Planning a Zero Waste Christmas requires thinking ahead so you aren't stuck last minute trying to figure out how to pull it off.
Here's why you should be planning your Eco-Friendly, Zero Waste Christmas in January AND how to to do it.
You will have plenty of time to collect items you need and make any home made gifts and food items with much less effort.
Why Start Planning Christmas Early?
Anyone else planned loads of DIY gifts, or a homemade advent calendar only to find there was not enough time left?
Argg, i had soooo many great ideas that didn't happen!
Creating a zero waste event takes time and a bit of creativity. The more time you have, the easier it is, so planning for Christmas at the beginning of the year is perfect.
Don't worry, you won't be spending all of 2019 working on this!
If you happen to be reading this January, July or November, don't stress, there are plenty of items in this post that will help you go zero waste on the day.
Early in the year, Christmas is still fresh in your mind and is the BEST time to plan for a better one this year.
Did you have far too much trash, overspent, had food waste, too many gifts, not enough reusables? Write a rough list of things TO DO and NOT DO this year.
The following ideas will help you plan your zero waste Christmas well ahead of time so you can start collecting items, growing things, upcycling and make the best use of what you have without the stress.
Keep in mind, I'm not suggesting you do ALL of the things, but simply pick and choose from what is most important to you.
Things To Start Now, For Next Christmas
Plant a Natural Christmas tree
Purchase a small starter tree at your local nursery for your very own natural, zero waste Christmas tree. Instead of a pine, you might want to consider a small native tree that flowers around December. This is cheaper than purchasing a well grown tree and you will have the entire year to watch it develop, and of course enjoy it for years to come as it isn't disposable.
Rosemary is used in many recipes and makes a beautiful festive table decoration or plant gift. Repurpose containers to grow from seed, or place some cuttings in water and plant when roots have formed. It's a hardy plant that requires very little care.
Gift Wrap & Consumables
Save wrapping, cards, gift bags and ribbons. Fold and store items that can be reused as well as those that will make useful craft supplies. If you have favours from Christmas crackers, store them up to make your own this year.
Repair broken Christmas decorations or separate for future craft projects. Broken or damaged baubles for example make cute upcycled wreaths.
Add a few silica gel sachets to any salt dough ornaments to keep them in good condition. Egg cartons are useful for storing tree decorations.
Turn off that second fridge and take down the party lights. Remove batteries from any items that won't be used until the end of the year so they don't get wasted. Make a swap to rechargable batteries, or make a plan to before Christmas if you haven't already.
Set a Budget
Plan your budget for holidays, experiences, gifts and anything else you want to do around the end of the year. You will have plenty of time to save as well as consider thrifty, zero waste options.
Start a Happy Jar
Set aside a BIG jar or tin (of course a repurposed one is perfect).
Throughout the year, write notes on what you did as a family, fun events or anything you would like to remember. Christmas eve is a great time to pull them out and re-read all the great things that happened in 2019 that had nothing to do with buying or owning items.
Set Up a Photo File
As you snap photos during the year, put the best into a separate file. Put onto a USB or create an annual photo album to enjoy over the festive season or create thoughtful gifts.
Make a Wish List
This may sound counter intuitive, but stick with me.
Create a list of items you needed (or wanted) and didn't have for your zero waste Christmas. When you visit an op-shop, garage sale or somebody asks what to get you for your birthday, you will have a ready made list to refer to.
My best friend decided to switch to reusable cutlery this year for their family gathering (so proud of her!). She was clever enough to mention to her family that if they were getting her a gift, a set of the cutlery (which came in a 4 person set) would be the ideal gift - Now she has the perfect amount for family gatherings AND avoided receiving unwanted gifts!
Make a Gift List
Make a rough draft list of names and ages for people you will likely be gifting to, including the number of hostess gifts or teacher gifts you usually need. You don't need to know exactly what the gifts will be, just an idea of how many. This is going to help you save money, have less waste and be super prepared.
(Read on, You'll see why this is going to come in handy).
Things To Do During The Year
Jars and containers are incredibly useful. From gifts, table decor, upcycled Christmas decorations and food storage.
