How to Celebrate the Holidays Plastic Free

The holidays are a wonderful time for gathering with friends and family, enjoying new experiences, and celebrating classic traditions. But too often, we don’t think about how much plastic is involved in our holiday merriments. From the packaging that comes with store-bought gifts, to the festive decorations, to single-use cups and plates—it’s easy to get wrapped up in the holiday spirit without being aware of the plastic waste our festivities generate. Read on to find our top tips for celebrating the holidays plastic free.

Plastic-Free Swaps for Gift Wrap & Decorations

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Skip the plastic-lined wrapping paper and wrap gifts in cut-up paper bags, newspaper, or recycled magazine pages. A great gift-wrapping technique you can learn is using recycled fabrics in a Japanese traditional wrapping technique called Furoshiki. Learn how to use this technique here.

Instead of sealing packages with plastic tape, organic waxes and tree sap make for great zero-waste adhesives. You can also channel your inner child and use flour and water in a paper mache technique to seal up package seams. Plastic ribbons and bows are also easily replaced with twine, yarn, or cloth ribbons.

Ornaments can be easily created from biodegradable materials as well. Dried orange rinds, pine wreaths, flowers, and even popcorn can be used for festive decorations. Classic holiday-themed tree and wall ornaments can even be made from dough! Check out this recipe to learn how.

Give Homemade Treats in a Glass Jar

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Homemade treats are an excellent way to celebrate the holiday season—and most of them are made from ingredients that can be purchased in bulk and gifted in glass jars, which are reusable, and better for our health and the environment than toxic plastic containers. Here are some examples:

1. Hot chocolate. Semi-sweet chocolate chips are sold in bulk and can easily be crushed up, stored in glass, and given as a hot chocolate starter. Simply melt two tablespoons of crushed chocolate bits in lightly boiled milk and you have the easiest, tastiest, and most eco-friendly hot chocolate you’ve ever had!

2. One-pot soup ingredients. Legumes, grains, and spices are also sold in bulk and can easily be stored in glass and gifted for a delicious holiday treat. For an aesthetically pleasing soup starter gift, simply add the ingredients and spices into a glass jar layer by layer, creating a gradient of color and texture. Don’t forget to include a recipe and cooking instructions!

3. Baked goods. Cookies, granola, brownies … all the delicious baked treats of the holiday season can be baked, stored in glass, and ready to give as presents. Or you can store the ingredients in glass and gift those with baking and prep instructions included. Spiced nuts also make for an easy-to-assemble, delicious gift.

4. Loose-leaf herbal teas. Dried tea leaves or flowers can all be bought in bulk— and, by adding some dried seasonal fruits and herbs, you can make your own holiday tea blend, store it in a glass jar, and gift it to someone you love for a delicious, warming winter beverage. Get creative with flavors, colors, and textures and invent your own signature delicious holiday tea medley!

5. Homemade jams, preserves, and marmalades. A delicious treat of conserved or preserved seasonal fruits that can be spread on warm, delicious bread makes an excellent snack whether it’s hot or cold outside. Jams, preserves, and marmalades are easy to make, simple to store in pretty glass jars, and a sweet delicious gift for the holidays.

Plastic-Free Gifts for Pets and Birds

When it comes to plastic-free gift ideas, why not think outside the box for your pet-loving friends and family? Buy pet snacks in bulk and give them away as gifts, or make your own dog biscuits from bulk ingredients. You could also offer a coupon for a free dog walk or cat sitting. If you want to give a gift to your neighborhood birds, spread peanut butter and bird seeds on pine cones to hang outside, or a homemade birdhouse.

Other Ways to Celebrate the Holidays Plastic Free

There are many great ways to give eco-friendly, homemade gifts this holiday season. You can make plant cuttings and give them to friends and family or, if you’d like to give a more active gift, why not take them sledding, skating, skiing, or snowboarding? You can also knit or crochet items made from wool or curate a music playlist for each of your friends or family members. If you’re artistically inclined, why not create and gift your own art? And, lastly, a fun and thoughtful gift is to give a coupon book for help with household tasks.

Find more plastic-free holiday gift ideas in our 2022 Plastic-Free Holiday Gift Guide! The Guide also features a wide range of eco-friendly products from PPC Business Members committed to stopping plastic pollution. Enjoy discount codes up to 30% and support plastic-free giving. Sign up here to access the free guide.

For more tips on how to celebrate the holidays plastic free, listen to our latest episode of Plastic “Tox” with author and activist Ranae Hanson, whose family has maintained a plastic free and zero waste set of holiday traditions despite yearly increases in plastic production and a massive amount of plastic involved in the average American holiday celebration.

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