Less is More: How to Have a Zero Waste Holiday

zero waste holiday

The holidays often come jammed-packed with a slew of hefty expectations. From the heavy meals, idyllic decor, and of course, gift giving, it’s easy to “buy” into the consumer-focused notions of the holidays rather than the underlining meaning and real value they bring. With the help of eco-conscious Meryl Pritchard, founder of Kore Kitchen – a curated and nutritionally designed, meal delivery based in Los Angeles; this wise soul is reminding us just what these core values are and how to have a more mindful holiday all around. From revamping our gift-giving habits down to the wrapping and decor, get inspired by these three ways to create a zero-waste holiday…

The holiday season is supposed to be a joyful time of year. We see family, eat home-cooked food, exchange gifts, and celebrate the closing of the year. With the increase in consumerism, the holidays have become much less joyful, and much more stressful. We burden ourselves with shopping excessively, and buying meaningless things that we can’t afford, that we pay for later. The receiver may or may not like the gift, but the emphasis is on the giving of “something”. We go overboard in many ways – with the shopping, the eating, the packaging, the decorating, and the wasting. At the end of the day, do all these “things” make us happy,, or are we just trying to survive the holidays? Here are three ways to celebrate the holidays mindfully…

Revitalize Gift Giving

“Black Friday is the day we trample people for things we don’t need, the day after being thankful for what we have.”

The Friday after Thanksgiving, coined ‘Black Friday’, is notoriously, the biggest shopping day of the year. Many companies will slash their prices drastically, to incentivize our need to consume. And consume we do! We’re so ready to jump on a sale price that we do it without respect to our wallets, and to fellow mankind.

Instead of focusing on gifts this year, pitch the idea of doing a White Elephant exchange instead. White Elephant exchange is when everyone brings one gift to their holiday party, and then there is a process of choosing the gift you want so everyone walks away with something by the end of the night. Because you don’t know who the gift is for, you end up choosing much more practical items that would benefit anyone; such as a high quality kitchen knife, and warm winter blanket, a rose gold watering can, a wooden cutting board, a plant, a nice pot, or both! You also get to focus on quality and finding one nice thing, instead of quantity and buying just for the sake of buying. A White Elephant exchange is a good way to reduce the total amount of items being purchased, and makes you appreciate the one gift that you received. ‘

Bonus points for contributing a zero waste gift like aluminum straws, a compost bin, stainless steel to-go food containers, or a hand painted tiffin. These types of gifts will inspire a conversation around waste, and why we should focus on reusables. You could spark someone’s New Year’s resolution!

When it comes to gifts, wrap with intention. One year my sister used the blank side of old shopping bags and colored our names on each gift. It was the best wrapping paper under the tree because it was so unique, creative, and personal. If you feel the need to wrap a gift, use a reusable bag, or butcher paper, hemp or cotton string, and organic earth elements like crystals, dried flowers, or a small branch of pine needles.

Declutter Decor

Less decorating = Less work = Less stress

When I was little I remember decorating for Christmas was a big deal. My mom would cart down boxes of Christmas ornaments from before I was born. We had all these objects and mantle pieces that needed to be placed around the house because it was “tradition”. These are boxes of items we keep stored away all year long, just to use for a few weeks out of the year. None of these items meant anything to me, it was just something I was used to seeing each year. It was a lot of work to unpack and repack those items, which seemed pointless.

Instead of saving meaningless objects, try to use what nature has provided. A small pot of cinnamon sticks will look festive and make your home smell like the holidays. A bowl of persimmons or apples will add warmth, and when they’re ripe you can turn them into a festive dish (zero waste!). Branches of pine needles and pine cones make nice mantle pieces and will add to the holiday cheer.

When it comes to the tree, while a reusable option might sound more eco-friendly, but what nature provides is always best. Even though chopping down a tree may sound bad, there are many sustainable tree farms, and they can always be composted after use. With a plastic tree, they may last for a few years, but they’ll end up in the landfill eventually.

Rethink Holiday Meals 

One of the best parts of the holiday season is the food that’s served and the parties that are thrown. The focus foods for Winter which help our bodies adapt to this colder season, are easy to buy package free. If you shop at your local farmer’s market, that will make the process very simple because they only offer what’s in season. Squash, root vegetables, potatoes, dark leafy greens, are all readily available. Shopping at the farmer’s market not only allows you to shop package-free (which saves you money, since packaging is expensive), but you’re also able to support to your local farmers who spend time, energy, and put their love into growing your food. It’s a good way to support your local economy, and have a greater connection to the food that you’re consuming. What you can’t find at the farmer’s market, you can fill in from the bulk bin at your local health food store. Be sure to bring reusable bulk bin bags, and reusable shopping bags to carry your items out package free. Double check the recipes you’re interested in making, to confirm they involve package-free ingredients. Remember that there is no perfect recipe – everything can be altered.

We often want to give more than normal during this time, so if we’re invited to a potluck we make more than what is usually consumed, and that leaves a lot of food leftover which ends up in the trash. When food goes to the trash, and eventually the landfill, it produces methane gas which is one of the most harmful greenhouse gases that is directly affecting global warming and climate change. This problem seems like a no brainer, since there are so many people who would benefit from this extra food. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the means to celebrate the holidays. Consider bringing compostable or reusable containers to take a plate of food to go, which you can then donate to someone who would really appreciate the meal. You can research charitable centers in your local area who would be happy to receive the food and distribute it for you, or simply find someone that might appreciate it.

If you’re not able to donate the food to a human being or good cause, the next best option is to compost it. Composting is a natural process, organic materials produced by the earth can return back to it, and produce a nutrient rich soil. Nature’s so smart! Unfortunately, composting isn’t as easy to do for city dwellers, so do your own research to find out where local compost drop-offs are located.

It’s a gift in itself to spend time with our loved ones during the holidays. Let’s shift our focus from “things” to “people”, and inspire others to do the same.