No Waste Holidays

Anoka County & MPCA

Giving a gift from the heart doesn’t have to pack a wallup to your wallet or the planet. Instead of asking, “How much should I spend?” Think about asking, “Does it make a minimal impact on the planet?” A gift of time spent together out-of-doors, membership to a museum or a refinished rocking chair might be more meaningful than anything bought in a store.

Want to give a memorable gift that doesn’t hurt the environment?

  • Look for gifts that are unpackaged or minimally packaged,without unnecessary plastic wrap or cardboard backing.
  • Evaluate the gift for simplicity and durability. Consider the impact of your gift: Is it environmentally friendly and safe for children? Will it be reusable? Is it recyclable or madefrom recycled materials?
  • Purchase holiday cards made from recycled paper or make your own fromitems found around the home.
  • Help someone recycle – give a can crusher, a set of recycling bins or a recycling cart.
  • Draw names or share the cost of a gift with a sibling or friend.
  • Give an experience (for example, a ride in a hot air balloon or day trip on a train).
  • Make a giant edible cookie holiday card with a personal greeting in icing.
  • Give a garden! Seeds, gloves, tools, etc.
  • Create a family recipe book.

Still need gift ideas?

  • Season tickets to a sporting event.
  • Membership to a museum or nonprofit organization.
  • Theater tickets.
  • Free baby-sitting service.
  • New parents? How about diaper service for a month?
  • Share in an environmental fund.
  • Reusable lunch bag.
  • Refillable pens.
  • Energy-saving fluorescent light fixture or bulb.
  • 100% cotton dish towels or sheets
  • Reusable coffee cup.
  • Gift basket filled with non-toxic household cleaners
  • An old tricycle, bicycle, rocking chair, etc., fixed up to pass along as an heirloom.
  • Automatic thermostat control device
  • Compost bin.
  • Reusable food storage containers.
  • Cloth shopping bag.
  • Cloth napkins and rings.
  • House plant.
  • Solar watch or calculator.
  • Reusable razor.
  • Durable hand tools.
  • Durable wooden toys.
  • Quilts and comforters.
  • Water-saving showerhead.
  • Personalized “coupons,” such as a night off from dish duty, a foot massage, etc.
  • Bat roosting box – bats keep insect populations down.
  • Gourmet dinner for a busy couple.
  • Bird feeder and seed.
  • A subscription to a favorite environmental magazine.
  • Stationery – made from recycled paper, of course – and stamps.
  • Reusable bags, bows and gift wrapping.
  • Car safety kit packed into a coffee can (e.g. candles, orange hazard triangle, etc.).
  • Shutoff-timer for watering the lawn.

Looking for a gift-wrap alternative?

  • Scarves, handkerchiefs or bandanas.
  • Old posters and maps.
  • Pages from a child’s coloring book taped together
  • Old sheet music.
  • Newspapers
  • Last year’s holiday paper
  • Wallpaper scraps.
  • Home-sewn cloth bags.
  • Fabric scraps.
  • Pictures or advertisements from magazines and catalogs.
  • Sunday comic pages.
  • A present in a present (e.g., a hat in a matching scarf, jewelry in a wooden box, cookies in a reusable tin or cookie jar, barbecue grill utensils or picnic supplies in a tablecloth, kitchen gifts in towels or all-purpose cloths).
  • A plain box decorated with leftover glitter, paint, markers, etc.
  • A cake pan, basket or a wooden box.
  • Reusable decorative bags.

Need packing material? Try:

  • Popcorn (explain that birds can eat it.)
  • Biodegradable starch packing peanuts.
  • Used packing peanuts from previous gifts
  • Crumpled ads from the newspaper

Looking for a final touch?

  • Bows saved from other gifts.
  • Reusable items (e.g., hair bows, ornaments, shoe laces or toys).
  • Stencils or pictures from holiday cards pasted onto a plain brown paper bag or box.
  • Last year’s holiday cards cut up for gift tags.
  • Old neckties.
  • Spices, (E.g., bundled cinnamon sticks or cloves in mesh cloth).
  • Scrap fabric, lace, yarn, rickrack
  • Scarves.
  • beads and buttons.
  • Dried or silk flowers.

Want a holiday tree?

  • Consider buying a potted Norfolk pine, fig tree or indoor house plant that can be used every holiday season as your evergreen tree.
  • Purchase a tree from a tree farm rather than cutting one down in the wild.
  • Use trimmed branches from your tree for decorating around the home or making wreaths.
  • Consider buying an artificial tree that can be reused every year.
  • Decorate evergreen bushes or pine trees outside a window with removable, reusable decorations.

Need green decorations?

  • Memorabilia, such as a child’s first shoe or grandma’s hankie scented with perfume.
  • An old full skirt as a tree skirt.
  • Old jewelry (E.g., necklaces, earrings or bracelets).
  • Items collected on vacation.
  • Small stuffed animals and toys.
  • Cookie cutters.
  • Miniature toy cars.
  • Dressed-up doll as a tree-topper.
  • Holiday card ornaments.
  • Edible cookie ornaments
  • Small pictures from old magazines or holiday cards
  • Popcorn and cranberry strings (can be eaten by animals after the
  • Buttons knotted on a sturdy length of string.
  • Gingerbread people and reindeer from leftover brown paper grocery bags
  • Tin can luminary
Party Reduction Waste Tips

Reprinted from Anoka County

* Use reusable tableware; if you don’t have enough, borrow tableware from friends or family. If you must buy disposable tableware, buy sturdy plastic so they can be washed and reused

* If you entertain often, buy tableware from used stores to keep on hand

* Buy baked goods and snack foods in bulk

* Rent party decorations, centerpieces and costumes instead of buying your own

* Use colorful sheets you have on hand for tablecloths, or handkerchiefs for napkins instead of buying paper or plastic

* Rent, rather than buy a tux or gown for a formal occasion

* Place well labeled recycling containers by your garbage can so guests can recycle

* Encourage host or hostess to reuse bows or wrapping paper and to recycle

* Turn down the heat before guests arrive – their extra body heat will help warm the room

* Plan meals wisely and buy based on the number of guests you expect

* Give extra food to guest in reusable containers or reused plastic bags

See Also: Arts: Paper Projects: Gift Bags

No Waste Holidays

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