Christmas Green: ‘Tis the Season to Say “No” to Waste…and Here’s How We Do It

Merry Christmas!! We hope you and yours are having a wonderful holiday season! As empty nesters, the holidays are still evolving for us, but one thing is certain: We are trying reeeeeaaallly hard not to create extra waste!

I remember when my kids were little, the shame I felt as we filled the garbage with wrapping paper and ribbons and plastic packaging. Ugh! How I wish I could go back and undo those days! I was ignorant and in a hurry and acting like everyone else, but still…

These days I have the luxury of time to be green, plus more smarts, but it’s not easy! Because it does take time! And you have to retrain your family too. Otherwise you’re fighting two battles: one against the status quo and the other against your family!

Going Green: It’s a Wrap
These days, our holidays are much greener than they used to be, although it’s a process. I started with the way we wrap. We use plain paper, twine and decor from nature. This year we also added scraps of scrapbook paper left over after putting photos in scrapbooks, and strips of burlap that we can easily keep and reuse. The family grumbled last year, but this year they have voluntarily followed suit.

We also use brown paper lunch bags, and we reuse gift bags. Once you get into the habit of NOT having wrapping paper and ribbons and bows around, it’s easy to get into the green habit of wrapping sustainably. (And yes, we keep the twine and reuse it. The paper that’s too small to keep we use to start fires…because when your house was built in 1890, you don’t have central heating and your woodstove is it, requiring lots of paper for starting fires every morning!)

Here’s a picture from last year when we were just getting started on this new approach…

Getting Centered: The Centerpiece
OK, I will admit there is another driving force behind our green Christmases: lack of storage. So our centerpieces are usually something scrounged out of natural ingredients. This year it’s branches clipped from the Christmas tree, oranges dried in the dehydrator, pinecones I keep from year to year, and cinnamon sticks. Oh, and a vintage beaded garland that I bought 15 years ago at an antique store.

As we work our way through the Christmas season, I will slowly deconstruct the centerpiece, putting the cinnamon sticks back in the spice drawer, the oranges in potpourri on the stovetop, the pinecones and beaded garland in my one box of Christmas decorations, and the branches outside where mulch is needed.

A Green Christmas: Gift Giving
Our green approach also means thoughtful giving that avoids buying online or buying anything made in China. We save money all year for Christmas spending, then pull out the cash in December and that’s what we spend. Occasionally we buy online because it’s the only way to get a particular gift, but for the most part, it’s cash and it’s spent in our local community.

Plus we make a lot of gifts–something else that slowly takes root in the kids as they get older, I’ve learned. This year, I’m giving homemade cordials and candles and body scrubs and bookmarks (tucked into books found at the used bookstore), plus gift certificates for time-related gifts. The Youngest went to the thrift store for frames to make reusable to-do lists. And the Oldest made 18th-century “catsup” as gifts. (Once we have a garage and Bob has a shop, I hope to see a lot more homemade gifts…hint, hint, hint.)

Here’s the pear cordial on the first day of the three weeks it takes because I love how this photo turned out…

Our green approach is not for everyone, I get it. Aesthetically, there might be very few people who even like the look. A lot of people lack the time to make anything, or to shop anywhere but online. But for us, we save money, we reduce waste, we spend our money locally, we stay on budget, and we really truly appreciate the effort and love and creativity that go into make the homemade gifts.

And we hope it inspires at least a few people to also say “no” to waste at this time of year.

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