20 tips to reduce waste during the holiday season

Christmas can be a tricky time of year. Everywhere you look, there are ads on TV, telling us what we need, where to get it.We are busier than ever before. So I can see, how easy it is to say yes to everything, just to make it through the holiday season unscathed. But there are ways to reduce waste over the festive season.

1. My best advice is to TALK.

And by talk, have conversations about where you stand on waste/plastic and why.

If you don’t want a Christmas present OR don’t want to buy one for others (new, secondhand, handmade, experience, whatever), let people know. You are not forced to buy a present for everyone. I will be buying one present for my Kris Kringle/Secret Santa and that is it.

The Builder knows not to buy me anything, not even a card, because we had a conversation.

If you would prefer handmade, second-hand, experiences, whatever – let people know.

The conversations around creating less waste or avoiding plastic crap, doesn't have to only be about presents.

Entertaining is a big part of the holiday season. Recently we had our friends over, about 20+ people, for a holiday get together. We reminded people in the invitation (Facebook message and texts) that we try to live a zero waste and plastic free life, and if anyone brings stuff that cannot be recycled in our kerbside recycling, they would have to take it home…including cigarette butts.

When I hit send on that invitation, a part of me was nervous. Was I too mean? Was it harsh? I pushed those thoughts out of my head. It was neither. It’s a bit like when you visit someone else’s house and are asked to remove shoes (we don’t do that, but we should…). This is our home and our rules. Your family and friends will understand.

So that is my number one tip for reduce waste at Christmas – have conversations and let people know about your desire for less waste and less plastic.

Reducing waste at Christmas is not a new idea. Read about the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving, a group created over a hundred years ago to fight wasteful spending at Christmas.

Image on the left from hometownbyhandlebar.com. SPUG Image on the right from falmanac.blogspot.com.au

2. Suggest a Secret Santa/Kris Kringle. Participating in these will reduce how many people you will have to buy presents for. Instead of buying a gift for five different people, you can now choose one gift.

3. Try your hand at homemade gifts, like jams, relish, chutneys, a cake, body scrub, face oil, wooden toy, artwork…the list is endless.

4. Re gift items. Take a look in your jewelry box, kitchen cupboards, and give away items that you don't use and think someone else might enjoy.

5. Ask yourself questions like, do they really need this or will this be useful (again, conversations).

6. Experiences over things…movie tickets, theater, dinner events, dog walking, bush walk. Check out MyBestGift for children specific experiences.

7. Give plants like vegetables or herb plants.

8. Make a donation to a charity on the behalf of your loved one.

9. I learnt this one from a very nice lady. On a piece of paper, everyone writes down three things they would like to achieve, like running a half marathon, learning a new skill and saving for a holiday. The papers go into a hat/bowl/box, and like secret santa/kris kringle, individuals in the group pick a name out of a hat. The person you choose is the one you are there to support, so they can help achieve their three goals throughout the year. I really like that idea.

10. Wrap presents without plastic.

11. Upcycle old sheets into cloth bags, that can then be reused for others things, like bulk food shopping or at the bakery.

12. Make present labels with toilet paper rolls.

13. Eat all the food in the freezer before Christmas day, that way it is empty, ready to store leftovers.

14. Start composting. There will be a lot of cooking and eating done over the holiday season. Composting is a guaranteed way to reduce what is sent to landfill.

15. If you are ready to go package free, go bulk food shopping with your own bags. Take containers to the deli, butcher and fish monger. I know for a fact that the Sydney Fish Markets will accept peoples containers for prawns. Don't forget your reusable bags :)

16. Learn about the RedCycle program. Again, there will be much cooking and eating. Set up a bin to collect all your soft plastics. It is better they are recycled then going to landfill.

17. Store your leftovers in jars, plates over bowls, beeswax wraps or containers. Ditch the cling wrap this year.

18. See what food-scraps you can keep to make a stock or broth.

19. Use a tree or plant you all ready own as a Christmas tree. If you do buy your own real one, take it to your local transfer station or chop it up once Christmas is done, then put the pieces into your green waste bin.

20. Make your own ornaments, check local op shops or buy locally made options from places like the Men’s Shed.

The festive season might seem overly daunting and wasteful. But the problems we see, we can fix. We have the solutions. We just need to buy a little less, think a little different...

How do you plan to reduce waste over the holiday season?


  1. Love #9! what a great idea!

  2. Love #9! what a great idea!

  3. I asked my siblings to skip exchanging this year (we are all nearly 30 or over 30) and I am just not into it anymore. My brother really argued with me at how "Un-Christmas-like" it was to not go shopping, wrap and spend money on a gift (I won't like anyways - he doesn't know this). Should I stand my ground? I suggested a donation or gift cards, but never get them as they aren't "personal." I even create lists of things I want, but they are never used. I am in a corner where either I am the Grinch or cheap.

    1. I think you should stand you ground on anything that you feel to be your values. You are not a Grinch at all. You are giving the biggest gift of all, which is thinking of the future, the oceans, the environment, the people that work in poor conditions to make these gifts. You are actually a really nice and brave person, in my books anyway :)

  4. No 19, was it Martha Stewart who would dig a hole in Autumn then buy a living pine tree with root ball wrapped in burlap to use for holidays in her home? kept well hydrated, it should work. When holidays were done, she just planted it outside...Over the years this would be an affordable means to landscaping, I believe...

    1. I love that, especially if you have the space and live in an environment suitable to grow a pine tree.

  5. 9. Great idea!! I want to use this next year!!

    1. I do this one with my husband. It's really nice to work through our goals and celebrate them during the year.

  6. Great ideas! Here are my holiday waste-reduction tips:


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