From Thanksgiving to New Years, Americans throw away 25% more trash than any other time of year. That translates to about 6 million additional tons during the holidays.  Let’s try to add some eco-friendly alternatives that lead to a zero waste holiday season.

Entertaining Towards a Zero Waste Holiday

Who doesn’t love a memorable party? The downside is the waste that comes from a good time. There are plenty of eco-friendly ways to bring it up a notch towards zero waste.

holiday party

1.   Go paperless for your invite. A plethora of websites offer wonderfully creative options. Your guests will respond quickly and be organized into a useful list.

2.   If you’re having a large group and insist on disposable tableware that goes into the trash, make sure it’s a brand that can be composted. Returning this waste into healthy soil is a great way to cut down on your carbon footprint without disrupting your entertaining traditions.  Look for tableware made from sugarcane, wheat, corn and bamboo. Think about borrowing from a friend. Mixing up your table settings is very on-trend.


3.   Same goes for glassware. It’s easy to rent for a large event (and you can even return them dirty)! An alternative for smaller gatherings is to invest in a few dozen glasses that will last you for years to come. Just store away when the season is over. You’ll be surprised at how often they come in handy!


4.   Center your food around a great protein like Verlasso salmon and go local and seasonal for the rest of your spread. Pinterest is a great source for creatively using what’s available locally.

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5.   Be resourceful for your décor. Most tables can be easily decorated from your yard or that of a generous friend. Here in New England there are plenty of pinecones, acorns and evergreens readily available. With a strand of LED lights (rechargeable battery powered) placed amongst the greens, you’ll find magic with very little effort. Light emitting diode or LED use 90% less energy.


6.   Food also looks brilliant on the table. Use ingredients that can be turned into a dish the next day. Think cranberries made into a relish for the cheese plate, or apples and pears. Pomegranates are especially lovely this time of year and the seeds can dress up a salad and/or cocktails and appetizers.   

Gift Giving Towards a Zero Waste Holiday

7.   Lets start with the wrapping. I collect all year just for holiday gift season. Every ribbon or gift bag that comes my way is saved for reuse. Although I try to always take a reusable bag with me, when I buy unexpectedly, I always save the paper bags to use for wrapping. Additional ideas:

·      newspaper-the WSJ and Asian newspapers for their graphic quality, comics are great for kids.

·      fabric-a handkerchief makes a beautiful reusable wrap

·      old pillowcase for larger items

·      cans can be reused for containers

·      cigar boxes make a pre-decorated gift box

·      twine and a few pressed leaves or pinecones are great accessories

·      bows are easy to make from strips of colorful magazine pages (just google the instructions).

sustainable gift wrapping

8.   Support local with your gift giving. Visit a craft fair or small business and find a unique treasure. Make a donation to a charity close to your heart (or theirs) in the name of the recipient. Also, safe, non-toxic and natural. Know your maker and don’t be fooled by greenwashing.

9. Make a batch of refrigerator pickles and gift them to all the foodies on your list.


10. If you still subscribe to magazines, use the beautiful photography to make stationary or thank you notes. Everyone loves getting a piece of old fashioned snail mail. Just make sure to take the eco-friendly step and subscribe online the next time your subscription is finished.

sustainable gift cards

As you can see, incorporating a few tips will make a difference in the waste produced. It’s ever so easy to be green. How do you plan on helping the environment and making your holiday more sustainable?  Being eco-friendly doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice any of the holiday spirit!

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Alison Abbott is a sustainability expert, travel writer and serious adventurer who is enthusiastic about keeping it local whether at home or abroad. You can learn more about her work and adventures here, or follow her on Instagram at @GreenWithRenvy.