How to Have a Zero Waste Holiday Season

Sustainable Holidays Go Gingham

It’s that time of year again – when the shopping, spending, and wrapping frenzy kicks in! How can we embrace the holiday season and still keep waste to a minimum? Have a zero waste holiday season, of course!

Decorate with Fruit Go Gingham

Not only will there be less waste generated but money will be saved as well. I call that win-win! Here are 7 easy tips for a sustainable and zero waste holiday season.

Go Gingham: Generate less trash this holiday season

How to Have a Zero Waste Holiday Season

  1. Buy second-hand or vintage items :: Second-hand items come with a story – unlike those found at the mall. Candlestick holders, cake servers, and classic books are all wonderful gift ideas. Start thinking about where you might like to “find” a gift for someone special. Estate sales, garage sales, Craig’s list, and second-hand stores are always fun adventures and you never know what you’ll come home with. Take a friend or your partner and make it a date. Remember, think second-hand, first.
  2. Re-use the same box for gift wrapping :: When purchasing new items, don’t take the gift box when it is offered. Find one around your home to re-use, keep it on hand to use again and again. The same goes for tissue paper, which can be used many times. Always skip the shopping bag when offered one at the store, too. Make a custom bag by adding a pocket to one you already own.
  3. Use maps, cloth bags and fabric scraps instead of wrapping paper :: Cloth bags can be sewn and used instead of wrapping paper. Old maps are an excellent alternative for wrapping materials. Simply must have wrapping paper? Don’t overlook estate sales as a source for holiday gift wrap. It’s inexpensive and there’s always plenty of it to choose from.
  4. Re-use ribbons :: Of course we all want our gifts to look gorgeous underneath the tree, don’t we? Keep the ribbons you receive on packages and re-use them. Press the ribbons with a very hot iron and trim ends to give them a fresh look. (Do not iron plastic ribbons.) Fabric scraps also make wonderful ribbons, too. I suggest gingham for this.
  5. Buy less stuff :: Most of us can’t remember what we received for holiday gifts last year. Try giving a homemade gift of applesauce or granola or something else that’s tasty and edible. Try to skip the shopping frenzy and don’t over-buy. Does anyone really need more stuff? Give a gift of time together instead of more stuff. Buying less stuff will keep you from over-spending, too.
  6. Borrow or buy used clothing for holiday attire :: I love to get dressed up for the holidays but I don’t love how expensive fancy clothes can be. Find a friend and borrow or head to your favorite second-hand shop. Once washed, all clothing is used so buy your once a year outfit used. Find outfits for the entire family – it’s easy! Shop second-hand for everyone’s holiday attire.
  7. Eat the decorations :: Once the season is done, eat the decorations. For Thanksgiving, this is easy with squash and pumpkins because you can roast them and make soup. For the Christmas season, decorate with citrus. Lemons and oranges look so pretty with velvet and plaid. A bowl of one or both is all you need to make a table pretty. Pine cones are another trick of mine – but don’t eat those – just compost or toss into the flower bed. They do a good job of keeping cats out of the garden.


With these 7 easy tips, you’ll have a zero waste holiday season. When January arrives, and the credit card statement, there won’t be any regrets either. Enjoy the holidays but spend less, buy less, and waste less. It’s very Go Gingham!

What’s your favorite way to reduce waste and embrace the season?

Go Gingham related links:

Displaying holiday cards – don’t put them away, just leave them out to enjoy
Homemade Christmas gift tradition: family calendar
Tree topper tale: a Christmas tree topper that’s so easy to make
Hostess gift ideas that are frugal and fancy!

7 thoughts on “How to Have a Zero Waste Holiday Season

  1. I always re-use tissue paper/bows, etc., but I admit that my primary motivation is my frugality! 🙂 I love the idea of buying less stuff and spending more time together.


    1. Kris, however you get there or whatever the motivation – it’s the end result that matters. Less is best!
      I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving with your family. Thanks for writing in! 🙂


    1. Yikes – AARP card?! Wow, you are really old!! 😉 You know I’m kidding because I’m right there with you.
      Yes, the experiences don’t take up any space around the house – especially if you don’t drag home lots of souvenirs while traveling.
      It seems like lots of folks are talking about downsizing and I’m all for it. Less stuff is definitely my goal.
      Thanks so much for writing in, Erin!!


  2. Erin & Sara,
    I’ll be leaving the 5th decade in a couple, and you guys are right, experiences vs. stuff, I’ll take the experience. We downsized our home in 1/2, paid cash, and now we’re thinking about what we REALLY want out of the 2nd 1/2 of our lives. The face filler/facelift experience is on my “to do list”. I’ll drive an older Volvo, but wear a new face.

    You start to realize you have less time in front of you, then behind you, and it puts stuff in perspective. How many coats, shoes, dishes, and misc other cr*p does one need? I have enough “statement jewelry to open a retail store. Nuff said.

    I really enjoy your Blog Sara.


  3. One additional comment. The best present for the holiday is time with people you love. Hot Cocoa in front of the fireplace, with Christmas Music and some lite snacks. No wrapping, no waste, and a happy life memory. Count me in.


    1. Laura, I like the sounds of this gift! And all of your downsizing and realizing what’s really important really is impressive. I vote you sell your jewelry and buy airline tickets for travel!
      I hope you have a wonderful holiday season ~
      Thanks so much for writing in.


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