Starting your collection early, means you can save jars rather than recycling and gives you a chance to collect the ideal size. Set aside a box or shelf in your kitchen to store them out of the way. Here is how to remove stubborn labels.
Collect Pinecones and Banksia Pods
When you head out to the park or stroll around the neighbourhood, keep an eye out for natural items. Pine cones, Banksia pods, Gum Nuts and other items make gorgeous decorations, fun nature crafts for kids and can even be used as natural essential oil diffusers.
Hit The Op-Shops
Op-shops, garage sales and online second hand items are so handy for creating a zero waste Christmas.
This is an activity that can be done anytime of the year, and starting early (using your wish list) there will be plenty of opportunity to collect matching glasses, serving-ware, cutlery, linen and other items you may need to avoid disposables.
January and February are great times to find festive themed items that people have donated post Christmas.
Start looking for Non New Gifts
Gifts can be second hand, but also unwanted gifts that people have donated to the op-shop or are selling online. Refer back to your gift list and if you find the perfect thing, make a note (so you don't double up) and store it away.
Mid Year Things To Do
Get a Head Start on Handmade Gifts
Homemade preserves, jam, wine, beeswax wraps or maybe potted plants make beautiful thoughtful gifts. They also take time to plan and prepare. So refer back to your gift lists and check the time frames needed for your projects so you can have them complete before December.
Having winter in July, it is my favourite time to do cross stitch in front of the telly and heater. Think about what you may be able to do while hibernating throughout winter. (If you're a Christmas in July fan then you'll be even more inspired).
Bake To Freeze
Many food items can be baked ahead, like rum balls, apricot bites, cakes and other yummy foods. Set aside a day on a weekend (or over a few weekends) and bake, cool and freeze a couple of batches. You will be well stocked for bake sales, bring-a-plate parties and other events. Doing this 3-4 months ahead is ideal to avoid freezer burn.
Plan to Eat Local and Seasonal Foods
Research local seasonal produce and begin brainstorming how these could be used on Christmas Day. Set up a pinterest board, or note it down with paper and pencil.
Don't forget to google a few farmer's markets near you that you can visit closer to the day.
Local specialty foods can seriously reduce food miles and support local business. You will need to order ahead for items such as cured meats.
Grow Your Own
While researching local, seasonal produce, you might want to look into growing some of those items for the family table. If you're in Australia, think about cucumber, zucchini, watermelon, lettuce, tomatoes and other summer edibles. You will want to plant some in September going through to early December depending on the time til harvest.
If edibles aren't for you, how about growing native flowers for the table to reduce your environmental impact of bought flowers AND you'll be creating a fabulous landscape for native birds, bees and butterflies.
Over Christmas and New Year, op-shops are usually inundated with donations and may turn some away. If you've started watching Marie Kondo's series on Netflix then chances are you have a pile of things that don't 'spark joy' and need to get rid of them.
Donate good, useful items throughout the year. This will keep you on top of the clutter and enable items to be put to good use rather than overload the charities. For example, winter (not summer) is a fabulous time to give jumpers, blankets and beanies to homeless shelters. Clearing out children's toys each season can be super helpful too.
I'm mentioning food a LOT, but we are talking about Christmas here!
Planning your bulk whole foods shopping ahead of time means you can take advantage of bargains and stock up on flour, dried fruit, nuts, olive oil and household items.
If you're making gifts, this gives you the opportunity to buy that 20kg bag, a giant tub of epsom salts or whatever items you will be using a lot of. This means less packets and more reusable containers. Don't forget to get your herbs and spices in bulk for mulled wine.
Don't overbuy, and remember to refer back to your lists for gifts and cooking to make sure you keep track of the items you need and have.
Get Some Cooking Practice In
Never try to make a new recipe Christmas eve.
If there is something you want to try making from scratch this year, give yourself loads of time. Cookies can be made and shared any time of year along with salad dressings, dips, marinades and more.
Doing this task during the year will give you yummy food and allow you to develop recipes you are comfortable making before there is any pressure.
October & November Tasks
If you're reading this later in the year, DO NOT PANIC - the list above can be tailored to a shorter time frame and you can skip over the more long term items like growing your tree, or simply adapt them to suit.
