Black Friday and Cyber Monday both are over and Christmas holidays shopping season is on the horizon. As a zero waste beginner I am looking for best ways to prepare for holidays in the most sustainable way. My approach is to make thoughtful decisions on Christmas gifts and making a shift from traditional buying and spending to preserving and creating traditions that foster relationships. Thus, I would like to share my thinking in this.
So far I have stopped to use plastic bags for cotton ones, have bought beeswax wraps instead of saran or other plastic wrappers to wrap anything, have started to sort the trash in four ways – plastic, glass, paper and other waste, have deliberately avoided plastic packaging products as much as I can. It is gradual process of change and I hope to remain steady on the course. I am confident that preparation is half of the success and sharing my ideas can help both me and some readers.
Setting the focus
As these will be my first zero waste Christmas, I make a conscious decision on specific changes. Looking back on previous Christmas events, we had traditional approach of celebrating it – we bought gifts, had a Christmas tree and decorated it accordingly, had a cookie preparation evening, and Christmase Eve dinner. I don’t want to change the traditions but rather put some small changes in it that will help to be more sustainable. It is important to nourish traditions as they are binding people together.
Traditions and having fun is essential, but what about gift buying and gift giving? For me gifts are important part of any celebration, but they must be thoughtful and with a personal touch. Do you remember Christmas gifts you received last year or can you recall some from your childhood? For me I mostly remember where I was, with whom and whether it was fun or not, but I rarely remember the gifts. Is it because of the gifts? Or because I do not appreciate them enough and take them for granted? I don’t know. I am sure there is some explanation to that. Here is article written by Janice Kaplan – Why Your Kids Don’t Thank You for Gifts. I also think that creating cozy environment is the key and doing things together for good emotions and memories is a skill that anyone can master.
The tree – be or not to be
One think that we can’t dispute in our family yet is not having a natural Christmas three. I have done it since long ago and after pause, this year, plan is to take the Christmas tree from the wild. There are two options that are under my consideration: to cut one in the woods or to dig one out and replant it later. Only 2 % of people do this. The USA Christmas tree market in 2017 had reached the same level as in 2007, just before crisis in 2008 and is expected to surpass that amount in 2018. As I like to hike and go outdoors, it is fun for me to look for the one you want and choose it. I recommend it to anyone who has nearby forest to take advantage of it.
There are several other ways to find a tree such as find local supplier in the farmers market so you contribute and make sure that trees are not transported for thousands of miles or find plantable tree in the local store and plant it afterwards, or make non-traditional tree where ideas are truly endless. My personal favorite from no traditional trees is the tree from books as I have made it myself and it worked really well for me for few years.
Kids love to decorate Christmas tree and it is good tradition in our family. We are not buying any new decorations this year and I plan to make our own decorations by using some ideas that I found online and also will relay on my better half as she is good at this.
Christmas presents – the toughest part
Christmas presents are pain in the butt if I haven’t thought them through and leaves me with some guilt feeling once I do it at the last moment. I usually give gifts to the most the closest people around me, this year I focus on gifts as experiences or things that can provide great experience. The idea of zero waste and minimalism must come naturally by setting my own example, so I am not pushing it too much.
As average costs of an American Christmas are increasing, I plan to set my budget tight. If there are to be things for gifts, I will choose hand made ones from local stores or farmer markets. As we have beautiful downtown that is full of Christmas booths from local craftsmen, the visit there is on my checklist.
My first choice with gifts will be the tickets to theater, concerts, cinema or even sports events. Each one of us has its own taste, so choice is yours, to delight somebody with what they love.
A second idea is to give something that perishes and does not leave a trace, like tea, homemade cookies, soap bars or natural cosmetics. All can be used up completely. Good quality and less packaging is important, and present will be well-received. As we have traditional cookie making evening, this time I buy plenty of dough to make extra cookies for presents. I plan to put them into cotton or linen bags and give as presents. Kids will love to make and give such gifts.
A Third idea that comes to mind and always has bee present in my life is intellectual gifts. I used to be passionate book buyer until I received kindle as a present (to Christmas by the way, well I do remember some tough) and plethora of e books and audio books appeared. Learning is a cornerstone of self development, thus giving books as a gift is always welcomed. As Harry Truman said, not all readers are leaders but all leaders are readers.
A fourth would be do it yourself gift. Such gifts are priceless for kids, and become even more precious if you spend time together making whatever it is you are making. I used to gift Lego for kids and then spending time to construct it. This year no Lego, but something with no plastic in it. By the way Lego has announced sustainability goals too.
Finally, the fifth is nothing more than time and attention, there are some long forgotten friends or acquaintances we each have, where relations have gone astray and simply have been frozen leaving some scar tissue. With the message or telephone call, lets bring them back and have a talk. It takes courage. It won’t feel comfortable, but heck it is the right way and time to do this.
I love cookie evening. Although I am not in charge in cookie evening, I eagerly participate and this time also will be the last man standing as to knead the dough is not an easy task. We bake gingerbread and decorate it with sweats. For this Christmas I also plan to add some zero waste flavor to it and gathered some recipes from my favorite bloggers. Will report on the results.
Writing a letter
Writing is a gift to yourself and to a person you write. A letter to somebody will give you a joy if you are sincere and authentic. The Best way to approach it is by expressing gratitude and compliment that person about what you are happy about. It might be as simple as saying thank you for being together, or for very simple things you experience together. If possible put the words on physical paper so person can touch it, it brings some additional feeling to the letter. I remember those feelings myself as good and warm. Sometimes letter and words from somebody can help more than any physical gift, and does not cost you anything at all.
I hope my plan will work out and my family will have beautiful holidays, great time together and less waste to throw away. Happy Holidays and if there is any question or suggestion, please feel free to leave a comment below.