Our ecological footprint is huge. I am definitely not zero waste (because ZERO waste goes much further than just avoiding plastic). I try to avoid single use plastics as much as I can. The first few months that I started this lifestyle, I followed the buzz term “zero waste”. But oh-man, let me tell ya, you put such pressure on yourself with calling yourself ‘zero’, like you can’t get ANY plastic in your home. I had to deny myself so much and felt so guilty every time I came into contact with plastic. Being completely zero waste is just not realistic. The term is actually meant as an end goal, yet it weighs on your shoulders, a label. And I didn’t want to get so stressed out about it, that I would eventually give up completely. So I realized that I had to take a step back and I had to understand that I didn’t had to be perfect at it. I just had to do my best where I could, but also have fun while doing it. So I said “ciao” to the zero waste term and boy-oh-boy do I feel so great now with my low waste lifestyle. I can now be proud of myself for everything good that I already do and will not blame myself if I occasionally buy a meat substitute that sadly enough comes wrapped in plastic. Eco-friendly living goes much further than just avoiding plastic, it is about so many different aspects of life. So try to contribute to several aspects, but don’t forget that you don’t have to be perfect at it. It is wonderful that you want to do at least something good. And don’t let the haters get you down, there will always be people who will criticize everything you do and point out the things that you aren’t yet doing 100% ecological. But honestly, those people mostly even don’t try to live eco-friendly themselves, so please don’t give a crap about what they say and be proud of yourself for trying. Don’t bother putting your energy into such comments. Because ultimately, why? You do your best and that is all that counts. And that is what I had to learn the hard way.
The holidays are coming up and such periods have an extra big impact on our planet. Even if you’re a low-waster, you don’t celebrate Christmas by yourself. And you can’t force your lifestyle on a whole group of people without being asked to. If you do not celebrate Christmas at your home, you cannot control how it is organized. It’s so important that you never let people feel guilty about their own lifestyle or if they still make environmentally unfriendly choices. People are a bit like children in that area, if you tell them they HAVE to do something, they will be less open to it. And the more you nag about it, the more frustrated they become about the concept, and maybe even about you, haha. No, promoting the ecological lifestyle can only be done by setting a good example without judgment. Some around you will eventually pick something up or get inspired by you. If they are interested, they will start asking question themselves, so don’t force it on them.
Christmas is just magical. You come together with family to experience a pleasant day/evening in a beautiful setting. To me, the holidays really are all about creating atmosphere. Christmas should come with lights, Christmas decorations, warm colors, hot drinks and snacks, candles, the scent of cinnamon, a Christmas tree and presents … Without those things, well, Christmas just wouldn’t be the same, would it? It is a beautiful tradition. But as I said … A wonderful tradition, but with a huge impact on the planet.
Give up Christmas? Never! So the only thing we can do is re-think it. How can we celebrate our holidays in a more ecological way? We simply have to adjust our mindset and our behavior towards Christmas. It is better for the planet, but also for your wallet and your mental health (because let’s face it, finding a trillion presents for everyone is super stressful).
That is what this blog is all about. You will receive tips on several topics to get you started for Christmas. If you read these tips, they may seem super logical and all the better, because they should be logical. But hopefully if you go through these bundled tips, you might get inspired to really get to it this year!
Remember what I said before: you don’t have to be perfect. I believe that these tips can all be applied and that it is realistic. But don’t put too much pressure on yourself and do it step by step or even year by year. If there are certain things that you just can’t do, for example because of the mindset of certain family members, then that’s okay. Christmas should not be a period where difficult family situations arise. So change where you can and who knows, your family will eventually change as well. 😉
Ready to take the step to a low waste Christmas? Then I hope you’ll get a lot of tips and inspiration out of this blog post. It’s a huge one, I’m sorry 😉
1 / Buying Presents
Every moment of the day we are bombarded with advertisements, social media and “influencers” to make us buy new things. Our economy of course also runs on that… But it doesn’t have to be that way. Buying something new often gives you a short rush, but then you quickly forget that feeling. Besides, having too many things does not make you happy, but probably even the opposite. Often it unknowingly creates stress. Living simpler and learning to live with less can really bring happiness and peace to your life. Something that I too had to learn.
People often don’t even think about what a huge impact ‘new stuff’ have on the planet and the climate. Because there is always a hidden impact that we therefore do not immediately see and are not confronted by. To know more about this I can recommend the book “Hidden Impact” (De Verborgen Impact) by Babette Porcelijn. She uses the example of a pants. For just one pair of jeans, 10,000 liters of water are needed for the cotton production, 10 m2 of agricultural land and regards emissions a thick 32 kg of CO2. With that we haven’t even mentioned yet all the fertilizer and pesticides that were used. All for that single pair of jeans. So please, think twice when you are tempted to buy something new: eg clothing, decoration, the (once again) new iPhone, a notebook (while you still have 6 blank ones at home), and so on and so on. Do you really need it or is it an impulse purchase?
