Zero Waste, Plastic Free Christmas Decorations & Gifts
Is a zero waste Christmas achievable? Here are all our ideas on how to make your Christmas decorations and gifts more eco-friendly and low waste.
Christmas has become a time of excess, tinsel, and overspending on the unnecessary. Let’s slimline Christmas into something more ethical and eco-friendly and revert it into something that is more focused on the experience and spending time with family and friends than simply spending.
This time of year shouldn’t stressful, it should be enjoyed and period of relaxation and quality time after a busy year. And it doesn’t have to be a time of excess waste if we keep it simple, buy thoughtfully, and stay grounded in what Christmas is all about - spending time with loved ones.
Low waste Christmas decorations
1. Use what you have
The most zero waste Christmas decorations are the ones you already own! Simply use the Christmas tree and decorations you store away every year.
2. Second-hand Christmas decorations
Look for decorations, cards, wrapping paper, string, and anything else you need at second-hand stores, on Facebook marketplace, in local free or swap groups on Facebook, on Gumtree, or anywhere else you look for preloved items.
3. Use nature around you
Forage for pine cones, rocks, driftwood, logs, leaves, herbs, shells, sand, or any other piece of nature you can bring indoors for the celebration. It’ll be much more relaxing walking in nature and searching for something special than rushing around a mall fighting the crowds for identical factory made fare.
This can even be as simple as bringing in some of your pot plants or potted herbs from outside to place on the dining table.
4. Make decorations out of recycled/reused materials
Get your Christmas crafting on! Instead of buying decorations, take the time to make your own. This can be turned into a fun family activity or can be done while relaxing with a glass of wine.
Use old magazines, newspaper, wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, bits of fabric, elastic bands, tin cans, glass jars, or whatever you can find to make your own Christmas crackers, hanging ornaments, table decorations and wall hangings.
Some ideas include:
DIY Christmas crackers
Paper/cardboard standing Christmas trees
Handmade hanging ornaments - draw, cut out, add string and hang!
Beautiful jars filled with flowers, tea, or treats on the table - guests can even be given these to take home as a thank you for coming gift
5. Use eco-friendly glitter and confetti
Did you know that glitter is literally just microplastic? And we all know that stuff gets everywhere and ends up being washed off in the sink or shower or vacuumed up and sent to landfill.
If you’re using glitter to DIY any decorations or cards this year, use eco-friendly, biodegradable glitter.
You can also buy confetti made from petals or leaves for the table or you can make your own by punching holes in leaves using a hole punch!
Lit candles bring a feeling of calm and reverence, as well as being beautiful and releasing wonderful smells into your home. They are an easy way to make a table setting look more special and can be used to decorate side tables as well.
You should be able to buy candles plastic free at Christmas markets or any local market.
7. Buy wooden, felt or ceramic ornaments and decorations
If you do want to buy Christmas decorations, choose ones that are made from eco-friendly materials like glass, wood, metal, fabric or clay. Avoid cheap plastic decorations and ones covered in glitter, which is just tiny plastic particles that end up being spread everywhere.
Look for locally made ones and buy from small businesses. As always, Etsy is a good place to search for handmade ones online.
8. Use food to decorate your table
Beautiful plastic free produce you plan on eating later can be used to brighten up your table. Think pumpkins, herbs, aubergines, pears, peaches, strawberries, pineapples, watermelons, grapes, nectarines, bread etc. Make the food into an edible artwork!
Just make sure you don’t overdo it and you do eat these later so they don’t end up as food waste. You can always give some to guests to take home too.
You can also scatter themed cookies or gingerbread figurines around the table or put them on each fabric napkin at each place setting. Decorations you can snack on!
9. Use reusable, fabric table decorations over single-use
Fabric decorations can be used year after year and fabric table runners, tablecloths, and napkins can be washed and reused rather than used once and thrown away.
Make or invest (again - Etsy!) in some fabric bunting and napkins and a fabric tablecloth or runner that you can reuse.
If you’re looking for more ideas and some practical hands-on practice, Put Your Heart Into It is holding an Ethical Christmas Workshop that will teach you how to style your Christmas and make green gifts, as well as how to wrap your gifts without the waste. More info here.
Zero waste Christmas gifts
Look secondhand first! Scope out your local op shop - especially if it’s for a kris kringle gift that has to cost below a certain amount as it’s much easier to get something cheap that isn’t plastic trash.
If you’re wanting to buy new, some of our favourite Australian eco-focused online stores have some brilliant gift guides:
Go handmade! Make something yourself or buy something someone else has homemade off Etsy. Or give something the receiver can make like a DIY beeswax making kit, a scoby to start making kombucha, or a sourdough starter.
Give the gift of growing! Plants make great presents, but make sure that they are tailored to the receiver's lifestyle and home. If they aren’t keen gardeners, don’t give them a plant that needs heaps of care, give them one that takes care of itself and will live if forgotten for a while. Other great plant gifts are herbs and fruit trees, which will keep of giving for years to come, and seed cards, which will blossom when planted.
Send the gift to the stomach! Food and drink gifts will definitely be used, especially if they’re delicious. Buy in or put it in glass. Some ideas: chocolates, recipe mixes, jam, wine, hot chocolate and marshmallows, macarons, or little jars of different ground coffees or teas.
Give an experience as a gift - either something you can do together or something they would love to do. Examples are concert tickets, theatre tickets, cooking classes, skydiving, a high tea, a craft class, hot air ballooning, a winery tour, and a weekend away. Any of these would be much more memorable than a item they don’t need.
An important part of zero waste gift giving is giving something the person actually wants and will actually use. There is no point in giving a gift - no matter how eco-friendly it is - that will sit unused. That is just a waste of the resources used to make that present.
So when choosing a gift for that special someone, think it through and be sure that it is the right gift for them. If you’re unsure, ask them for ideas. Get them to write a list of some things that they need or want and choose something from that list to give them.
It will still be a surprise because they don’t know which item on the list you’ll be getting them. They’ll only know it’ll be something they actually want, which adds to the excitement in my opinion!
Have a conscious Christmas
Like everything zero waste, a zero waste Christmas is not about being perfect, but about doing what you can to reduce your impact. Just start being more conscious of your choices over the Christmas season and spend your Christmas doing what you love with the people that you love.
Have a cheerful, carefree and conscious Christmas everyone! x
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