Waste Less this Holiday Season: 10 Ways to Save Money & the Environment

Waste Less this Holiday Season: 10 Ways to Save Money & the Environment

The holidays are here! Travel, family, gifts, food…

It’s a great time of year for connecting with loved ones and finding ways to express your appreciation for those around you. It’s also (sometimes) a time of excess.

We end up eating huge meals–overcooking and preparing tons of food for parties. We shop and buy stuff we don’t need. We spend tons of money on decorations for our home that go up for a month and get forgotten in a box in the attic (so we buy more next year).

Not to mention all the packaging! Every purchase comes with extra large boxes packed with plastic, styrofoam and requiring extra room on the delivery truck.

The holidays can be simple. You can spend less and waste less throughout the month of December. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you need to wreck your budget and the planet. Here are a few ways you can waste less this holiday season (and still have a merry Christmas)!

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1. Host Potluck Parties

Cut back on excess and waste this holiday by asking visitors and guests to bring dishes to pass. Often when we host, we end up going over the top (I say this as I look at my fridge FULL of Thanksgiving leftovers). From the cookie-exchanges to the cocktail parties, we end up going overboard and have tons leftover, especially if we’re the host. Cut back by breaking up the job.

Help guests know what and how much to bring. Instead of asking guests to bring a huge dish, guess the number of people you’ll be hosting. Figure in a half-serving for each guest (assuming everyone will want to try a bite or two). So often at parties, we figure a full serving of every dish for every guest and offer 8-10 dishes. No guest can eat that much and we end up with leftovers for days. Send your guests home with their leftover dish.

2. Don’t Use Disposable “Take Home” Containers

At a recent cookie exchange, everyone was asked to bring a container to take home their cookies–genius! I know it’s not as cute as festive red and green disposable plastic boxes, holiday tins or styrofoam containers, but you know what? It’s much more eco-friendly.

When you go somewhere, I would even suggest stashing a few Ru-Uz bags or other containers in your bag or car, especially if you know you’ll be bringing items back home with you. Bring your own shopping bags and when you go to the store try bringing your own containers for bulk items (these bags are great because they already have the weight right on the tag).

3. Decorate with Paper & Repurpose

Stretch your decorations by using paper decorations over plastic, metal and glass. This year, instead of hanging lights outside we’re using paper-bag luminaries with reusable LED lights. They’re so romantic and sweet looking, lining our front walk–much prettier than going full-Griswold.

Use paper snowflakes, chains and decorate using natural materials. Watch second-hand stores for great Christmas decorations or make your own crafts using recycled items like clothespins and felt, or bring the outdoors in with pine-cones and painted rocks. Use natural greenery and plants to create a Christmas atmosphere.

4. Shop for Quality and Usefulness

As you make your list and check it twice, think of practical, quality gifts that will last for seasons to come. Instead of a cheap set of pots and pans, look for one high quality Le Creuset dish that will last a lifetime. For some awesome sustainable ideas check out BuyMeOnce, a site dedicated to finding the most high-quality products.

Here’s the deal, sustainable products might be a little bit pricier. Yes, you could buy five hoodies at Wal-Mart for the cost of one from Arc’teryx but it will last for years and hold up to washing after washing. Think of practical gifts that fit a need and will be used, not just sit around collecting dust. Ask gift recipients what they really need and want.

5. Give the Gift of Time

Unsure what to get someone? Give the gift of spending time with them! Giving activities instead of gifts is often more appreciated, practical and meaningful. Spend quality time with your loved ones. Take them to enjoy a performance, visit a museum or sporting event. Make a memory together.

Not only are you giving something to solidify and strengthen your connection, but you’re giving a gift that won’t create waste and excess. It’s a present that will be appreciated for years to come. Give an experience or activity rather than just another item.

6. Send Virtual Gifts

If you’re going to give gift cards, books, games or DVDs consider giving digital gifts instead of tangible ones. Rather than giving books, give a digital book via Kindle. Giving a gift credit is just as easy as giving a gift card, but doesn’t create waste.

Give a subscription to Netflix or Hulu, purchase a digital magazine subscription or buy someone a membership to a local park. Sending virtual gifts requires no shipping, packaging or other waste, and you’re still giving a great present. With subscriptions you’ll give a gift that can last all year long.

7. Get Outside

Want to avoid the excesses of the holiday season and get into the Christmas spirit? Go for a walk outdoors! Move more and connect with nature! See your environment and observe the beauty and splendor of winter.

Winter hikes, walks, snowshoeing and skiing give us a moment to get outside. Breathe in the fresh air and live in the moment. Sometimes with the hustle and bustle of the season we get trapped in a cycle of taking on too much, worrying too much and trying to do too much. Get outside, fit in some movement and simplify.

8. Give a Donation

One of the best parts of the holiday season is that it gives us an opportunity to give. Do you want to know why you feel awesome at Christmas? Because you get to give presents to others and make them happy. Giving is a great way to shift and elevate your mood.

Consider giving as a family, rather than spending on presents that no one needs. Give to a cause you believe in, donate to a charity or give a gift to a child in need through your local Toys for Tots campaign. Look for ways to give more this season to those who need it the most.

9. Minimize Travel and Streamline Errands

To cut back on waste and excess, streamline travel as much as possible. Of course we all love going over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s. It’s important to connect with family and loved ones during this time of year. But running to Target for the third time in a week? Well, that’s a trip you can trim off your itinerary.

Streamline your errands–plan ahead and shop with a list. If you’re visiting the store for one item, brainstorm to see if you can pick up everything you need at once. Challenge yourself to run errands on foot, or visit the store once a week or less. Cut back on travel as much as possible, carpool, rideshare or use public transportation when you can.

10. Eat Simple Meals Throughout the Month

One way to help your wallet, your waistline and the planet throughout the month is to enjoy simple, “green” meals as much as possible. Eat produce that’s in season. Shop for filling, yet inexpensive items like beans, rice and squash. Enjoy soups and simple dishes that feel wintery (yet don’t leave you stuffed to the gills).

With so many parties and treats throughout the month, make “normal meals” (those that aren’t special events) simple. We often tend to want to keep the party going with treats all month long. Keep in mind one or two parties won’t wreck your diet, but a whole month of pizza, takeout and fast food just might. Plan ahead so you can avoid opting to eat out when you’re busy with shopping and events. Eat at home or take a simple snack (like an apple) to tide you over.

The holidays might feel excessive and like a time of commercialism, waste and more, more more. Take back your holiday season this year, by keeping things simple. Minimize waste and enjoy the moments of connecting and celebrating with your loved ones.


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