That you occasionally buy something new is no shame. But first think about other options. I don’t believe in never buying anything new again. Sometimes you really need something that you cannot make yourself, that you do not immediately find second-hand or that you may not feel comfortable buying secondhand. I certainly have a few things that I know I would rather buy new, for example underwear. But when you do decide to buy something new, do some research first and see if you can find a brand that is committed to sustainability, ecology and ethics. And if it was also made with environmentally friendly materials, then you are rocking it!
Let’s apply this to the Christmas days: buying gifts. Not giving any presents is one of the most ecological options, but one that I admit, I couldn’t do. Giving and receiving presents is one of the coziest moments on Christmas Eve. Making people happy with something that you have chosen or made specially for them. They therefore feel a bit special, pampered. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that gifts have to be bought new!
Secondhand / Vintage.
Browse through thrift stores and flea markets. Often you will find real treasures there for little money. Your gift will have personality and sometimes even a story. In addition to ‘stuff’, also think about secondhand books and even clothing. Maybe the person, for whom you need to find a gift, really needs something specific. Then firstly try to find it secondhand. You can also do this online, but I personally find it more fun and safer to go to physical secondhand stores or flea markets.
Some people still find secondhand items dirty or strange. So first check with your family to what they are open to.
It may sound strange, but why not gift something that you already own? Most of us own much more than we actually need. Maybe you have something that you are not really attached to or need, but that the other person would be very happy with. Why would it not be okay to pass it on? Ultimately, that is the same as a secondhand gift. In your lifespan you’ll probably have received a lot of random gifts that you actually didn’t find useful or even like. Yes okay, you received it from someone, but what good is it if it is collecting dust at the bottom of a drawer? Then it’s better to give it a lovely new home, no? The pass-on principle is a very beautiful one that is often done with children’s items, clothing, books, puzzles, DVDs, etc.
Making memories is something that we really cherish and like to look back on through photos and videos. So maybe you can give someone a trip or an activity as a gift? Think of concert tickets, renting a cabin in a forest, a kayak trip, going camping, a cinema subscription, a course, going to an escape room together, a scavenger hunt,… It’s all possible.
Extra tip: If you’d participate in the activity yourself, you can record it on video. If you then edit that video, you immediately have a nice memory- gift for next year. 😉
Make something yourself! Get creative. A gift where you put time, effort and love into, is one of the most beautiful gifts someone can ever get. 🙂 It is unique and personal. In addition, it is also a very entertaining process for yourself. Go for a walk in nature, you can find beautiful things during that walk (feathers, flowers, leaves, moss, acorns, herbs … you name it) which you can use afterwards to make something out of it.
Some ideas to get you started: a memory box (full of photos and other memories with that person), something eatable (cookies, jam, kombucha, drinks, granola, tea, etc.), a home-made game, a drawing / painting / sculpture, a photo album, self-made beauty products, handmade decoration or toys, … My favorite tools for tutorials and inspiration are Pinterest and Youtube.
Give a plant! It is scientifically proven that houseplants make you happier. In addition a lot of them even clean the air. AND YES, they are also just stunning and cozy! You can also give someone a tree. For example, my mother just gave us a large apricot tree for Saint Martin for our new garden. I mean, what a wonderful gift!
Is there a charity that the person in question really cares about? Then make a favorable donation in their name.
Hands too short? Perhaps the best gift you can give the person is your time and help. Maybe it means a lot if you could help with a renovation, in the garden or to take care of the children more often?
Do you offer a service yourself or do you possess a certain skill or knowledge? It can also be fun to teach someone something or to offer your service for free as a gift.
Is the person lonely or a true animal lover? Maybe you can take him/her to an animal shelter and adopt a pet that needs a new loving home. Only do this with people who you know will take good care of the animal, have enough time and have the right living environment that the animal needs. If they cannot take care of an animal, you can also make them godparents of a certain animal in an animal shelter. In addition, you can then, for example, give the animal financial support for 6 months in their name.
As you can see there are many fun alternatives to ‘new’ gifts. Let your creativity run free. This is of course easier if you know the person well.
If you have eco-critical family members and you don’t feel comfortable enough to buy such gifts for them and you would rather buy something new, follow these tips:
- Ask that person if he/she might have a list of things that he/she really needs or wants. So that you’d definitely buy a gift that the person is certainly happy with. If you have to buy it new, first, search for an eco-friendly brand/version.
- Do not buy random gifts that you are unsure of whether that person will benefit from it at all. Also stay away from “rubbish”. If you really don’t know what to buy, go for a gift voucher. Preferably from an eco-friendly or ethically responsible brand or store.
