Rethinking Holiday Waste

zero waste gift wrap using fabric, cookies, & evergreens

By Greta Weiser & Deven Patten

The holiday season is upon us yet again and at this time of year we’d like to take a few minutes to share some ideas that can help you in your quest to reducing your waste not just during this time of year, but for many holidays all year long!

It seems that although we are still grappling with the aftermath of COVID, the US consumer is ready for gifting this year! Spurred by tax breaks, stimulus checks and low unemployment, spending is up, and the economy seems to be roaring. The take, make, waste model that retailers live by during the holidays is just gearing up so here are some ideas of how you can still make the most of the holidays while reducing waste and making memories!

Wrapping – There is so much confusion when it comes to wrapping paper and how to take care of it responsibly. Many wrapping papers are not recyclable and so most of it ends up in the landfill. Instead of buying new wrapping paper, we suggest trying an alternative such as: furoshiki or the Japanese practice of wrapping using a reusable fabric/scarf wrap. Or save some old newspapers and wrap with the funny’s pages. Try using reusable household items like totes, tissue paper, a Valentines tin or save your holiday bags and reuse them each year.

Gifting Experiences – According to research, experiences result in longer-lasting happiness than material possessions. Over time, people’s satisfaction with the things they buy decreases, whereas their satisfaction with experiences over time increases. Experiences provide better memories. Rather than gifting an item that may be used for a short period and then lost or forgotten, consider gifting tickets to a movie theater, local artist concert, pottery or cooking class, national park, spa day or other activity that the person enjoys. These memories will stick with them long after any item could.

When an object is given as a gift, consider quality of quantity. Quality items often outlast a cheaper alternative many times over and you do really get what you pay for in most every aspect. Look for items that can be serviced once the useful life is up or can be upgraded/traded in so that the used item can be refurbished and reused. If giving electronics, consider rechargeable batteries to accompany the gift as they can help reduce the amount of discarded single use batteries.

Donations – Donations made in someone’s name is another great way to give a thoughtful gift while still not adding to the clutter of objects in our lives! This is an amazing way to support so many great organizations while still showing someone you are thinking of them. You can pick a charity or local organization that supports their passion and tell them you’ve supported that organization in their name with a card, note or letter. You could even donate to the URA in someone’s honor here, we’d be ever so grateful!!

Thrifting or Regifting – It can be fun visiting a thrift store and finding little unique treasures you wouldn’t be able to find or afford at a traditional store.  This makes for some memorable, one-of-a-kind gifts. Good thrift store gifts can include- games/puzzles, sports equipment, jewelry, art pieces, toys, home décor items

Have you ever received a gift you have never used? Consider regifting it to some on who can use it!

Another fun idea can be a “Green Elephant” gift exchange with your friends or family. Rather than buying new gifts for each other, challenge your guests to either make their gifts or purchase secondhand and gifts from local businesses. They must also wrap in sustainable wrapping or reused gift bags/boxes!

Mealtime – As food is most always a central part of our holiday festivities, consider asking your guests to BYOTW, or bring your own Tupperware/reusable container for leftovers!

Although using dishes instead of paper plates may be overwhelming to clean up, it wastes less! Don’t be afraid to ask guests to place their dirty dishes in the dishwasher or designated sink area after eating.  You can even ask guests to bring their own Tupperware to use as their plates. This means less dishes and an easy way to take leftovers home. Finally, ask everyone to bring their own mug for drinks! This can be a fun conversation starter.

Shop Local – Shopping local is a great way to support the local economy, small businesses and reduce carbon footprints! Don’t know where to start? Get out and explore! The best way to find local artists is to take a trip into town. Visit your local farmers markets or craft fairs. Purchase a gift card to your loved one’s favorite local restaurant for the holidays.

However you choose to celebrate the upcoming holidays, and all those in between, we wish you a happy holiday season and are looking forward to an incredible 2022 here at the URA!