Living a lifestyle with less, or ultimately zero-waste and fewer belongings doesn’t mean that you have an empty house, devoid of all things Christmas, an absence of presents, and no fun.
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In fact, you can still be the Queen of Christmas and make environmentally friendly choices!
I have been researching ways to help you host a fabulous Christmas get-together without the stress of finding the eco-friendly alternatives.
So let’s get started. Christmas will be here before you know it!
Zero-Waste Christmas Décor
Every good hostess tries to create a warm, festive atmosphere in her home. An inviting space that makes people relax and smile. And most Christmas decorations revolve around a tree.
There are a couple options for a tree.
The first is an artificial tree. I know these are plastic, however, they look so good now that you buy one and it should last you 20 years or more, so it is worth investing in a quality one.
Did anyone else see the story with the 82 year old woman with a little tree the same age? If you take care of your tree, it will last forever.
When searching for your forever-tree look for a classic style and if you invest in one that is pre-lit, you’ll save time setting up your tree.
A pre-lit tree also makes storage easy as you don’t have to worry about wrapping lights in a such a way that they don’t spontaneously turn into a knotted mess!
I am allergic to Christmas trees.
Yup, not even joking.
It’s a bummer, so I have always had an artificial tree. For the past 5 years, Lee and I have had the same 6 foot, narrow tree. If we were to move to a bigger home, I would consider finding a larger tree that’s pre-lit. Until then this is fine.
If you do upgrade your tree, consider donating your old tree to maybe a church, school, care home, etc.
You might not be able to bring yourself to buy an artificial tree since they don’t have the lovely Christmas smell. I get it. I love the smell of Christmas trees. I can be around them for about 2-3 hours before I can’t breathe, and my eyes start itching.
But this year, instead of buying a tree and sending it to the tip after the holidays consider purchasing your tree in a pot.
By purchasing a living tree you prevent waste of a perfectly good tree, and will have a beautiful tree to enjoy all year.
Live trees will only grow to the size their container allows. If you would like to continue growing your tree, you will need to transplant it to a larger container and eventually into the ground as Christmas trees aren’t meant to be a plotted plant.
If you decide on a live tree, find a tree that was grown in the U.K. to reduce your carbon footprint. While in the house, keep it away from radiators and display it preferably in a cooler room so the tree doesn’t dry out.
Christmas trees also like to have space so make sure to buy the right size for your home including room for your star at the top! Keep it watered and if your tree is looking sad, move it outside.
Is the thought of growing your own tree unappealing? Then hire one!
Get the scent of a live tree without the guilt of being the reason for its demise.
You can hire a tree, keep it alive, and when the holidays are over your tree is collected and replanted.
I have read that the process isn’t 100% guaranteed in sparing the tree an untimely death, however, I believe it’s worth trying and the ones that don’t survive replanting can be disposed of properly by the company that collected them.
At Love a Christmas Tree.co.uk they hired 125 trees last year and 3 unfortunately did not survive, some related to how the customer cared for them.
Any trees they have that die and are not diseased are shredded and used as mulch around the plantation. The mulch helps to keep water in the soil and also helps prevent weeds.
With a 97.5% survival rate and a cradle-to-cradle process for the dead trees, this is a pretty eco-friendly alternative.
What’s more is that many customers hire the same tree every year. It’s like welcoming another family member home for the holidays!
Zero-Waste Ornaments and Tree Trimmings
When it comes to trimming your tree, use ornaments that are meant to last.
For my tree I tend to collect ornaments from places we travel. That way every year when we decorate, we find memories and share fun conversations reminiscing.
Grabbing a box of cheap baubles are usually packaged in plastic packaging and are also easily broken.
My mom started my ornament collection when my siblings and I were kids. Every year we got an ornament with our presents. Her thinking was when we moved out and got our own tree, we could decorate it without a major investment in ornaments.
I love how my tree tells a story and this may be a worthwhile tradition to pass on.
As we are thinking more minimalist and less waste make sure you are only bringing ornaments you really love into your home for your tree. If you don’t love it, you’ll just end up getting rid of it and creating unnecessary waste.
