6 Waste-Free Holiday Ideas

Global momentum has built against single-use plastics in 2018—and it’s about time, too. According to some alarming statistics, humans buy a whopping 1,000,000 plastic bottles per minute, with Americans purchasing about 50 billion water bottles alone each year. But plastic isn’t the only problem. There’s also styrofoam, kitchen waste, and food miles to consider.

The good news is that you don’t need any special gadgets to start alleviating at least a portion of your environmental impact immediately. Simple, everyday choices—like choosing to buy products that come with less or no packaging and repurposing leftovers—can make a big difference.

The winter holidays—typically a time for decadent parties, and a whole lot of waste—are the perfect time to try out some new earth-friendly policies. Read on and learn six tips and tricks to help you succeed:

1. Go single-use plastic-free
Ditching single-use plastic can be surprisingly challenging, but with a small amount of planning most obstacles can be overcome. First, take a look through your trash and see what’s in there. This will help you keep track of the single-use items most prevalent in your life. Swimming in plastic straws? Can’t move for disposable coffee lids? Put a reminder on the fridge to bring your own straw or cup with you whenever you leave the house. You’ll be surprised by how quickly it becomes second nature.

2. Save scraps
America leads the world in food waste. It’s estimated that 150,000 tons of food is tossed out in US households each day. Needless to say, the environmental toll of this is huge. Discarded in landfill, food releases methane which contributes to climate change. The best ways to circumnavigate the issue? Empty your fridge before going holiday shopping, research innovative ways to repurpose vegetable scraps, and compost the rest.

3. Invest in flavor
In addition to exploring your local farmer’s market, investing in a small handful of exceptional ingredients can go a long way when it comes to minimizing waste in the kitchen. Take a tip from kitchen pros and invest in the following, before rustling up your favorite holiday recipe. Chef Skye Gyngell recommends extra virgin olive oil, crunchy Maldon sea salt, good coffee, and dark chocolate.

4. Make friends with the locals
Shopping at the farmer’s market is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to make a difference. Buying local food allows you to eat seasonally, support your local economy and farmers, and experience a greater range of taste, variety and nutrients. Food that’s traveled fewer miles is also less likely to contain pesticides and preservatives. See something you don’t recognize or unsure about its growing methods? Just ask.

5. Grow your own herbs
Even if you don’t do any other gardening, there are plenty of reasons to grow your own herbs. Supermarket packaging aside, freshly picked herbs add more flavor to recipes and come loaded with a slew of notable health benefits. They’re also pretty easy to grow. Chives, parsley, mint, and rosemary are among the most rewarding crops you can grow on a windowsill.

6. Store food without plastic
Once you start to look, you’ll notice that plastic is everywhere. Instead of striving to eliminate it from your entire life immediately, seek out easy swaps in the kitchen instead. Some ideas to try out include investing in reusable cotton bags to store vegetables and bulk ingredients, reusing glass jars for leftovers and on-the-go meals, and beeswax wraps instead of saran wrap.

Photograph Grégoire Alexandre for The Nue Co.