The Ultimate Guide to an Eco-Friendly and Zero Waste Christmas

The holiday season is officially upon us, and this is my ultimate guide to an eco friendly and zero waste Christmas. We’re going to go over everything… even the most heated debate of whether or not a real tree is more sustainable than a fake tree.

We’ll be covering ethical and sustainable party dresses, gifting, gift wrapping, even receiving gifts, and of course a Christmas guide wouldn’t be complete without talking about a few family traditions and food!

The ultimate guide to an eco friendly and zero waste Christmas from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #christmas #holidays

For me the holiday season kicks off with Thanksgiving. Every Thanksgiving morning, I wake up to watch the parade.

Mostly because I love musical theatre and like getting to see the broadway numbers at the beginning…. but watching the parade led by Tom Turkey and ending with Santa on his sleigh always gets me a little emotional.

Maybe it’s because it was a tradition I shared with my grandmother or maybe it’s just because I’m a nostalgic sap, but it’s like I officially get permission to decorate the tree and put on the Christmas music.

I have found so much joy in Christmas these past few years, but this year especially. Last year, when we lived in the tiny home, there wasn’t any room to decorate and I was sad without a tree.

The ultimate guide to an eco friendly and zero waste Christmas from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #ecofriendly #christmas #holidays

We didn’t go overboard this year, but we’ve hung a wreath, put up a tiny tree, and festively hung the stockings above the fireplace with care.

In the past, it's been difficult to find joy in the holiday season… but that’s mostly because I started singing Christmas carols in October thanks to being in choir…

I also worked part time at a UPS Store over the holidays season. Have you ever been to a UPS store the week before Christmas? It’s a MAD HOUSE. And, let me tell you after a week of that - you are OVER the holiday season.

Thankfully, I’m no longer singing Christmas carols for a quarter of the year and don’t have to deal with grumpy people at the UPS store.

JOY HAS RETURNED.

the decor:

Let’s start off with the decor. The day after Thanksgiving while most of America is in a tizzy snapping up the latest deal, I’m at home in snuggly clothing listening to my favorite Bing Crosby Christmas record and breaking out every penguin stuffed animal I own.

My favorite animal is a penguin. And, the thing about having a favorite ‘anything’ is that people will start buying you gifts of said ‘favorite thing’.

So, I have a massed a penguin stuffed animal collection and instead of making them dog toys, I use them as my very festive Christmas decorations, and I think that’s just perfect!

Bottom line for this section, is use what you have.

the tree:

I was very excited to visit a Christmas tree farm for the first time! All of the trees were gorgeous. There’s been a huge debate over whether a real tree is more sustainable than a fake tree, and I believe that a real tree is more sustainable IF they’re composted at the end of their lives.

Christmas tree farms grow trees all year round which absorb carbon throughout the year! YAY! Just make sure that you compost them so they’re turned back into a nutrient rich soil.

If your only option is to dump your tree at the landfill, then consider opting for a fake Christmas tree or check out some non-tree ideas like this tree made from sticks and twine!

The ultimate guide to an eco friendly and zero waste Christmas from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #ecofriendly #christmas #holidays

Of course, if you already have a fake Christmas tree then use it as long as possible. There’s no need to throw it out in lieu of a real one.

I really like this article by the New York Times. It brings up lots of good points but my favorite is the last one which says, we’re arguing over which tree is better when we should really be worried about the flight emissions.

around the house:

Some people abhor decorating, but I rather enjoy it. My home certainly isn’t going to win any awards for perfectly curated decoration. I keep it simply, but it’s something that I love doing.

I have a small fake Christmas tree that I picked up secondhand at the local thrift store several years ago, and a real Christmas tree that I got from the farm this year. Both are decorated with found items, and decor we already had.

We don’t go out of the way to buy new decorations, but prefer to keep it simple.

I love using found and kitchen objects for around the house like using cinnamon sticks, red leaves from fallen trees, stringing together popcorn strands, and even making an advent calendar out of an old shipping sleeve.

Let me know, if you’d like to see a tutorial on any of those!

I also strung my tiny tree with a homemade wine cork garland. Something, I’ve always wanted to make!

Our stockings and tree skirt have been passed down from my family. The Had everyone’s name embroidered into them, so I seam ripped my mom and dad’s name and replaced it with Justin and Nala.

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Now we have very festive, vintage, and hand quilted items to hand in our home. Asking friends and family if they have an excess amount of ornaments or Christmas decorations is a great way to accumulate a few festive pieces.

