Zero Waste Holidays: Simple Tips for Eco-Friendly Cheer

zero waste holidays

It’s that time of the year again! A time for celebrating the holidays, the seasons, and friends and family. All that celebrating can mean a lot of trash!

It seems that every year there is a new assortment of holiday decorations, interesting pre-wrapped foods, and new gadgets from which to choose. When this time of year rolls around, I always wonder, “Don’t we already have enough pumpkin shaped things?”

The solution to making less trash around the holidays is simpler than you’d think. Best of all these ideas will save you money, and time, and will give you more quality time with those you cherish–or just more time for yourself!

You don’t have to create tons of waste to make your home cozy and festive for the holidays! Here are a few of my tips to keep your holidays simple, trash-free, and plastic-free!

Simply Natural Decorating

Embrace the season by using nature to decorate and celebrate! Make and create with simple items found in nature.

For example in the fall, I’ll gather leaves and put them into different sized mason jars for table or home decorations.

Pumpkins, gourds, and squashes line the front door and even look lovely and festive in a great big bowl on the dining room table. Best of all, you can eat them during the winter and or compost them if they’re decorating the outside!


Warm spices and herbs like cinnamon, peppermint, and cloves can be added to simmering water to fill the home with cozy scents!

Candlelight and mirrors help to bring sparkle and reflections into the home.

Old photos from past holidays and celebrations can be highlighted and hung up on paper twine and clips. Sweet memories like these remind us what the celebrations are all about!

Keep decorations simple, plastic-free, compostable, and memorable!

Simple Foods

If you’re new to a zero waste lifestyle, finding unpackaged food can seem a bit daunting at first! So don’t aim for perfection, make it simple! Refuse as much unnecessary packaging as possible and keep your food options simple and uncluttered. Here a few starter ideas:

Fill bowls with natural goodness! Crack out that old nut cracker and pop some corn on the stove top. Many natural snacks can be found in your local bulk foods section. If possible, search out local stores that offer food in bulk. Bring your cloth produce bag with you or glass jar to fill up on essentials like nuts, seeds, grains, and pastas. No bulk in your area? Demand it! The more we flex our consumer muscles the more we give incentive to businesses to make changes for the better.


Learn the ways of the pressure cooker! Unpackaged foods you can find in the bulk section like, quinoa, dried beans, rices, and pastas are cheap and easy to cook with when you use your pressure cooker. My favorite dish to make in my pressure cooker is lentil soup. After 40 minutes in my pressure cooker, it tastes like it’s been cooking all day!

Store it in glass! Food is best kept stored in glass. Find glass containers at thrift stores, old-fashioned hardware stores, or reuse old glass food containers purchased previously. Food looks pretty in glass jars!

Experiences over things

Giving is a beautiful thing, but I don’t let it take the focus of the holiday seasons. I’ve recently established a gift-free policy for friends, family, and co-workers. Instead, I insist on creating more meaningful experiences with others than shopping for physical gifts that could end up stuffed in a closet or drawer. I love to handwrite small notes for a low-key invitation to lunch, tea, or even small events around town. This quality time spent with friends, family, and co-workers often gets left to the wayside during the year because of busy schedules. These one-on-one heartfelt experiences don’t need wrapping paper, ribbons, or bows. And I don’t need to exchange anything at the store after!


But gift-giving isn’t totally off the table. I’ll give a gift if I find something that truly fits with the person I’m giving too. For example, maybe my friend has been itching to paint more, but hasn’t been able to put money aside for painting tools or canvases. Or maybe someone in my family has mentioned how much they would love to go to a ballet or show, if so I’ll make arrangements for them to go. I also love handmade gifts or items that fill a need for the receiver.

But experiences ALWAYS triumph over stuff.

This holiday season take time to simplify, buy less, embrace nature, and by doing so, you’ll naturally make less trash! Start small and grow new traditions!


AndreaSandersPhotoAbout the author of this post: Andrea lives in Boulder, Colorado and is the founder of Be Zero, a non-profit aimed to inspire, educate, and activate individuals to reduce their plastic and trash footprint and to create simple and sustainable lifestyle habits. Learn more about Andrea and her zero waste mission at She shares daily zero-waste inspiration on Instagram @BeZeroWasteGirl