- Or maybe you think the person in question could use some inspiration or a little push to start living a little more consciously? Then you can gift items that can help him/her to get started. In my webshop at www.dear-planet.com you will find reusable and low waste products that are great for such a situation.
2 / Gift Wrapping
People like to wrap their gift to keep the suspense. Unpacking a gift is often exciting and is part of the whole experience.
But do so many trees have to perish for that extremely short unpacking moment? For a paper that only lasts a few seconds and then ends up in the bin? Isn’t that ridiculous and a terrible sin? We could do that differently…
- Use the Furoshiki method. It’s a Japanese folding technique, where the gift is wrapped with a piece of fabric. After the gift is unpacked, you take the piece of fabric back home so that you can reuse it again and again. Another advantage with this technique is that you do not need tape, because the classic transparent tape is also made of plastic. You can find the different Furoshiki folding techniques on the internet. Extra tip: Have you found a nice second-hand t-shirt? Then you can use that to pack your package. A package in a package.
- There is wrapping paper that is made of plastic material but with which you can wrap a gift the traditional way. Because it is not normal paper, there are no creases and it does not tear. You can therefore continue to reuse this. I think this is a great concept, but it is and remains plastic, so I prefer to use the Furoshiki method.
- This is something that I have been doing lately! When I receive a gift from someone wrapped in paper, I will try to open it as carefully as I can (with the result: frustrated looks from the people around me because I’m taking so long), so that I can recover the paper and the ribbons. I keep them in a drawer and I use it later to wrap a gift myself. But you can also use them for example for collage work.
- Another great idea is to put the gift in a reusable box. Think of a beautiful cardboard gift box or a wonderful old tin box. You can often find gems at flea markets and in the thrift store. This box can be part of the gift or you can reuse it for subsequent gifts.
- Be sure to keep glass sauce jars. After rinsing they can be reused for so many things! A nice way to use them is to put presents in them. You can put a nice bow around it, but you can also decorate it with drawings or by glueing on clippings. Let your creativity run free. Such jars are ideal for small gifts, edible gifts such as cookies, home-made care products, a gift voucher or tickets, and so many other things.
- Newspapers, old road maps or magazines can also be ideal for wrapping a gift. In addition, they often look just a-m-a-z-i-n-g. You can treat the newspaper with some coffee to give it a vintage look.
- You can decorate your gift with rope, elements that you found in nature (such as twigs and flowers), photos, magazine clippings, drawings, stamps (which you can make yourself from an old gum or potato for example!),…
- As I said, the classic transparent tape is unfortunately made of plastic. Apparently there is already compostable transparent tape on the market, but I personally have not had any experience with those yet. Another option is eco-paper tape.
- Do you have nice totebags, bags or pouches laying around? Then use that to hide your present in. That way they’ll have a fun bag as an extra gift.
- I personally love the American tradition “Christmas Stockings”! These are large Christmas socks that hang up (for example by the fireplace) and they put small presents in there. Each sock has a name or initials on it, that way you know in which stocking you have to put your presents in. The great thing about this is, that you won’t need any wrapping paper.
- Is this going a bit too far for you? Then look for classic wrapping paper that is made from recycled paper.
3 / Holiday Decorations
Decorating your house for a festive period or for a certain season is something that I personally love to do. Decorating in general is an activity that I cherish. So stoping with buying new interior decorations was a difficult one for me, still is. Now I am mainly looking for beautiful decoration in thrift stores. There I find beautiful items, which also deserve a second life so that they don’t end up on landfill.
With party decoration this is just the same. If you already have a lot of themed decoration (such as Christmas), put them all in a large box. Realize at that moment that you may already have enough and that it is of no use to buy new things every year.
If you don’t have a lot of Christmas decorations yet and you would like to bring more Christmas spirit into your home, then I hope to help you with the following tips.
Look in secondhand stores or – websites for Christmas decorations. Or maybe you’ll find some objects that you can upcycle yourself into a stunning Christmas decor item.
Make your own decoration! Once again, I recommend collecting stuff in nature for this, such as pine cones. You can also make flags from old fabrics or old clothing and color these with plant materials (most paint is not biodegradable and pollute the water). You can also cut orange peelings into small stars and using robe, turn them into a garland. You can also use pine tree branches and hang them up. There are so many options. For more ideas you can visit my Pinterest folder: “Low Waste Christmas“.
No time to get crafty yourself and you already have an old Christmas decor collection? Maybe you can find a few people with whom you can exchange / pass on theme decorations? “New” things without having to D-I-Y or buy new stuff.
Choose LED Christmas lights, which last much longer and use much less electricity. Be gentle with them so that you can use them for years!
Soy candles are also wonderful, but please be careful.
What To Avoid?
Christmas decoration is often covered with glitter, but glitter is microplastic. Plus it gets everywhere. Nowadays I sometimes see biodegradable glitter appearing on the internet, so if you can’t miss glitter, look it up and use it for a DIY project.