Have a conversation with family about gifts
Less presents means less waste. Openly discuss with family and friends if you will be exchanging gifts, doing Kris Kringle or aiming for experiences rather than toys.
The past couple of years we have opted for minimal gift giving and this has been fantastic. No stress about what people need or want, no kids complaining about what they received, AND hours of shopping has been cut out completely.
If you're family is having trouble adjusting, figure out what arrangements you want and slowly work towards it, making small changes each year.
It's very important to be upfront - if you're not giving gifts or don't want to receive gifts - be sure to tell people several times and give them plenty of warning.
If you're not sure about this one, I know it is a challenge and a big change from traditional gift giving. Have a read of this article about how one family made no-gifts work for them - Why We're Not Giving Our Kids Christmas Presents this Year and Why It's OK.
Get ready for local food drives by clearing out items from the pantry you can donate. Tinned food, pasta, noodles, biscuits as well as soft drink are often requested. Put them aside until it's time to give. This is a great way to pass on food that you haven't or won't get around to eating, while sharing it with people that need it.
Online Zero Waste Christmas Shopping
There is nothing worse than ordering the perfect gift, only to have it delivered AFTER Christmas day. October and November are the best times to shop online for guaranteed delivery (and not getting charged express shipping).
Refer back to your gift list and keep an eye out for sales like Green Friday.
Here's a list of Australian online stores that not only stock sustainable products but ALSO ship zero or low waste.
Purchasing ahead means you will feel so much more organised, can take advantage of bargains AND get zero waste shipping without stressing about delivery cut off times or no stock.
If you're yet to decide on gifts, and want them to be eco-friendly, here's a fun list I wrote that might give you some ideas - Sustainable Gifts For People That Don't Give A Sh*t About The Environment.
Plan a Zero Waste Santa Visit
Have a chat with your kids about Santa's new eco-friendly efforts. Whether it's reusable fabric gift wrap, less presents, or a focus on experience gifts. Figure out how you will explain it and manage their expectations (and avoid disappointment).
Got a family recipe for the best Christmas pudding? You'll want to be making this 5 or 6 weeks ahead of Christmas day. cloth wrapped hanging puddings make cute festive decorations too, so take full advantage if you're cooking from scratch.
Go through items you have collected, purchased and made as well as decorations, gift wrap supplies etc. This is important to avoid last minute and impulse purchases during the lead up to Christmas day. Make sure you have what you need and note down items still required.
December Last minute things
By now, you should be super organised and not really have much to do or stress about. You have collected decorations, partyware, maybe grown herbs, have a natural tree, finished your homemade gifts and have a few make at home recipes up your sleeve (and everyone hates you for being so organised!).
Whatever you haven't done, do it now or cross it off your list all together.
Here are some ideas of things you may want to add to the To Do List:
>Decorate the Tree
>Find your rechargeable batteries
>Book the kids into school holiday activities
>Clean the house
>Shop for local produce and fresh foods
>Do some fun crafts
>Deliver some gifts
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY.....
Mindfully Waste Some Time!!
You've done the hard work, you can avoid shopping malls completely and pack away your crafty crap.
Now you have some time up your sleeve to mindlessly scroll Facebook, play with the kids, watch some movie, read books and take a nap. The end of the year is usually busy for us and I always crave some down time BEFORE Christmas day.
If you're working over the Christmas break, you will really need some R&R time, schedule it if you need to.
Warning - your friends and family may hate you a little bit for pulling this off and be so chilled out while they frantically rush around.
Whatever you do, don't preach to them about plastics or whatever trash they have or are buying. Feel free to share with them what you did to make it less wasteful and more meaningful.
I doubt I will achieve ALL of the things in the list, but it's a fabulous starting point for ideas on planning your Zero Waste Christmas ahead of time.
What will be your biggest step to cut the waste this year?
Wishing you a merry trash free Christmas and hope you have a lot of fun with these suggestions.
Have I missed something? Let me know below!
Don't forget to save this for later, and share it with your friends and family that want to celebrate a greener Christmas.