I absolutely adore the holiday season. I love everything about it — I love the warmth of the fireplace on a cold snowy night, I love the twinkling of the lights around the tree, and I love shopping for the perfect gift for those I love and seeing their faces when they open it christmas morning — I can’t help it! These traditions engraved themselves into my soul at an early age, and it brings me happiness and joy.
With that being said, the older I get, the more environmentally conscious I become.
So now… it goes a little bit more like this: the fireplace and twinkling lights I love so much use too much energy. The tree is either artificial plastic or real… which is worse? Consumerism is bad and everything you buy comes in plastic.
Holiday season ruined…
Anyone else starting to feel this way? Don’t feel bad, I think it happens to everyone. The hypersensitivity that comes with the awareness and acknowledgement of the environmental crisis is very real. It’s overwhelming. I just want to enjoy Christmas. Well, we still can. Here is how to have a plastic/low waste but plenty enjoyable christmas.
There are three pillars to my plastic free christmas:
Thrift, Make, and Save.
Let me explain…
I cannot possibly express to you how much thrifting has impacted my own life. I have been thrift shopping since I was a little girl (thanks to my dad) and I’ll be honest with you, I know how to thrift. You could walk into my house and just about every piece of clothing, furniture, and decoration is from the local Goodwill. Enough bragging… my point is that they are AWESOME and they often get a bad wrap. “I am not good at digging” or “it’s too messy” These are – I’m sorry but, EXCUSES. With a little bit of practice and a few secrets you too will be a master of your local thrift stores.
Most second hand stores are extremely underutilized within the community and extremely overwhelmed with more and more STUFF. Let me just say this once – stuff is just stuff. We do NOT need more of it.
Thrift your Holiday Decorations.
Especially right before the holidays thrift stores often get BOMBARDED with all the decorations that people don’t want anymore. My dear new thrifter – this. is. awesome. Here’s another secret – 99% of the time there is absolutely nothing wrong with the items they are getting rid of. They just want new stuff for stuffs sake. Which means.. that’s right! You are getting a steal. You can find everything from christmas trees and twinkling lights to the ugly sweater you need for your christmas work party!
Here’s my TINY off topic tidbit on artificial v. real christmas trees…
*If you want an artificial tree – thrift or ask your family and friends if they have one. I can pretty much guarantee you can find one used (use Facebook marketplace if all else fails.) If you already have an artificial tree – use it. But if you absolutely must switch – thrift or gift the article one first. Do NOT throw it away. If you prefer the natural trees there farms that are fairly sustainable in that they grow the trees for the sole purpose of cutting them down for christmas trees. You can also purchase a smaller potted tree to decorate and keep through the winter and then plant it in the spring! *
Go second hand shopping after Christmas. The stores will usually have a blowout sale. It’s hard to think so far in the future, but come time for next Christmas you’ll be thrilled you did it.
Thrift your Gifts.
I can’t help it, I want to give gifts. After reading all these things saying to ‘gift experiences’ and ‘gift your time’ I have to be honest I’m just not that into it. I want to give something material and wrapped and that’s that. And that’s okay! If you’re like me, there are a couple of options. First, you can make just about anything yourself – we’ll get into that later. But you can also thrift gifts. There is not one thing wrong with giving someone a used gift. I’m not saying walk into the Arc and pick up a random half used candle, peel the sticker half way off and give it to your mother in law. (That would be bad..) No! Put just as much thought into it as you do for retail shopping.
Go thrifting often and look for nothing. I’ll go into my favorite Arc thrift store at least twice a week looking for absolutely nothing – just to look around. It’s basically unheard of for me to walk out empty handed. The right gift will quite literally pop out on the shelf like it was meant to be – It’s magic!
Have you ever heard the saying that, “One mans trash is another mans treasure?” Truest thing I’ve ever heard. Remember, before you throw ANYTHING of yours away you should ask yourself, “can this be reused?” If the answer is even close to yes, give it to the goodwill. Have a little bucket or pile in your home or car designated for donations.