I find that most people have an overwhelming amount of decor (My grandma is always trying to give decor away) - all you have to do is ask!

the gifts:

Gifts can be kind of tricky. I see value in buying something someone needs or wants, but I also see value in buying experiences because maybe someone doesn’t need or want anything.

I think the most important take away from this section is have conversations and truly find out what someone wants before buying anything!

I’m also running a series on my YouTube channel all about easy, last-minute zero waste DIY gifts that you can whip up in only a few minutes. Check out the first in this series!

buying gifts:

This year, as we put up the tree, I was so happy and inspired to come up with 50+ ethical gift ideas for everyone on your list!

Last year, I created massive gift guides for experience gifts and consumable gifts. But this year, I wanted to create gift guides that highlight some really awesome ethical brands.

Some people are a little confused as to why I don’t advocate for 100% second hand, but I personally don’t think that’s sustainable for the long term, and I like to see a healthy mix of both.

If all of the people who believe in sustainability refused to buy from sustainable brands, what kind of message does that send to the market?

I’m personally all about a healthy mix of giving someone what they want and also giving experience and consumable gifts!

Basically have a conversation with someone about they want and how you can add value to their life.

One of my favorite gifts that I’ve been giving to family recently, is donating to an organization close to their heart in their honor. It’s been received exceedingly well! So, if you’re a little stumped on what to give someone, I would give them a card and donate to a great cause.

Here are some of my favorite organizations to donate to for the holidays:

If you’re gifting for an acquaintance I think that a nice gift would be these cards from Arbor Day where each card plants a tree - how cool is that!?

I also think a great gift idea is to give gifts that encourage eco-friendly living. Maybe your mom might use less plastic wrap if you gave her some beeswax wraps. Maybe your roommate would refuse the straw if she had a sleek glass straw to carry around.

Maybe your dad would use fewer takeaway coffee cups if he had a nice thermos? Looking for more inspo? Take a peak at the shop tab on my blog.

receiving gifts:

I’m sure some of us have received less than stellar gifts in our lifetime? The thing is… most people don’t want to give a bad gift.

Where the disconnect is, is the lack of communication. My recommendation is always for making a list! I wrote a full guide on the best way to go about this called The Zero Waste Guide for RECEIVING Gifts.

I think you’ll find it really helpful, in getting gifts you want and align with your values.

The ultimate guide to an eco friendly and zero waste Christmas from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #ecofriendly #christmas #holidays

wrapping gifts:

Once you have the perfect gift picked out, what comes next? The wrapping of course!

Did you know that most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable? And, after tearing through all of it, it’s probably not reusable either.

In order to prevent this, stick to gift wrapping that can be used over and over like holiday bags and tissue paper or the beautiful cloth alternatives.

Or you could also go for a double gift and make the wrapping part of the present.

I wrote an entire guide for wrapping beautiful holiday presents and ways to upcycle your holiday cards from the year before. Be sure to check it out.

Zero Waste and Eco Friendly Guide to Wrapping Holiday Presents

traditions:

Can you believe we’re only half way through this guide!? When I said Ultimate… I meant ULTIMATE.

One of my favorite parts about the season is all of the family traditions passed down.

As a family we didn’t have a ton of traditions, but one of my favorites was always going to look at the lights the night before Christmas Eve and sipping homemade cocoa.

We would also always make the classic Christmas sugar cookies complete with red and bright green frosting.

When switching to a zero waste lifestyle, I’ve had some traditions that work and some that don’t. I wrote about my failed attempt at zero waste-ifying a king cake.

However, I’ve had a lot more success with creating delicious and colorful sugar cookies with natural food coloring! Also, check out these amazing candy cane cookies!

I love being able to use natural food dye from things around my kitchen instead of those tiny plastic bottles filled with synthetic dyes.

Maybe see if there’s a few family traditions you can do while creating a little bit of less waste. I personally opted for the homemade advent calendar that’s full of things to do instead of small items.

If you’re looking for inspo Reading My Tea Leaves has been doing this for a long time.

I have definitely noticed, that I’ve tended to simplify some of my traditions. I don’t think it makes them any less special, it just makes them more intentional. This post does a great job of talking about simplifying during these busy times.

the food:

There are so many layers to the food. There’s food waste, buying the food, planning the food, and of course eating the food which I’m sure you don’t need any help with. ;)

When it comes to buying the food, be sure to check out my Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping.

When it comes to food waste, I created a great guide full of creative ways to use up your holiday leftovers. But, sometimes, the food is just pass it’s prime. If that’s the case then don’t toss it in the landfill - compost it!

