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Zero Waste Christmas — What is it? (Gift Ideas, Tree & Decorations)

December 9, 2017, 12:00 PM
  • Lifestyle movement tries to reduce household waste
  • Differs to recycling- focuses on reusing instead
  • How can you do a zero waste Christmas
  • Lifestyle blogger shares her tips
Having a zero waste Christmas is easier than it sounds. Image: The Note Passer

The amount of waste Brits create at Christmas is on the rise every year.

Last Christmas, 83 square kilometers of wrapping paper gets binned, which is enough to wrap Guernsey, and totals six million trees being cut down.

Costs of Christmas are also rising, some parents wish they could cancel Christmas altogether, and others are being pressured into over spending by their friends.

These numbers are expecting to increase this year, and has led to some environmentalists and minimalists to attempt a ‘zero waste’ Christmas.

This aims to reduce all waste to a minimum, and involves all aspects of Christmas, such as napkins, wrapping paper, and even crackers, while still having a real festive experience.

What is ‘Zero Waste’?

The zero waste movement is an environmentally focused one, and it can also far more cost effective than normal, wasteful living.

It is a philosophy that encourages a redesign of your lifestyle so all products you buy have a use, and can be reused.

The process of creating a zero waste lifestyle aims to follow patterns in nature, where resources are reused, and discarded materials are repurposed to become useful again.

The goal is to create no waste, although this is more of an ideal principle to work towards, rather than a hard target that ‘zero-wasters’ have to reach.

One zero waste family’s rubbish from 2016. Image: Zero Waste Home

The benefits of a zero waste life, as told by followers of the movement, are:

  • Saving money - waste is a sign of inefficiency, so the reduction of waste can reduce costs
  • Faster progress - a zero waste strategy improves upon production processes, which can lead to larger, more innovative steps
  • Supports sustainability - the zero waste movement supports the three goals of sustainability: economic well being, economic protection, and social well being
  • Improved material flows - the movement uses far fewer new raw materials and aims to send no waste materials to landfills. All materials should be reused or recycled, or be turned into compost

Zero waste is also different to recycling; for example, those who recycle would take a glass bottle to a recycling bank, but a ‘zero-waster’ would refill the glass bottle.

How Can You Have a Zero Waste Christmas?

Gina Caro, an award winning blogger at Gypsy Soul, which focuses on sustainable and simple living, is trying to do a zero waste Christmas this year.

She said, “My interest in zero waste started at university when I was studying for my Masters in Environmental and Energy Studies. Since then I have been inspired by other zero waste bloggers to try and live a more sustainable lifestyle.”

Although it might seem hard at first, Gina shared some tips about how to make zero waste a bit easier.

Gina, of the Gypsy Soul blog, is trying to have a zero waste Christmas this year. Image: Gypsy Soul

She said, “If you tried to go completely zero waste that would be hard and probably overwhelming.

“The trick is to introduce little changes along the way.

“Small switches are the way forward with zero waste, I tend to focus on one areas of our home at a time.

“I started with our bathroom and now I’m moving on to Christmas.

“I’ve been on a zero waste journey for nearly three years now, over those years I have made lots of small changes to our lifestyle.

“I’ve had the most success with our bathroom waste, and I’m proud to say that we no longer have bins in our bathrooms.”

While a completely waste free Christmas is virtually impossible to achieve, there are so many ways that people can cut down on their waste at Christmas.

In some ways, the zero waste movement and a traditional Christmas are polar opposites, one focuses on cutting out the unnecessary, and the other is a period of excess and indulgence what we want rather than need.

However, many have found ways to enjoy the Christmas period, without creating the huge amount of waste that normally comes with it.

For presents, you can go zero waste by giving experiences and memories, instead of gifts. Companies like GroupOn offer experiences, like spa days, escape rooms, and hot air balloon trips.

If you want to give a physical gift, then you can get zero waste wrapping for it.

Although most traditional wrapping paper can be recycled, reusable wrapping paper goes one step in an environmentally friendly direction further.

You can find companies online that sell ready made, reusable wrapping paper.

Japanese style wrapping, furoshiki, is a zero waste alternative to wrapping paper. Image: Lunch-a-Porter

Another option is to follow a Japanese method called furoshiki, which is a way of wrapping presents in material that can be reused, and doesn’t involve and tape.

An alternative to this is to use newspaper as wrapping paper, although this isn’t quite zero waste, it reuses old paper and can be recycled afterwards, so it’s both cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

When buying presents, it is also important to look at the amount of packaging it has.

Buying things with as little packaging as possible, or getting something second hand, will hugely cut down on waste.

Giving homemade gifts will also cut waste and costs.

Homemade gifts, like jams, are an easy way to cut down on waste and save money. Image: Gypsy Soul

Start collecting jars, and ribbons for decorations, a few months before, and fill them with homemade products.

Jars and ribbons can also be got for free using sites like Freecycle and Preloved.

Gina said, “I recently made my own toothpaste, and my mother has asked me to make her some as a Christmas present, so it doesn’t always have to be food.”

Zero Waste Christmas Crackers

One part of Christmas many won’t think of as being possible for zero waste, are Christmas crackers.

Reusable crackers, complete with the bang, can be a part of your zero waste Christmas. Image: Gypsy Soul

You can get ready made, reusable crackers, online, some even come complete with the bang, isn’t reusable but can be recycled.

There are also online tutorials that will show you how to make your own reusable ones.

A more straightforward way to reduce your waste at Christmas is to get reusable napkins, rather than paper ones you throw away at the end of dinner.

These are ones that are made of material, so you can just put them in the wash when they get dirty and reuse them every year.

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations

For Christmas decorations, reusing ones from previous years is a really simple way to cut down on waste, but these will need replacing at some point.

You can go for a walk in the park and collect pine cones, holly, and other Christmas bits to decorate your tree with, this is free and better for the environment.

Decorating pine cones is a really easy way to cut down on waste at Christmas. Image: One Little Project
Pinecones can also be used to make fairy decorations. Image: Willodel

Zero Waste Christmas Trees

This year, shoppers have found bargain artificial trees, that can be used for years to come, however these come with packaging.

One way to cut down on your waste is to get a tree complete with roots, that you can replant after the festive season, and dig up again next year to reuse.

This is less wasteful, costs less, and you get an extra tree in your garden throughout the year.

For Christmas cards, a free and zero alternative is to send e-cards.

There are loads of online photo editing sites where you can create your own, and once you’ve created it, you just email it out to your friends and family.

Does zero waste save you money?

A zero waste lifestyle can save money, as you get the most use out of every item.

Gina said, “Zero waste absolutely saves money in the long run.

“To start with, you may have to spend a bit of extra money to buy the reusable products that you need, but once you have them you won’t need to buy them again.

“I have already started to notice the savings we are making, which spurs me on to do more.”

For more ways to save at Christmas, we found the cheapest Christmas dinners, and the best bargain wines.

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