Not only are you saving items from the landfill, but most thrift stores have some sort of community mission to them so you’re usually helping in that way too. It’s an all around win-win. Be a good samaritan, always round up on your purchase to support that mission.
TIP: If you are someone who is eco-conscious and your family members or friends are not quite there yet try gifting something to encourage them to use less plastic. This year I am gifting a friend of mine wooden spoons I found thrifting to replace her plastic cooking spoons. (Heating up plastic is one of the easiest ways they can leech. If you are currently cooking with plastic utensils I would strongly encourage you to STOP immediately.) Not only are the wooden spoons adorable, they will minimize the chemicals and micro-plastics she eats when she cooks (YUCK). She doesn’t even know that she needs them.. that’s the beauty of it! (Sneaky, hehe!)
This one is fairly straightforward.
There’s something about the word ‘homemade’ that people just adore – especially if it is presented well. You can make your own candles, lotions, or soaps, or you can make edible gifts like pesto or infuse your own oils. The possibilities really are endless here.
There’s also something to be said for crafting homemade goods. I’ve seen frames made from old barn wood, or blankets from thrifted fabric! There is a recipe or ‘how-to’ for pretty much anything online these days. Tailor it to the person you’re gifting to and they are sure to love it.
You can also make your decorations.
This year a huge snow storm hit Colorado, and a bunch of branches fell off the trees and landed in the streets. I went for a walk, dragged one home with me and turned it into our Christmas wreath by adding a few cinnamon sticks and drying an orange in the oven! I will continue to use the leftover branches as decorations to finish off my gift wrapping!
No, not money (although that would probably help too!) No, save your amazon packages, manilla envelopes, boxes, ribbons, fabrics, everything!
Save all your previous packaging throughout the year.
Sending gifts through the mail for christmas? Reuse your packaging! The post office does not care if your box or envelope has been used 1 time or 50, so save save save and reuse reuse reuse! It will also save you money.
We at UnEARTH receive our shipments of the UnEARTH Netted Bag in wax paper instead of plastic. I save all of that wax paper (it looks much like tissue paper) and wrap all my gifts in it. You can still make it look festive without reindeer and snowmen printed on the paper! I’ve also heard of people wrapping their gifts in old fabrics which is a great idea – the point being use what you have instead of buying new STUFF.
Keep random ‘materials’.
I keep all the glass jars from the grocery store: salsa, jam, pasta, jars, even soy sauce. I’ll even keep old facial cream containers and plastic body washes I get as gifts. (I really don’t like plastic, I try not to have it in my house at all.. but if I can reuse it I absolutely will.)
I like to make my own shampoos and harvest my own herbs and all that ‘hippie chick’ stuff, as my father would say. There is no need to go out and purchase these when you have everything you need right there in your own home!
I will gift epsom salts to friends in old salsa jars and THEY HAVE NO IDEA. Why? Because it’s adorable!! Wash off that dang logo, tie some old fabric over the lid with some twine and REUSE. You’d be surprised how much $ you can save by doing this. Keep all the empty jars/containers somewhere you’ll remember to look at them regularly (I display mine openly in a cabinet so I can pick and choose what I want in where.)
If all else fails… Shop ethically and consciously.
I know, sometimes it’s just not that easy. You’re busy. Even if you can thrift or make one or two of your gifts this year. If you can wrap half your gifts in newspaper, your efforts matter, and it does not need to be perfect. If you do opt to shop retail – be conscious in who you purchase from. The UnEARTH Netted Bags make for great gifts – and they are wonderful to use over and over again for all sorts of occasions. But there are so many companies out there that are mission based and working to make real change for the world – support them. As consumers it is our responsibility to ensure our purchase decisions reflect our values – more now than ever before.
Please share comments about what worked for you this holiday season and other ideas and ways to enjoy christmas plastic/waste free!