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A Zero Waste Christmas Challenge

Zero Waste Holidays

Last Updated on January 23, 2024

I challenge you to gift experiences instead of things. 

The average American family home has 25% more waste this time of year. All of the packaging, boxes, and wrapping paper is excessive. I remember it taking two weeks to recycle all of the boxes and to throw away all of the wrapping paper last year. And, we were trying to be minimal! 

A lot of things have changed since last December. 

By consistently reusing what we have we’re able to save time and money. We’re able to focus more on doing what we like to do rather than doing what we have to do. We would much rather spend our money doing stuff rather than buying stuff. How ’bout you? 

You can still gift experiences even if you’re far away. You can buy gift cards online and email them. My step dad would love a $20 gift card to the movie theater or his favorite restaurant. 

Gifting experiences doesn’t have to be expensive. You can take these as small or big as you want! 

  • museum passes
  • aquarium or theme park passes
  • try a new restaurant
  • go on a trip or have people fund part of a trip
  • rent a boat
  • season tickets to the theatre
  • tickets to go rockwall climbing, lazertag, trampolining, ziplining, go karting
  • hobby classes: cooking, photography, foraging, sewing 
  • donate in someone’s name or volunteer together

There are so many fun things to do. Check out groupon or living social for some fun things to do around town! One year my friend and I gifted each other kickboxing classes! We went together for 6 weeks and it was so much fun.

I would so much rather have an experience than something. My house is already too cluttered. But, if you really have to send someone a gift – make sure they really need it before you send it. If you were sending me something worth $20, sometimes I’d rather just have the $20. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I’d much rather send someone $20; because, then I’d know they’d do something they’d enjoy rather than have something they may not. 

What do you think? What would you rather have for Christmas? 

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  1. What a great post!! This is truly important and i’m glad you are sharing that! My family and I love using gift bags to wrap because after opening them we literally fold them, store them , and use them next year. We have used the same bags for years. And the paper we use we recycle. Or use newspaper to wrap. šŸ™‚
    Danielle Greco-

    1. I saw this posts about two brothers who’d sent the same birthday card to each other since the 70’s. It’s amazing that even disposables have such a long life span if we take care of them!

  2. This is such a great idea!! I am so glad you shared this. I think it is important to avoid waste, especially all the paper! I love gift wappers! They are so pretty! In order to avoid waste, my family likes to save all the gift wrappers that were still in good condition to use throughout the year for birthdays or for the following christmas. I love recycling!

    1. At the office we receive tons of holiday cards. Everyone was going to throw them away last year. I took all of them and cut off the pretty part gave them away to friends for gift tags and sent them as holiday post cards. I’m always looking for ways to save things from the trash at work. lol. When you aren’t aware of your waste you don’t notice it. I now notice it everywhere.

    1. I’ve always enjoyed homemade consumables. Mostly because I like to eat. One of my friends made me vegan chocolate pudding during finals. BEST GIFT EVER. (I brought the container back to her too) haha.

  3. i so agree with you kathryn!! we are buried in stuff, and still need more stuff as a society! experiences and simple pleasures in life are so much more satifying, right? <3

    1. Absolutely! I wonder how long we could live off of the stuff we had. Probably a lot longer than we think. It makes me so sad; because we’re using more resources than the world can produce a year. We as consumers can stop this process by stopping consumption.

  4. Really great ideas! I saw an episode of Rachael Ray a woman who has only filled a 12 oz mason jar with trash in two years! She composts, buys in bulk, buys at thrifts stores, and brings her own containers to coffee shops. Really inspiring!

  5. I am totally doing this for Christmas, I am so sick of all the drama that’s going on around my family every December, on what to buy, and then we just end up buying stuff that have no significance to us and we buy it just to be done with it.

    I made a Christmas wishlist that consists only of small Croatian producers to promote local crafts, and hopefully make my family rethink their Christmas shopping customs.

    Here’s a link if you’d like to see. Also, they are getting a lot of tickets and other experience related gifts.!All-I-want-for-Christmas-is-some-nice-Croatian-design/cmbz/565efea20cf25333685b07eb

    1. I love your Christmas list. So glad you’re giving experiences instead of things! Last year I took my boyfriend to see his favorite basketball team. It was such a fun night! It’s almost like getting a gift twice the ticket and then the event!

  6. I’m doing this this year…no wrapping paper, everyone getting things in homemade reusable fabric shopping bags, most things bought secondhand or made by me. My 7 year old is into it with me (as is Father Christmas apparently…he is cutting down on paper waste too!) and he is a very unconsumerist little boy and we don’t watch much to so he sees very few adverts…he wants a real wand (wooden stick and a bit of crafting from me) some board games & books (charity shops are wonderful places!) and his wooden castle repainted to look like Hogwarts by Santa’s elves bless

    My issue is my extended family. I have asked for no gifts. I’m 40. I don’t need or want anything. We live simply and are happy. I said if they want to give me money towards taking my son away on his first holiday next year that would be lovely but no gifts for me.

    My mother has already told me homemade gifts are thoughtless, you have to buy things in shops and she has spent a lot of money on me sigh so she expects as much money spent on her. Apparently also a gift without wrapping paper is not a gift.

    My sister told me that she works hard and deserves to buy me something. plus she asked me last week how much I’d spent on my son (as you have to spend X amount if you love your kids it seems) has been showing my son toy catalogues as I am not giving him a "proper" Christmas.

    I’m stumped. I don’t know what to do.

    Any ideas?

    Half tempted to stay in at home in Christmas Day like a hermit!

    1. I feel you. I’ve asked many time of my family members not to buy my children plastic toys. I get a lot of backlash from it. Telling them the environmental hazards plastic has on my children and our planet really doesn’t mean much to them. The same kind of people who think climate change is a hoax.

    2. That is amazing! Your son sounds so precious! I bet you will craft the perfect wand. I love the fund a trip idea! My parents helped fund a weekend trip to Tahoe for us last year – it was amazing.

      I’m so sorry about your mom and sister. That must be so difficult. Material items are obviously very important to them. I don’t think you’ll change them, but maybe you can open them up to your point of view. There have been a lot of studies proving that experiences make you a happier person. I’d try to show them the science behind it. And, whether or not they get it – it’s what makes you happy. Just because they don’t feel the same way doesn’t negate the importance of your opinion.

      I don’t know the relationship you have with your mother, but I can almost guarantee a really heartfelt letter maybe even with photos can’t help but be touching. My mom is very materialistic, but she appreciates my point of view and is exceedingly accommodating. She doesn’t like handmade gifts, and never saved crafts or handmade gifts from my childhood. I recently sent her a little scrapbook and a heartfelt letter it’s probably the only handmade thing of mine she kept and she loves it.

      I hope that helps. If they’re still confused, have them send me an email. Hahaha. I’ll try to explain better.

      I enjoy being a hermit. Snuggles, music, books, blankets – how I’m spending my Christmas.

  7. God bless you, Kathryn for your advice. I now know what to prepare as a Christmas present for my girlfriend next year, it’ll be a bottle of wine but I will make an attempt to reduce some waste by making an attempt for DIY. i’ll use scrap paper or plastics to moderate the bottle and improve it’s design. That way I will reduce the household rubbish at my home and will surprise my GF with something unique. What do you think, is that a zero-waste idea ?

    1. Someone just brought over homemade wine to a dinner party and it was amazing! Justin and I often pick up a bottle of wine and spend all evening drinking it together. If you make an event of it, I’m sure it will be lovely.