How To Have A Plastic-Free Christmas
Christmas is a time of year that many people look forward to. Indulging in treats, spending time with loved ones, and receiving thoughtful gifts is a heartwarming tradition. However, it can be overwhelming when you throw in our tendency to over consume during the holidays. Did you know that the accumulation of plastic waste generated goes up by 25% during this time of year? Inevitably, it ends up in landfills and waterways, affecting wildlife and humans around the world.
While that statistic may be upsetting, the last thing we want is to feel guilty about Christmas (or, cancel it #StopCancelCulture). Instead, we need to work together to minimize plastic waste through conscious initiatives by introducing eco-friendly alternatives.
Luckily, there are endless ways to lessen our use of plastic by reusing what we have, getting crafty or using fantastic plastic alternatives! Don’t worry, I’ve done all the work for you. Keep reading for my top picks for a plastic-free holiday season!
Decor Galore! Rethink the Decorations
Many people tend to think that getting a fresh tree is the best option when trying to reduce plastic waste. While this may be true, we love reusing what we have! If you plan on keeping your artificial tree for years to come, then these types of trees are a great option. While a fresh-cut tree won’t technically result in any plastic waste, there’s definitely an environmental impact of getting a new one every year. If you must have that pine-y smell, “reusable” trees are becoming quite popular! You pick your tree up, use it for the season, and bring it back for replanting. Alternatively, you could consider a reusable wooden tree or purchase a local, ethically grown potted tree that can live outside during the year.
Now that you have your plastic-free tree (or at least a reusable one!), what about those pesky plastic decorations? Plastic bulbs, trinkets, and garlands are one of the cheapest options; however, they are often made with PVC plastics which are highly toxic. Instead, consider making your own out of dried fruits, baked goods, old light bulbs, wood, or ceramics.
Here’s a fun tutorial that the team at Mind Your Plastic used to create our own plastic-free decorations!
Creating homemade tree ornaments, centerpieces, and wreaths is also a great way to spark creativity and engagement with children and loved ones during the holiday season. Not only will these cost you way less, the memories will last a lifetime!
If you don’t have time, many sustainable alternatives can be purchased in-store or online. Asking your friend’s children or even the kids down your street to take part in decorative crafts can also be a great way to spark environmental awareness within your community!
Gifts with Good Intention
Kids love trendy gadgets, but how long do they really love them?
We don’t want to be a Scrooge, but those trendy toys give short-term gain but are a long-term pain. They are often made from toxic plastics that end up in landfills once they’re no longer the “it” toy.
When it comes to Christmas, of course, you want to make your kids happy and fulfill their wishes. If it’s toys your kids are after, avoid purchasing plastic toys that are wrapped in even more plastic. Consider purchasing used toys from second hand stores or searching for wooden, metal, or eco-friendly cloth alternatives that will last. Buying non-painted wooden toys can also be an excellent way for your child to customize toys to their liking. Gifting books, fabric dolls, eco-friendly art kits, and grow-your-own plan kits can also be great ways to spark creativity!
Choosing experiences, learning opportunities, and charitable donations over material items can be an extraordinary way to fulfill your loved one’s wishes during the Christmas season. These gift suggestions not only help minimize the impact of plastic pollution but also serve as a great way to teach children how to be mindful of their own plastic consumption.
Like we say at our Circular Economy Ambassador Program, “strive to empower the youth of today, for a better tomorrow.”
For adults, searching for gifts can be challenging as the consumptive nature of modern Christmas has made us believe that material items are what people wish for.
Do material things make you happy all year round or does more stuff mean more stress?
Studies have shown that people gain more satisfaction and happiness from experiences over possessions. Receiving experiential gifts has been found to enhance relationships, promote well-being, and provide lifelong memories. A CBS News poll asked participants what they enjoyed most about the holidays. They found that 73% of people enjoy spending time with friends and family, whereas 4% enjoy giving and receiving gifts.
Not only are experiences more meaningful they are also less wasteful. Gifting someone a skills class, tickets to a show, a subscription service, a massage, or even a weekend getaway are a few great options. Better yet, you could give something homemade that people will likely use and keep forever. There are endless DIY gift ideas to be found online that are fun to create and undoubtedly thoughtful.
