Simpler Living: Low Waste Christmas

Christmas is among my favorite times of the year. I love the friendliness people share, when looking at Christmas light displays, attending concerts or even while shopping. I love the mound of gifts under the tree — and I love slipping a new package into the pile (and having my children discover it, shake it, wonder about it). Unfortunately, Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week! (1) That extra waste is often not recycled and not recyclable. Wrapping paper with foil or tape embedded cannot be recycled, neither can embellished cards. Organic materials, like paper, that are sent to the landfill either do not decompose, or they create methane gas by decomposing anaerobically (i.e. without oxygen). Creating greenhouse gasses and filling landfills is not in accord with the spirit of the season.

All is not lost. You can give beautiful gifts without creating waste. Wrapping gifts in reusable wrap is an easy way to eliminate the waste without eliminating the fun. Use cloth gift bags to wrap things quickly and easily (tied with a reused ribbon) or explore the art of furoshiki to wrap a gift in a length of fabric or a scarf. Upcycle a shirt into wrapping. Check out the “FAQs on Holiday Waste Prevention” from Stanford (1) and this article from The Guardian (2). You might look at Pinterest for other ideas. It’s a small change that can have a huge impact, if we all do our part.

Roberta Price

(1) Stanford University, Department of Land, Building and Real Estate,


Note: Roberta and all of us at Simpler Living would welcome your comments, suggestions, etc. What have you done to make your Christmas more low waste? What would you like to try? How can we support each other to change habits that are not always so earth-friendly? Through this blog, we hope to initiate a dialogue that will lead us all to action. And come by our Simpler Living table on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month for some examples and further sharing!]

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