I have great guides on composting in your backyard and composting if you live in an apartment.

Now, if you’re planning food for a crowd, then be sure to check out the next section all about parties… my fav.

The ultimate guide to an eco friendly and zero waste Christmas from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #ecofriendly #christmas #holidays

the parties:

You know me, I LOVE a good party, and I especially love throwing them. On Thursday, I’ll be sharing my lust worthy ethical and sustainable holiday dress guide with dresses perfect for your office party down to ringing in the new year so stay tuned for that.

Here’s my top five tips for throwing a zero waste party and my tips for staying zero waste at a non-zero waste party.

It might be kind of weird at first to bring your own cup to a party, but I do it all the time and have had nothing but positive responses.

But, the one thing I always do when I show up to a party is come with a gift. I think bringing a hostess gift is always so classy. These are my favorite zero waste hostess gifts.

During the holidays, I find that lots of parties include the white elephant party game - which means you’re most likely to wind up going home with something that you don’t want.

If you can help plan this party, maybe suggest doing a cookie swap instead? That the gift should be consumable? Or that the gifts be donations towards charity instead?

If you can’t get away from it, I would probably bring a small item like reusable straws, neutral tea towels, nice handkerchiefs, or a thermos. I’d try to opt for something that helps to reduce the receivers waste.


WOWZA. This was a monster post. If you feel like I missed anything please, let me know down in the comments down below and I’ll do my best to answer it. :)

Ethical and Sustainable Gift Guide for the Pal who Loves to Stay In

As much as I loved the wellness gift guide, this one really speaks to my heart. I like going out, but honestly, I’d much rather be at home binge watching the Great British Baking Show / Bake Off snuggled with Nala, Justin, and a plate of pizza.

Ethical and Sustainable Gift guide for the pal who loves to spend Friday night at home from www.goingzerowaste.com #giftguide #ecofriendly #ethical #sustainable #hygge

Of course, there are tons of things to do at home like drawing a bath, reading a book, sipping some herbal tea or even a glass of wine.

Man, this is getting me excited about Friday night!

This post is sponsored and many of the links below are affiliate links which means if you purchase something I might make a commission for referring you. If you have any questions please head to my disclosure policy!

sol organics:

Step one for me is getting snuggly! My bed has to be plush. I have the Percale Organic sheets in dove gray and I LOVE the texture of these sheets.

They feel a little more raw which I really like. I’d compare it to a linen cotton hybrid kind of feel. They have that texture so I feel like I sleep in place instead of sliding around on super satiny sheets.

The sheets are a little thin, so if you’re looking for heavy duty winter sheets, then make sure to grab one of the sateen sets!

The company is certified Fair Trade, Organic Cotton, and GOTS certified, and they ship completely plastic free! They’re shipped in a self-bag made from 100% organic cotton which can be composted, but I’m using it to buy lettuce from the farmers market! Then they’re wrapped with 100% recycled paper and put inside a recycled brown shipping box. No plastic whatsoever!

And, as a huge bonus they’re offering all GZW readers 20% off with the code ‘GZW20’ just apply it at checkout.

Ethical and Sustainable Gift guide for the pal who loves to spend Friday night at home from www.goingzerowaste.com #giftguide #ecofriendly #ethical #sustainable #hygge

candle:

I love MCMC fragrances! I wore the fragrance Maine for my wedding, and I would love to burn this candle near my bedside while diving into a book.

This MCMC Dude No. 1 Candle is fresh, spicy, and woody, this fragrance is the new classic manly scent that will make you want to get close. With Virginia cedar wood, green coriander and pink peppercorn.

This candle is hand-poured in Brooklyn, with a blend of soy, vegetable and beeswax, and a 100% cotton wick. Approximate burn time of 50 hours.

Ethical and Sustainable Gift guide for the pal who loves to spend Friday night at home from www.goingzerowaste.com #giftguide #ecofriendly #ethical #sustainable #hygge

hand knit socks:

I am in love with these hand knit socks! Marianne Wakerlin's wildly styled socks are hand-knit from skeins of recycled cotton yarn in a funky palette that’s coordinated but mismatched.

These cozy accessories repurpose perfectly good cotton strands, which reduces the amount of water, land, pesticides, and herbicides used to grow new cotton fibers and eliminates the need for harmful chemicals to dye virgin cotton yarn.

The design, knitting, and finishing final touches for these socks are completed at small, family-owned businesses in Vermont, North Carolina, and Oregon.

