A Plastic-free, Reduced-waste Christmas

‘Tis the season to shop ’til you drop, breaking the bank,  while silently falling apart inside because Starbucks just ran out of peppermint syrup for that “well-deserved” peppermint, get-me-in-holiday-spirit latte so you can survive the insanity of the mall. Okay fine, its the holiday season, you can settle for a caramel latte because there’s no time to think with that giant list of people to buy for including the half dozen Secret Santa gifts for all those parties coming up and the one random distant cousin that decided to come this year! It’s okay, just sip your latte and keep singing your favourite carol, “O Holy #$%^!” Meandering through the mall, in a zombie-like state, your bags full of random this-will-have-to-do gifts begin to weigh you down as you search for that prefect “meaningful” gift for that hard-to-buy-for person before settling on a gift basket of bath salts and soaps. Credit cards burning, eyes bloodshot you find your way to the car to go over tactics for the next target: the grocery store.

Oh yes, it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Let’s stop for a moment. Have you ever wondered what the holiday season might look like if all the “stuff” was gone? No gifts, no shopping, no decorations, no sales flyers, no junk food, no ribbons and bows, no gift wrap, no tags…. no “Christmas” stuff.

I swear I just heard half of my friends GASP in horror reading that last sentence (you know who you are) so, before I get labeled The Grinch, let me elaborate. 

Without all that stuff, the only things left to enjoy for the holidays are what truly matters – friends, family, loved ones. There is no pressure. No stress. And, quite possibly, no waste. And in my humble defense, it was not too long ago that our Christmases resembled such a scene.

But of course, that isn’t for everyone, and as promised, these experts are meant to inspire you to change where you are, so you can adopt new ideas into your regular life to reduce your waste one step at a time.

So, here it is, my guide to creating a plastic-free, reduced-waste holiday season, following the key “R” words in order of importance…

Rethink: Stop. Take a breath and think about what really matters to you and your loved ones. Its time to brainstorm ways to avoid excess waste. Its time to get creative.

  • Need (want) new decorations?
    • Open Pinterest and get CRAFTY! Wine corks, old metal hangers, bottles and mason jars, twine, twigs and pine cones all turn into amazing decor! sb10066349ac-001
    • Go super old school… make popcorn and cranberry garland
    • Gingerbread is also an easy decoration, yummy too!
    • Consider a Christmas Decoration Swap with friends (Tradsies!)
  • Assess the names on your Gift List.
    • Who on there could probably do without a gift or just a simple card or better yet, your time.
    • Talk to those on your list. Maybe they to would agree to no gifts, a coffee date instead (remember, BYO mugs!
  • Now evaluate the actual gifts you planned on, search for alternatives!
    • Can you substitute a gift with something homemade, maybe even baked goods? or one of your homemade decorations 😉 See above point.
    • Can the item be bought in good used condition? Kijiji, VarageSale, Antique Shops, Consignment stores, Facebook Buy & Sell groups – yes, I am serious. not everything has to be brand new, plus a lot of the time things are sold “Never-used” & “Still in Box” 
    • Again, can you substitute an item for an experience? Tickets to a Christmas Carole or the Nutcracker, ski passes, spa days, etc
    • Host a Christmas decoration making party for your friends!
  • Still have to hit the shops? Make a plan:
  • Wrapping gifts without waste is easier than you think using twine, fabric, or bit of nature:
    • basic brown paper bags tied up in with a nice fabric ribbon
    • fabric wrap your gift
    • Make cloth gift bags
    • Decorate with little sprigs of holly or pine

gifts.pngRefuse: Say No.

  • You do not have to participate in every gift exchange party
  • Request “no gifts” when asked what you want – if insistent request a donation in your name, or gift cards or time
  • Avoid frivolous, mindless shopping – stick to your list (just like I talked about in grocery shopping 101)
  • Avoid the trinkets and gadgets and fad toys e.g. fidget spinners
  • Don’t buy plastic wrapped treats. Buy in Bulk. Make your own treats
  • Reject the sales pitches and the catchy marketing antics
  • Take part in the #BUYNOTHINGDAY movement – on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day!


  • Do you have decorations? Do they still work? Great, so reuse them
    • If they looking a bit sad, mend or re-vamp them into something new
    • Checkout secondhand stores for unique, classic decor
  • We talked a little about wrapping gifts. The ideas above are already reusable, but be sure to keep reusing bags and bows and tags and tissues each year.
    • My loved ones always know if i give them a gift its usually coming to them in a bag they gave me the year before!


  • By reducing your Gift List, you in turn reduced your consumption
  • Limit the amount of wrapped treats  you buy or buy in bulk
  • Reduce your wrapping needs – give gifts that need little wrapping


  • Share your actions with others and recycle these ideas throughout your whole family and friend base
  • Find your own ways to recycle = re-purpose
  • If waste does become consumed, recycle it appropriately
    • But keep in mind, recycling is a last resort – recycling is not a solution, it is a crutch Consuming (buying) recyclable items is still creating a form of waste and the process of recycling itself expends exorbitant amounts of water and energy.

Take one more scan of the list above.

Do you notice anything about the content under each category? Rethink is where it all starts. When we stop to really consider our actions, our purchases, and our choices and how we have the power to change them all, then everything beyond that is childsplay!

There are plenty of innovative ways to change our behaviours and still have the holiday season we love. And by instilling these new ideas into your Christmas, I’m sure you will begin to see the compounding benefits that result.

Less pressure, less stress and less waste all bring more space for happiness, love and joy. I guarantee you will find yourself enjoying the holidays a lot more with a lot less.

So go ahead,  take this new challenge and give yourself (and mother nature) the gift of a Plastic-free, reduced-waste Christmas.

Happy Holidays

~ Briana

And to prove I’m not Scrooge, here’s a picture of my dogs in their Santa Hats!


Do you have some great waste-free ideas for the holidays? Email them in or post below in the comments for other readers! 

Looking for more inspiration? Keep on reading! Blogs on kitchen tools, beauty regimes, lunches and more!

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I'm a passionate environmentalist at heart. Striving to create a difference in my community and in my home to make the world just a little bit better.

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