How to Navigate the Holidays (Almost) Completely Trash-Free

The holidays are a time for many cheery thingsincluding (but not limited to) festive parties and Michael Bubl on repeatbut theyre also full of excess. Between scraps of cast-aside wrapping paper and single-use cocktail glasses, December inadvertently ends up being a pretty wasteful month. To help make this season a little kinder to Mother Earth, we tapped Christine Liu, a California-based sustainability expert and author of Sustainable Home, who has some seriously smart tips for going zero-waste (or as close as possible) for the holidays.

You dont have to forgo gifts or resort to Scrooge-like tactics to cut down on contributing to landfills during the festive season. Liu believes its all about making small but meaningful swaps that build up over timesomething as simple as switching out the gift wrap you use can go a long way. Her philosophy isnt about cooking a feast made entirely from freezer leftovers or gifting compost bins to everyone this Christmas. Lius approach is realistic and actually doablewhich makes it right up our alley.

Heres how she tackles everything from cooking to tree trimmings:

On Gift Wrapping

Reuse lightly-folded gift wrapping or be sure to opt for recyclable paper and twine. Add a few elements like dried leaves and pinecones for a natural touchor choose a reusable Japanese furoshiki wrap.

On What to Give

Gift giving doesnt have to be wasteful! I like to give experiences, such as classes or concert ticketsbut if you prefer physical gifts, browse Etsy for artisan-made, eco-friendly products. Also, ask the seller to place everything in recyclable, paper-based packaging.

On Cooking

Buy only what you need based on how many people youll be serving. If you have leftover produce scraps, save them in the freezer to make your own homemade veggie broth. After the party, be sure to freeze leftovers for a rainy day and reheat them for a yummy holiday meal later.

On Decking the Halls

Try DIY natural garlands made of pine, pinecones, or even dried fruit that you can compost afterward, instead of anything plastic. If youre looking to purchase ornaments, look to smaller artisans for eco-friendly alternatives. (Psst: We love Fredericks & Mae and Favor for scoring those unique-looking trinkets.)

On Entertaining

Always use durables (reusable glasses, silverware, plates, and linens) when hosting. If you dont have enough, suggest that people bring their own set; you can also ask that they bring food with minimal packaging for hostess gifts. For example, going to a local bakery with a container to pick up those sweet treats, instead of getting them in a disposable box.

Ready to get in the holiday spirit (in eco-friendly fashion, of course)? These smart staples will come in handy year after year:

See more ways to be sustainable this year:
Reusable Paper Towels Might Be the Best Thing to Happen to Your Kitchen
Make Those 8 Cups of Water a Done Deal With a Filtering Water Pitcher
Could You Go Trash-Free for 24 Hours?