Tinsel? It’s plastic.
If you don’t already have it, keep it that way.
If you want the twinkle of tinsel, mirrored ornaments or glass icicles can catch the light and using a pretty Christmas ribbon around the tree or to tie bows onto branches can add that extra something and are more likely to survive storage.
As with anything take care of the items and make them last. If you already have tinsel and baubles, don’t throw them away. Use them until they break or wear out.
Other Zero-Waste Decorations
When you are looking at items like advent calendars, nativity scenes, garland, etc. invest in quality items that will last.
Often the best time to buy Christmas items is after Christmas when stores heavily discount the items.
I know it’s hard to think about buying for Christmas after the fact but it’s a good way to grab a bargain on items you might not spend the money on otherwise.
If you wait until after Christmas, you may find that your home was perfect without the extra purchases and you might not need to shop for more after all!
Advent calendars are fun, and I found a cute wooden one that can be reused every year and filled with anything you want, as opposed to the cheap candy ones at the shops.
Advent calendars are also easily made from toilet rolls, scrap pieces of fabric, or even something like baby socks. What’s even better is they can be made without being a craft queen.
For second-hand nativity sets, this is a great time of year to hit up charity shops or places like Facebook Market place to take advantage of people doing Christmas clear outs.
I found a beautiful, wooden one for a fiver online and nothing cost more than £25. If you want other items, give them a search and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.
Setting the Table
When company arrives, while a large amount of time may be spent socialising around the tree, the other major gathering spot is the table. Decorating the table to look festive, doesn’t have to involve a lot of Christmas specific decorations.
Start with the tablecloth. Consider a white tablecloth.
Whaaat? I know it gets dirty easily, however, it can be cleaned just as easily.
What makes white the perfect colour tablecloth is the versatility in what can go on the table.
Instead of buying (and storing) a tablecloth for every holiday or birthday, you only need the one.
Use coloured napkins to denote the occasion you are celebrating. In this case, green napkins folded into Christmas trees can make the table look festive.
Green napkins can be used again for an Easter celebration. Red napkins would also work and can be used for a Valentine’s Day meal or for a summer bbq.
Extra napkins can be placed in the middle of the table like a runner.
Napkins won’t take up as much space when you store them either.
If you use scented ones, you can choose ones that add holiday smells if for some horrible reason you are also allergic to Christmas trees.
Small children attending the meal?
There are lovely battery-operated candles available that won’t break the bank and can last forever if you store them correctly.
Use rechargeable batteries for just that little extra, eco-friendly detail.
Twinkling lights are also great for other holidays and create fun lighting for those long summer evenings.
Before you head to the shops, look around the house and see what would work as a festive centrepiece.
As always take a peek online or in charity shops for pre-loved bargains before buying new. I’m not hosting anything this year, but came across a lovely, Christmas table runner for £3.
Zero-Waste Party Games
As with anything there are better ways to continue these traditions that don’t involve single-use plastic and additional waste.
If you are feeling extra crafty, crackers can be made from toilet rolls and paper. The snaps are available online.
I do realise that as the holidays get closer extra time for crafts is not something we have.
And of course, if crafting isn’t your thing, many kits exist that allow you to fill your own crackers.
And if time is really limited Dunelm and Sainsbury’s both have some fabulous crackers that have no plastic in the packaging or the cracker.
Grab them when you see them as they keep selling out!
For Pass the Parcel this is another game that can easily be made at home and you have control over the little gifts in the layers.
Again, if you are handy on the sewing machine, you could make the layers into purpose shaped cloths that can snap together, or you can be more like me and take spare cloths and scarves and tie them around the parcel.
It makes for a potentially giant parcel depending on the layers and size of the knots, but nothing goes to waste.
For a fun game to play that has zero waste, why not try Bananagrams? It’s become a Christmas favourite in my family. It’s like scrabble except there is no board and you make words out of your own tiles. It leads to some hilarious “boards.”