If material items are what your loved ones have wished for this holiday season, try searching in second-hand shops first. You may be surprised with what you can find in those “junk” stores. I’ve found all my kitchenware in there!
When you can’t find what you’re looking for second hand, choose plastic-free gifts that people genuinely need. There are several different plastic-free gifts on the market. If you need some inspo, take a look at our amazing partners’ websites for some eco-friendly alternatives like reusable water bottles from ocean-bottles.com, Canadian-made dry gin from opencoastgin.ca, and skin care from biotherm.ca. Take steps to reduce plastic pollution by supporting businesses that do!
The best part about giving plastic-free gifts during the holidays is that it can spark environmental interest in others and help the people closest to you switch to more eco-friendly, sustainable habits!
Limit the Stock in Stocking Stuffers
Think quality over quantity when choosing stocking stuffers, as these can often be stuffed with ubiquitous plastic items. Instead, try to fill stockings with utilitarian plastic-free goods.
Bamboo toothbrushes, reusable cotton pads, eco pencils, wool dryer balls, and bars of soap, shampoo, and conditioner are great stocking stuffers that many would appreciate. Silicone food covers, beeswax wraps, reusable tea bags, and reusable cotton produce bags can also be great stocking stuffers for our beloved foodies.
Wrapping and Cards
You’ve got your plastic-free gifts, but how do you wrap them?
First, try to stay away from plastic-coated gift bags and wrapping papers. Although these forms of packaging do not always appear to be made of plastic, they are often coated with a thin layer of Polyethylene; a non-biodegradable material. When Polyethylene is incorrectly recycled it not only builds up on land but in our oceans too. So, if you are gifted these bags or have them from prior years, try to reuse them as much as possible.
When you’re in the market for new wrapping, try purchasing eco-friendly paper, wrapping, and bags. Even better, consider using reusable cloth Christmas bags which have become increasingly popular over the years. Cloth Christmas bags can be a great way to minimize the use of plastic labels and sellotape if everyone claims a pattern of cloth as their own. If searching for the most cost-effective way to wrap, newspaper and tea towels can also be a great solution.
If Santa doesn’t deliver our Christmas presents in garbage bags, then why should we?
Crack on with the Christmas Crackers
Most Christmas crackers in stores are filled with tiny plastic gadgets wrapped in shiny, plastic-coated paper. It’s no surprise that these also end up in waterways and landfills.
Luckily we’ve got a solution! If you can’t get your hands on any plastic-free Christmas crackers this year, you can easily make your own out of toilet paper rolls, paper, and cotton twine. If you want those commodities to crack, then you can purchase the cracker snaps online at places like Amazon or Etsy. Remember to fill those things with something besides plastic!
Check this out for a step by step guide on How To Make Plastic Free Christmas Crackers!
Indulging in our favorite foods is one of the best parts of the holidays. We can still indulge but do so in an eco-conscious way. During this time, we should consider the amount of food we purchase and the ways in which our food is being packaged.
Try grocery shopping plastic-free by buying your food from zero-waste shops or farmer’s markets, and if that’s not possible, try to avoid clear produce bags at the store by using reusable cotton ones instead.
You can also restock your non-perishables and spices by filling jars and tins in the bulk section of your local grocery store.
When it comes to all the leftovers, try packing them in reusable glass, ceramic, stainless steel, or cellulose containers made of bamboo or rice husk.
Lastly, you can avoid using pesky cellophane by wrapping your leftovers in sustainable alternatives such as beeswax or cellulose-filled gelatine films instead!
We know consumerism is a significant obstacle to sustainable shopping during the holiday season. However, it’s essential to remember that businesses often push their products onto us consumers with one motive: to capitalize on sales.
Thus, It takes conscious efforts and careful choices to change our linear economy. In the long run, switching to plastic-free alternatives and sustainable shopping can make future Christmas a little more cheerful. Do you want to revisit the store every year to purchase new wrapping? I know I don’t.
A successful Christmas doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing plastic experience. We only ask that you try to choose sustainable alternatives when you can. Make small changes one Christmas at a time. We know going 100% plastic-free is not easy but remember that even the small things can make a significant impact.
Every effort counts!