Ethical and Sustainable Gift guide for the pal who loves to spend Friday night at home from www.goingzerowaste.com #giftguide #ecofriendly #ethical #sustainable #hygge

pajamas:

The cutest ethical pajamas I’ve found come from Reformation… of course! Reformation uses deadstock fabric which is fabric save from going to landfill, and they make all of their garments in Los Angeles.

According to their website, buying their pajamas instead of new pajamas elsewhere saves 17.08 lbs.of carbon dioxide, 1340.77 gal.of water, and 1.52 lbs.of waste!

Ethical and Sustainable Gift guide for the pal who loves to spend Friday night at home from www.goingzerowaste.com #giftguide #ecofriendly #ethical #sustainable #hygge

kindle:

Did you know that you can check e-books out from most libraries!? You can download them straight to your kindle. I love the kindle paper white because there’s no blue light.

Blue light can suppress the secretion of melatonin which helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. So, it’s best to avoid blue light right before bed.

Ethical and Sustainable Gift guide for the pal who loves to spend Friday night at home from www.goingzerowaste.com #giftguide #ecofriendly #ethical #sustainable #hygge

throw pillow:

Is there such a thing as too many pillows? I love having a few throw pillows to snuggle up with and so does Nala. She’s always rearranging the pillows just to her liking.

I like this throw pillow from Anchal which is handmade by an artisan in India. Every purchase of an Anchal product has an immediate impact and provides an artisan with a full-time job, health care benefits, design training, and educational workshops.

Ethical and Sustainable Gift guide for the pal who loves to spend Friday night at home from www.goingzerowaste.com #giftguide #ecofriendly #ethical #sustainable #hygge

mug:

Is there anything better than winding down with a nice cup of herbal tea? There’s something about sipping something warm that just calms me down. It’s the perfect way to unwind from a hectic day.

If it’s been an especially hectic day, then I like to sip something warm while sitting in a nice warm tub with a few candles around. Then you put on the cozy socks, cozy pa-jam-jams, in some cozy sheets, and read a book. Basically… this whole gift guide. ;)

I have a mug from Globe-In and it’s one of my favorites! This mug is hand painted in Tunisia and fair trade.

Ethical and Sustainable Gift guide for the pal who loves to spend Friday night at home from www.goingzerowaste.com #giftguide #ecofriendly #ethical #sustainable #hygge

Be sure to check out the other gift guides coming! And, get my tips for eco-friendly ways to wrap presents.

Ethical and Sustainable Gift Guide for the Wellness Lover

This was probably my favorite gift guide that I’ve written, because I want EVERY. SINGLE. THING. (Or I already own it. ;)

Wellness and eco-friendly living go hand in hand for me. I think when we’re taking better care of the planet, we’re also taking better care of our bodies and vice versa.

Ethical and Sustainable Gift Guide for the Wellness Lover from www.goingzerowaste.com #wellness #giftguide #ethical #sustainable #zerowaste

This post was sponsored and many of the links below are affiliate links which means if you choose to purchase one of the items I might make a slight commission for referring you.

organic tees:

My husband and I both have several Truth Alone tees. The tees are made of premium superfine 100% Peruvian organic pima cotton,

The lightweight jersey is naturally hypoallergenic and ideal for sensitive skin. Most importantly the t-shirts don’t loose shape in the wash!

ethical and sustainable gift guide for the wellness lover in your life from www.goingzerowaste.com #ethical #sustainable #giftguide #zerowaste

These tees really do it all from working out to going out.

Truth Alone is very conscious about sustainability and sourcing. Their Peruvian organic farming does not allow GMO seeds; it is pesticide & fertilizer free enabling biodiversity, uses 90% less water than conventional cotton, hand harvested sustaining ancient agricultural methods passed down through the generations.

These tees would also make a great stocking stuffer! My favorite is the weekend scoop neck tee, but love the crew tee for working out.

girlfriend collective:

One of the things I admire about Girlfriend Collective is how transparent they are. Their fabrics use recycled water bottles. I’m honestly pretty on the fence about using recycled plastic for clothing due to the shedding when washed.

But, a lot of active wear is polyester anyways. So is it better to use recycled water bottles to make the poly rather than virgin poly?

ethical and sustainable gift guide for the wellness lover in your life from www.goingzerowaste.com #ethical #sustainable #giftguide #zerowaste

I like how they address this on their website. “We absolutely know this. Making something that benefits the environment is our #1 priority, and at the top of that list was getting rid of the enormous amounts of plastic in our ocean and in our landfills.

