Zero Waste Holidays

Are you ready for Christmas? It's the most common phrase this time of year. It seems like everyone has Santa fever. The shops are overcrowded with people and my building's mail area is overflowing with packages (will children write letters to Amazon in the future?) With all the chaos of the holidays, it's easy to lose track of why we celebrate or better yet the impact of this one season. 

One of the 2.65 Billion Christmas cards sold in the USA.

One of the 2.65 Billion Christmas cards sold in the USA.

Environmental Impact of Christmas

It's a big one. 

  • There are approximately 25-30 million real Christmas trees sold in the U.S. every year.
  • Holiday Retail sales in 2013 were $655.87 Billion. That's a lot of gifts! 
  • Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. 
  • Approximately 25 million tons of garbage or about 1 million extra tons per week during the season!
  • 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high.
  • Don't even get me started on wrapping paper! 

This season, I tried to combat my holiday waste by implementing these 5 things. 

1. Bye Bye Tree.
Okay, I know. The smell of fresh pine is amazing, but it's a living tree. The thought had never dawned on me as a child that I was gathering around a wilting tree. While a real tree is said to be a more eco-friendly option than PVC fake ones, I still chose to opt-out of this tradition. 

This wasn't my first year without a tree. On a holiday ski trip one year we decorated our hotel plant. I spent hours making paper ornaments to adorn our beloved vacation tree. This odd experience made this particular Christmas a memorable one.

My eco-friendly cardboard Christmas tree. Made and decorated with used furniture packaging. 

My eco-friendly cardboard Christmas tree. Made and decorated with used furniture packaging. 

This year, I created this gem. I saved a mega furniture box and packaging back in September. I liked this idea because cardboard boxes are easily available at large stores ( Ask nicely and it's free!) and the materials can be recycled at the end or saved for the following year. 

2. No gifts, please. 
Extreme? Yes. But as I've decluttered my life, I have learned to value other things over possessions. I am blessed to have essentially everything I need and so much more. In all honestly, I don't desire more items. You can watch this video for more minimalist gift ideas.


3. Eco-friendly Wrapping Paper.
If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Those are some crazy statistics! 

My solutions:

  • Don't wrap gifts. (I know, it kind of kills the magic)
  • Old paper bags or other recycled materials which can provide a cute aesthetic
  • Or make reusable gift bags. The minimalist in me doesn't want to store gift bags all year, but it's a great solution for more stable families. 

4. Vegan FOODS. 

After having such an amazing vegan thanksgiving feast, I've been dreaming of my Christmas supper. 

This year, I'm spending Christmas with around 40+ Colombian relatives who probably don't know what "vegana" means. So 'll be skipping the traditional Colombia buñuelos and opting to make my own dish. 

The plan:
Vegan Colombian Empanadas (recipe coming soon). 
My mother's amazing carrot salad which happens to be vegan. 
Mashed potatoes & mushrooms. 

homemade vegan empanadas

homemade vegan empanadas

I plan on simply bring my own plate and eating my meal alongside my family members. 

5.  Focusing on the true meaning of Christmas. 


For some the holidays signifies time with family for others it's a religious expression, regardless of your beliefs I hope you enjoy this time of year with those you love.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
xx Manuela