Balloons and confetti
Balloons and confetti are other classic party decorations to avoid. Surprise, surprise: Balloons are made of plastic and apparently harmful to your health if you blow them up yourself. Also please do not release helium balloons outside, they will rise in the air, but eventually they will also land somewhere. So they end up in nature or in the ocean. Animals often even choke on these. And avoid confetti, certainly the plastic kind of confetti, please! But there is also a perfect and simple alternative to paper confetti. You can perforate old papers, newspapers, magazines and even leaves that have fallen from the trees, et voila: confetti! Flower petals are also a beautiful option. If it cannot be used immediately, dry the petals first.
What About The Christmas Tree?
The Christmas tree … Aaah this is a tricky one. It is the centerpiece of the Christmas period. Without a Christmas tree, it doesn’t feel like Christmas, does it? But it has a downside. You either cut a tree or buy a plastic one.
During that period masses of pine trees are felled, which are then put in the house for a short period and after that they are taken to the container park… Even worse, a huge amount of pesticides is usually used for those trees, so not healthy for you in your home. And that also means that you can’t composte the tree somewhere on the ground, because the pesticides are toxic to the earth and that makes the ground becomes unhealthy. Fortunately there are people who replant their pine trees in their garden (yay!), But of course there is a limit to that. So personally I don’t think buying a real pine tree for Christmas is a great option, but better than a plastic tree.
In case you have had such a plastic Christmas tree for years (including myself!), Take good care of it, then it may last your entire life (or longer). My parents’ Christmas tree has been around for 30 years.
If you are not yet the owner of such a plastic tree, but you would like one, you can find a lot in thrift shops or second-hand websites during the festive periods. Please do not buy such a plastic tree new. Otherwise you stimulate its production. By giving one a second life, you ensure that one ends up on the mountain of waste.
If you do not want a plastic Christmas tree or a real pine tree, then there are also creative options and also the most environmentally friendly ones.
Here are some ideas:
4 / Christmas Dinner
When you prepare the table for your Christmas dinner, there is one obvious rule: do not use disposable single use cutlery, plates or glasses. It’s not only such a waste, but it also looks cheap. Your table will look so much more beautiful when you use real tableware. If you don’t have enough items for all your guests, you can visit some thrift stores. Mix and match different plates and glasses. Trust me, it looks so fun and creative.
Try a veggie/vegan menu
I’m not going into this one to deep in this article, but as you probably know by now animal products, especially meat, have a huge impact on the planet (watch: Cowspiracy). And then there is also the important issue of animal welfare (watch: Earthlings) and apparently animal products aren’t good for your health either (watch: Game Changers).
If you are not up for a vegan or veggie menu, at least try to buy organic, local and seasonly products.
Fun idea: host a Christmas potluck! Ask everyone to prepare 1 zero-waste vegan dish, snack or dessert.
Make a meal from scratch using fresh ingredients. This way you that can dodge plastic as much as possible. Purchase other necessary food in recyclable or reusable packaging (such as glass jars).
If catering: bring your own pots and dishes to them in advance.
If you won’t cook yourself but opt for catering, then ask them if you can bring your own pots and dishes to them in advance.
Do you have any leftovers? No problemo! That means you won’t have to cook the next day. Perfect.
But how to store them? The times of single use plastic foil is long gone. Instead use silicone lids, beeswax wraps or store them in jars with a lid.
Too many leftovers left and they don’t fit in your fridge? You can freeze some in or you can give some to your guests, neighbors or maybe even to a homeless person (it will be a great Christmas moment for them).
5 / Inform your family
It is important to inform your family about how you would like to celebrate Christmas. If you organize the Christmas party yourself, you can decide to do it in a low waste way. If it is not at your home, you can’t force someone to organize it that way. What you can do is tell them about it and who knows they might get inspired to do things differently.
But you can ask your family to make conscious decisions in terms of gifts that are meant for you. You can give them ideas from this ebook. If your family is not open to those kind of gifts or it is a subject that they always make fun of, then just ask for money, a ticket, a gift voucher or give them a list of things you really need. Another option for the real eco-badass: ask for no gifts.
Tip: You can gift this ebook to your family a month before Christmas, so you can introduce them to the concept of a low-waste Christmas, without you having to explain it to them.
If you have kids and you want to celebrate your holidays in an eco-friendly way, it is very important to explain them exactly why you do it. This way you learn them something about environmental issues and you make them understand why they no longer receive glitter rose plastic toys (that they are tired of it after 2 days). Make it fun for them, include them in the organizing and decorating. Get your kids durable and meaningful gifts.
Well folks, that sums it up. I was meant to post this 3 weeks ago, but I moved to a new house so it was a crazy couple of weeks. BUT HEY, I’m settled before the holidays so I’m all good!
Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!