Christmas holidays bring joy, laughter and vast amounts of plastic waste and junk into our lives, but the wastefulness can be avoided with just a bit of creativity.
There’s the entertaining, the hostess gifts, the decorating, the gift-wrapping and the extra travelling. (Of course, I am not going to suggest you skip seeing your family at Christmas to “save the environment.”)
Let’s begin where you are invited to a Christmas party and you need to have a hostess gift. Most people love it when guests arrive carrying a bottle of wine. Often these vino gifts are housed in a gift bag that was made in China, isn’t recyclable (due to metallic bits or plastic add-ons) and although the intention is to reuse-reuse-reuse, more often than not, the weather isn’t ideal in December and the bag gets damp, or worse, gets snowed on and looks a bit rough on the edges even after that first use. So, here’s where the creativity comes in. You can make your own wine “bag” with a sweater that is no longer used. Just cut the sleeves off, sew up the bottom of each sleeve and use the cuff at the top when you slide it onto the wine. Tie a ribbon, some jute or a strip of fabric around the neck of the bottle to look like a scarf and you’ve got a cute hostess gift.
Next, you need to decorate around the house. Now, seriously, I am not sure who is short on decorations, but rather than going out to buy plastic this-n-that at the store, why not use greenery as your decoration? Cedar and other evergreens smell great and make the room seem festive. You can “spruce” it up with red ribbons and make your own wreaths, mantel covering and even make hanging boughs by wiring the branches together. If you don’t have your own yard to get these green trimmings, I am sure the local garden store can supply you with all that you need with little expense.
As for entertaining, many stores now provide big plastic trays of pre-cut vegetables or fruits, but these are pretty mundane. Wouldn’t you rather give your guests a chuckle by arranging the veggies in the shape of a Christmas tree, a wreath or Santa’s head? You can easily make a tree with raw broccoli, cherry tomatoes and colourful peppers masquerading as garland. It’s not that difficult to wash broccoli, tomatoes or peppers yourself and the produce tastes so much fresher if you cut it up just an hour or so before the guests arrive. Red pepper and cauliflower can make a fantastic Santa’s head with a few black olives for eyes, etc. Have fun with it. Afterwards there will be no cumbersome plastic lids and trays to take out, just a plate to put in the dishwasher, and depending on the veggies you choose, just a bit of compost to take out.
Don’t forget the gift wrapping! We all know plastic tape cannot be recycled, but there are so many ways to make a gift look special while avoiding tape, one-use paper and plastic bows. Newsprint can look great if you tie some colorful Holly and berries to the top or use red raffia or jute to tie a tag on. I usually cut up last year’s Christmas cards into tags. (Why not get one more use out of them before recycling?) You can also wrap gifts with tea towels and ribbons, kraft paper and pinecones, or even using stamps. Before you say, “but I don’t have any stamps,” I bet you have potatoes! Remember those childhood crafts where you cut a potato in half, carved a star into it and then dipped it in paint to decorate with? Okay, you’re an adult now, but you would be surprised how funky and cool stamped paper can look. It shows effort and thoughtfulness too, and isn’t that what gift giving is all about?
So, is a zero waste Christmas possible? Yes, it is. You just have to use your imagination to make it happen.
Jane Dunne is a Senior Editor for Specialty Technical Publishers. She works on a diverse catalogue of environmental publications that are recognized across North America as effective tools to ensure regulatory compliance with complex requirements.