That being said, microfibers are an issue (though every single synthetic fabric releases them). We are researching on ways to limit the release of microfibers into the water system. In the meantime, you can purchase a solution now from: Patagonia.

I LOVE this blush pink set they have and it’s 100% on my wish list! I’m trying to up my active wear game because my t-shirts from high school and 8 yr old leggings with holes in them don’t really inspire me to work out… especially not in public…

dry brush:

Skin brushing is a great way to shed dead skin, improve circulation and help to eliminate cellulite.

Use very gently on dry skin with a few drops of detox cellulite body oil, moving up from the feet in clockwise circular movements, working your way up the body. Always move towards the heart to help the blood flow in the correct way.

What I love about this dry brush is that the handle detaches. So you can use it with your palm or the handle so you can easily get to the center of your back!

high-intensity bag:

You need a bag that works harder than you! I love this bag from Rewilder that’s made with pre-industrial consumer waste.

The bag is made with auto airbags and seatbelts! The bag is super durable, water-resistant, and modern AF. Perfect for active urbanites. One of my favorite aspects is how easy the bag is to clean.

I took my bag on a weekend trip to Disneyland and it was the perfect carry-on.

Ethical and sustainable gift guide for wellness lovers from www.goingzerowaste.com

thinx:

Thinx are period panties. They make awesome back up to a cup or even on light days. I love their sport pairs which are perfect for hitting the gym or snuggling up on the couch with a pupper.

If your wellness pal is a runner or a dancer, they make running shorts and leotards!

But, my personal favorite is just the plain ol’ hip hugger. These make a great stocking stuffer! And, to make it a little extra sweeter I’ve got $10 off your order with the code ‘KATHRYN’. You can also head to my personalize Thinx website cause I’m fancy. ;)

deodorant:

No wellness lover is complete without an organic, all-natural deodorant that actually works! You could check out my DIY or grab this amazing new deodorant Funk Free. It’s completely free of baking soda, coconut oil, and plastic.

Ehtical and sustainable gift guide for the wellness lover from www.goingzerowaste.com #ethical #giftguide #wellness #zerowaste #sustainable

I really like the mellow magnesium scent which features a fresh and citrusy blend of organic sweet orange, lime and bergamot essential oils

This deodorant comes in a glass jar. I was a little worried about applying the deodorant with my fingers because I don’t like that type of application, but the deodorant is whipped and putting it on with fingers isn’t a problem at all.

Ethical and Sustainable Gift Guide for the Wellness Lover from www.goingzerowaste.com #wellness #giftguide #ethical #sustainable #zerowaste

thrive:

A practical handbook to holistic wellness that extends beyond quinoa bowls and superfood smoothies. This practical handbook would be the perfect edition to your wellness lovers bookshelf.

Thrive is printed as ordered, so it can take a few weeks for you to receive it.

Ethical and Sustainable Gift Guide for the Wellness Lover from www.goingzerowaste.com #wellness #giftguide #ethical #sustainable #zerowaste

Here’s an excerpt from the description, “Happiness is not something you can conquer in the outside world, but an ongoing, positive state of mind that must first be cultivated within you. And total wellness requires us to take care of not only ourselves, but also the planet that we all call home.”

juna CBD:

CBD is all the rage right now, and I’ve been a fan of JUNA. I’ve been putting a couple of drops in my morning tea lattes. It really helps easy my anxiety and get me prepared for all of the work I have to do each day.

This type I’ve used is the Nude CBD. Antioxidant-rich CBD interacts with internal receptors, releasing bodily stresses while engaging the mind. Lifts the spirit, focuses thoughts, and promotes emotional well-being. Will not cause inebriation or inhibit functioning, so you can feel confident in going about your routine.

yoga mat:

Manduka yoga mats have a lifetime warranty! If they’re in the market for a new yoga mat, this is the one I’d pick. There’s no PVC or harmful plasticizers.

Ethical and sustainable gift guide for the wellness lover in your life from www.goingzerowaste.com

The mat is made from from biodegradable, non-Amazon harvested, natural Tree rubber with non-toxic foaming agents and non-ado dyes, and all post-industrial scrap is thoughtfully collected and utilized in the production of other materials creating a zero waste manufacturing process.

matcha:

Matcha tea is all the rage these days, and I love it! My all time favorite matcha is from Arbor teas. This company’s commitment to sustainability. Their matcha is the only one I know of that’s completely plastic free.

This small treat would make a great stocking stuffer!


Be sure to check out the other gift guides coming! And, get my tips for eco-friendly ways to wrap presents.