How to Keep Your Holiday Shopping Zero Waste

It’s no secret that when the holidays come around most Americans go wild, hunting down the best deals, filling their shopping carts with goodies on Black Friday, Cyber Monday (week, really) and on till the New Year.

Now, I’m not here to condemn holiday shopping. It’s fun to give gifts — and pick up a little something for yourself here and there. But when Americans are responsible for sending $11 billion worth of packing material straight to the landfill every year, it’s hard not to see that things have gotten very much out of hand. And there are serious ramifications, too.

What starts as a cheery assortment of wrapping paper, ribbon and packing peanuts quickly becomes a pile of greenhouse-gas-leaching garbage as it undergoes bacterial composition. Trash like this also releases tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas with climate change impact that is more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. We can’t go on like this!

It’s hard to set aside holiday traditions. I’m sure many of us have fond memories of waking up to see wrapped gifts glittering under the Christmas tree. But, as it stands today, this routine of shipping gifts wrapped in plastic, cardboard, zip ties and Styrofoam, only to re-wrap them in non-recyclable paper and ribbon at their destination, is really taking its toll on the environment.

This year, I urge you to consider trying out a new way to celebrate this season — one that doesn’t leave a trail of garbage in its wake. It’ll be worth it, I promise!

Give a gift that needs no packaging — an experience!

Purchase a yearlong membership to a local museum, pay the entrance fee for a state park you know they’d enjoy, get concert tickets. There are so many options!

Buy your gifts from eco-conscious companies who ship plastic-free.

More and more companies are catching on to the fact that plastic is not a shipping requirement. Here’s a nice roundup of eco-conscious sellers by our friends over at My Plastic Free Life.

Reuse holiday cards from last year.

Simply cut the decorative front off of any holiday cards you received the year before, then write the recipient’s name on the blank side. Free, cheap and eco-friendly!

Shop local.

It’s so much easier to avoid unnecessary packaging when you can pick the gifts out in person and take them home with you that day. Skip the bag at checkout, refuse the wrapping station and walk between shops if you’re able.

Set up a recycling station at home.

Make it easy to process recyclables by setting up an easy-to-access recycling station at home. Got a cardboard gift tag or paper shopping bag to toss? Pop it in the paper bin.

How do you keep your holiday shopping as low waste as possible?

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Daniel N
Daniel N5 days ago

thank you

JoanE R
JoanE R8 days ago

Wonderful info.

John W
John W9 days ago


Greta L
Greta L12 days ago

thank you

Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley13 days ago

Thank you.

Chad A
Chad A13 days ago

Thank you.

JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris13 days ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

Christine S


Cindy M. D
Cindy M. D14 days ago

These are all great ideas. I like reusing holiday gift bags that were given to me. I also reuse bows that were given to me on gifts. I recycle or reuse anything that I can. Just wish I could reuse the cash given to me. Once is not enough...

Kathy K
Kathy K14 days ago