It is also a small game, so it takes hardly any storage space and there are enough pieces for up to 8 players. You can also play in teams or grab two sets if you have more players.
It’s a game that can be pulled out for a family game night as well, so don’t pack it away with the Christmas stuff!
Our more traditional family favourite was using a set of 12 dot dominos to play “chicken-foot.”
Both games are suitable for every age and can easily accommodate large groups.
Zero-Waste Food and Drinks
Making your own food and drinks can eliminate a lot of packaging waste. When shopping for you’re the food try to buy loose vegetables. Bring your own containers as many retailers are trialling plastic reducing initiates and letting customers use their own containers for deli and dry goods.
If you are buying items with unavoidable, unrecyclable waste, consider buying in bulk.
Costco is a great place to go for bulk food and you can order party food ahead of time as well.
Drinks are easily available in cans and glass bottles. Aluminium cans and glass are easily recycled and every drink you can think of is available in those containers-including water.
Juices can be purchased in cartons and milk in a glass bottle is making a comeback.
There is just no excuse to buy plastic bottles anymore.
If you really don’t enjoy your tap water, consider a water filtration system either added to your sink or a separate filtration system like Britta.
The cartridges can be recycled through the teracycle scheme.
In the long run you will save money and drink less plastic.
Yes, you read that right, drink less plastic.
Let that sink in.
Zero-Waste Gift Wrap
Brown paper packages, tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things.
Take the song to heart. If you have Amazon orders that are packed with brown paper, save it for your wrapping paper.
Using Who Gives a Crap toilet roll? The paper makes for fun wrapping as well!
The paper in both instances are 100% recyclable.
Beware; many holiday wrapping papers still have glitter which makes the paper unrecyclable.
Practice the Japanese art of Furoshiki, aka wrapping with cloth. Scarves make a great wrapping material and can double as part of the gift or be reused in the future.
Hold on to your old Christmas cards.
These can easily be trimmed and used as gift tags.
Many cards can’t be recycled because of glitter, so repurposing them before they are thrown away is a good thing.
If you go to craft shops that sell ribbon by custom lengths, you can pop in and see if they have any end-of-the-roll wire ribbon or off-cuts.
Even a bit that won’t wrap around an entire package can be crafted into a pretty bow and attached, and you’ve saved more textiles from ending up in a landfill.
The wire ribbon is easily reusable year after year unlike plastic bows that are easily smashed out of shape and curling ribbon.
It can be nice to have something pretty and festive to wear for work-dos and Christmas Day, but check your own wardrobe first for party wear.
Nothing suitable? Consider a clothing swap with a group of friends. You can bring your party clothes to one person’s house, have a glass of wine and try on each other’s clothes.
You’ll have something that is lovely and new to anyone who sees you in it, no one spends any money, and you don’t have to make room in the wardrobe for more clothes!
Different sizes from your friends? That’s ok. Try pre-loved clothes at a charity shop.
My aunt found an amazing dress for £8 that she wore to my cousin’s wedding.
Second-hand online shops are a thing and can make it easier to find what you are looking for with the search functions. Micolet and Patatam both have a large selection of party dresses among other clothing and accessories as well as the option to shop by colour and size.
An added bonus to Patatam is that you can sell your clothes directly to them for a voucher or Paypal transfer which can pay for your new clothes!
Still can’t find anything?
You can always hire your party wear. Why pay the money to hire something?
It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money on something you will only wear once. You may even be able to hire something designer that you normally wouldn’t be able to purchase at full price.
I did this for my sister’s wedding. Loved the dress paid a fraction of the normal cost and then didn’t have to worry about storing a dress I wouldn’t wear again.
Fast fashion has a huge negative effect on carbon emissions and the cheap, synthetic fabrics are a huge reason 83% of the world’s drinking water (including bottled) is contaminated with plastic. (It enters through the washing machine).
Hopefully you found these tips inspiring and can make some changes to creating less waste this holiday season.
Can you think of some more zero-waste changes for the holidays? Feel free to share in the comments below.
Happy Christmas! X