Our Top Ten Tips for a No-Waste Holiday

Jacquelyn Ottman Posted by Jacquelyn Ottman.

Jacquelyn is the founder of J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., which helps businesses develop and market the next generation of products designed with sustainability in mind.

Our Top Ten Tips for a No-Waste Holiday

(Image: blogs.austingoodwill.com)

The holiday season is filled with joy, but it can also be filled with a whole lot of waste. According to the EPA, American household waste jumps 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.  Celebrate in style this year with the following top ten tips shared by members of our We Hate To Waste community. They will help you save food, energy, water, paper, and hopefully some time that can be spent with loved ones — the greatest gift of all!

Donation Box

Gift a gift to others by donating gently worn items to charity before the holidays. (Image: gsar.com)

1. Make Room for the New Stuff

Donate your unwanted stuff to your local Goodwill or thrift shop. As Ann Stone told us this year, the items you donate could be a true gift to the people who receive them.

Local Fun highway sign

Reduce your carbon footporint by celebrating close to home. (Image: PsychologyToday.com)

2. Think Global. Celebrate Local.

Instead of booking a big trip this holiday season, save some money and cut down on your carbon footprint by staying close to home. Visit local landmarks, try out some new restaurants in your town, or invite friends and neighbors in for old-fashioned cheer and fellowship.

3. Decorate a ‘Greener’ Tree

christmas tree decorated outside

Consider decorating an outdoor tree this year instead of cutting one down for indoor decoration. (Image: joeyzsspeakeasy.blogspot.com)

Consider a living (potted) tree that can be planted in the backyard when the holidays are over. Better yet, simply decorate a live tree that is already in your yard or porch. If you do opt for a cut tree, ‘treecycle‘ it when you’re done.

When trimming your tree, make decorations that you or the birds can eat, like strings of cranberry and popcorn. Use LED lights to save energy, and of course, plug your holiday lights into a power strip so it will be easy to turn them off when not in use.  Link here to learn about the Pivot Power strip — saves space!

4. Give Gifts that Help Save Watts, Drops and Trees All Year Long

The items suggested below will make great gifts for the Waste Watchers in your life, helping them save money and time for years to come.

Sand hourglass shower buddy times showers to conserve water and energy.

A simple shower timekeeper can help save millions of gallons of water — and the energy to heat it.

Gifts that Save Energy

Nest learning thermostat learns your habits to help increase the efficiency of homw energy use by 50%.  As Melissa told us this year, a drying rack  is an old fashioned idea, but it help you save energy, money — and keep your Levi’s and any new clothes looking great longer.

Gifts that Save Water

Help friends and family keep a lid on showers with a Shower Buddy, while a Water-Saving Shower Head will keep the pressure on while saving water and energy.  A rain barrel will help recycle precious rain drops that be can used for the garden. Learn how to make one HERE.

we hate to waste people towelsGifts that Save Paper or Plastic

Give everyone on your list a set of PeopleTowels, handy personal towels that can save an estimated 3000 paper towels per year; (we even have our very own branded WeHateToWaste designs, pictured left), a Chico Bag makes a perfect stocking stuffer; reusable coffee mug — our favorite this year —  Keep Cups;  Snack Taxi washable snack bags for kids.

Gifts that Cut Down on Food Waste

Indoor food scrap container for composting — our favorite is the Sure-Close kitchen container.  Help family and friends use up all of their leftovers by giving a copy of The Refrigerator Files: A Guide to Creative Makeovers for Your Leftovers, written by our very own Jocelyn Deprez.

5. Upcycle a Gift

Repurpose your old iPhone case into an ornament

Upcycle your old iPhone case into a nifty ornament,.

Sometimes the greatest gift is the one you make yourself.  Upcycle materials and objects that you have around the house to make thoughtful and creative gifts. Ideas include: upcycled spoon rings, coasters made out of CDs,  and very useful household items made from materials just hanging out in your garage, like Ilene’s bookcase made from window shutters. Did you upgrade this year to an iPhone 5? Consider turning your old cases into ornaments for the tree and other household items.

6. Shop in Your Closet

Change the way you think of a ‘new’ gift from an item you buy to something that can be simply new to you or a loved one.  Give a gift of history this year. Pass on a piece of  jewelry, like the one Fredrica adores, or a family heirloom that will be cherished by someone else.  Search through thrift shops and vintage stores for those one-of-a-kind unique treasures. As Jacquie found out this year, good vintage finds are likely to last for a long long time. 

So Kind Registry Logo

Make it easy for friends and family to give you an alternative gift this year. (Image: SoKindGiftRegistry.org)

7. Change What You Think of as a Gift

As suggested by the Center for the New American Dream, think outside the gift box this holiday season and consider giving and getting alternative gifts. To help your loved ones discover the kind of things that are most meaningful to you, display your wishes on an alternative gift registry using a resource such as SoKindGiftRegistry.org. Consider the possibilities: who couldn’t use gifts of time, homemade snacks, charitable donations, day of the event help and more these days?

8. Minimize Gift Packaging

Lush Furoshiki Knot Wraps

Lush Knot Wraps (Image: Lush.com)

Alternative gift-wrappings let you express your personal creativity while cutting down on waste. Try cloth wrappings inspired by the Japanese Furoshiki tradition— a beautiful and sustainable alternative to wrapping paper. Have fun using recycled newspaper, matching the newspaper articles and pictures to the recipient’s interests like Kate suggests in the comment on this post from Mike G.

Patronize retailers that make it easy to cut down on packaging. Lush Cosmetics sells many colorful ‘naked products,’ keeps packaging down to a minimum, and will wrap gifts in their distinctive ‘knot’ wraps.

Make Holiday Haste Not Waste

(Image: blog.austingoodwill.com)

9. Throw a No-Waste Holiday Party

Take some of the stress and waste out of holiday parties with these easy tips: Plan your meal before you shop — use compostable dinnerware and make sure to compost them and the food scraps in the backyard or a municipal composting program;  have guests bring dishes potluck style and send them home with leftovers.


Throw a re-gift party after the holidays to make sure all gifts find a loving owner. (Image: woolridgeroad.wordpress.com)

10. Throw a Re-Gift Party in January

Once the holiday craze slows down, invite your friends over for a re-gift party. This is a great way to make sure some of the gifts you and your guests received will end up in appreciative hands. Who knows, you might find something really useful yourself. Check out this post for ideas.

Thanks to all the Waste Watchers for submitting these ideas.  What ideas do you have? We’d love it if you’d share them below.  Happy No-Waste Holidays to All!