season - Five things to improve your holidays

Another installment in our (closer to) Zero waste series:

(Closer to) Zero Waste Holidays

As we approach the darkest day of the year, many are busy buying and making presents, decorations, treats, and feasts. 

Our home is no different.

Whether you celebrate Solstice, Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year, Kwanzaa, or any combination of those and others, here are some easy things you can do to lower the environmental impact of your celebrations, keep a little more money in your pocket, and have less trash for anyone to deal with afterward. 

1.) Reuse ribbons, paper, and even make/find reusable wrappings! 

T-shirts, pillow cases, pieces of fabric, or simple cloth bags make great reusable gift wrap.

The wrapping can even be part of the gift.

Over the years I've gathered a collection of simple sacs, cloth ribbons, fabric product bags, and more. When it's time to wrap presents we pull out the bag of bags and pop each gift into it's own wrapping. 

No tape, no scissors, no fussy creasing or folding. 

Simple, charming, and just as delightful to open.

2.) Homemade gifts

There are many many simple homemade gifts - many of which are consumable and therefor won't add clutter or more "stuff" to the lives of your loved ones. 

Do you make an amazing gingerbread? Do you like to can pickles? Apple butter? Do you like to sew?

Some homemade gifts require special skills or a fair amount of time (brewing beer, curing soap, etc.) but many are easy and simply take an afternoon (or less!) with ingredients you may already have in your kitchen! 

3.) Opt for experience gifts rather than things.

Many well meaning gifts, even perfectly suited gifts, end up unused, returned, re-gifted, or donated.

Many homes, particularly ones with children, are so overwhelmed and inundated with stuff.

Even families who don't aim to keep their material goods to a low amount can appreciate the gifts of a special trip to a local museum, afternoon at the theatre, or a special voyage. 

Babysitting for new parents, a night at a concert with a loved friend or family member, much longed for lessons or a class for a new hobby, tickets to see a game of a local or favorite sports team. There's sure to be an experience to fit everyone on your list. 

While many shy away from gift-certificates, feeling they're impersonal or a cop-out, homemade gift certificates to use together or for them to use with someone else show you've really taken them into account. Give them the special gift of time together, at a place they might not make it to as often as they like, or take them somewhere new! 

Have an expertise? Can you play the piano? Do you know your grandmother's homemade doughnut recipe? Are you handy with a drill? 

You might be surprised at what someone on your list might want to learn! 

4.) Buy from small businesses, local artisans, or even cottage industry shops.

Etsy is a great place to find high quality, hand-made items. (My Etsy shop)

The less distance an item has to travel to get to its recipient, the less packaging thrown out, the less pollution to transport it, and the more of your money that goes into the quality of the gift itself.

Throughout your year, as you come across lovely items, consider purchasing them, even months in advance. This allows you to give more personalized gifts, spend your money more wisely, and avoid some of the holiday rush. 

5.) Save and use any leftovers.

Reduce your food waste (Number 3) for lots of inspiration and reasons. 

There are very few things that can't be saved for another day, made into something new and delicious, or added to another dish at later date.

Leftover desserts such as cookies can be crumbled and use for toppings. 

Meal leftovers can be frozen in portion sizes for quick dinners or lunches.

Bones can be boiled to make your own stock, vegetable scraps can make your own broth. 

Even wine can be frozen or reduced to add flavor to soups, stews, and braises. You can even make wine jelly

Meats, cheeses, even vegetables can be chopped and packed into bags or jars in the freezer.

Just like batch-cooking, individual ingredients that are fully cooked can rescue a hectic evening, or a busy week. Save your leftover goodness and put them to good use!


Final thoughts:

There are so many simple things that we can do, many of which were common practice in yesteryear.

Waste not, want not. 

Let's make this world better for all of us and put less of our efforts into things that are only used for a few minutes before they end up in the trash and then the landfill.


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