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A little bit of planning can go a long way towards more sustainable holidays

Celebrate sustainability: Tips for zero-waste Christmas and a plastic free New Year

Celebrate sustainability: Tips for zero-waste Christmas and a plastic free New Year

By doing a little pre-planning, you can cut most of your personal plastic pollution during the holiday season

Yesterday, city authorities in Bonn, Germany, published a guide to help citizens navigate the winter holidays while producing as little waste as possible. With climate change and plastic pollution being quite the hot topic in recent months and since the European Union banned certain single-use plastics back in June 2021, zero-waste Christmases and sustainable New Year parties are all the rage.

Additionally, local authorities in Bonn just announced that they will adopt the Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) handbook on circular food systems, aiming to minimise waste in the city all year round. 

At the same time, zero-waste sounds almost impossible, considering a lot of food products come in single-use plastic wrapping, wrapping paper for gifts, and Christmas decorations that have a short ‘life expectancy’. Making the right call can be really overwhelming. So, without further ado, here are some tips on how to make your winter holidays waste-free.

Reusable, instead of disposable

A good way to minimise the waste you produce and reduce your personal pollution is to rely on recyclable products. However, the best way to get to zero-waste is to cut out single-use products completely.

A good place to start is by skipping out on plastic bottles. According to the German Environmental Aid Association, if a 0.7-litre glass bottle has been refilled 50 times, a total of 23 1.5 litre plastic bottles can be saved. A party that skips plastic bottles is therefore a big leap towards sustainable fun.

The second point is to skip disposable cutlery, cups and plates. This is especially true for home parties. If you do not have enough for the whole group, borrowing can be a great way to bump up your short-term supply. And if you do not feel like washing dishes for hours, ask your guests to bring their own!

You can also save waste on napkins, by using cloth alternatives. This will make the dinner serving look like it is in a fancy restaurant, bringing an extra layer of style to your sustainability push.

Decoration – the key to a cosy Christmas

Instead of using store-bought Christmas decorations, you can make your own using 100% organic materials. Fresh flowers, pine cones, stones and tree bark can go a long way when looking for that authentic Christmas feel. You can even drop confetti made from dried leaves.

For table decorations, you can use fresh herbs like basil, dried oranges and cinnamon sticks and if you are feeling really fancy – go for star anise. If you need to make mood lights, you can re-use jars destined for the glass container and refurbish them with a bit of paint or coloured cloth and a candle.

For the food

The easiest party food is finger food, meaning you can save on dishes, as most of the action will be happening over a slice of bread. Though, you may need to get vegetables, meats and cheeses. A good way to skip plastic wrapping on meats and cheeses is to go to your local butcher with a reusable container.

For cheeses, try and find a farmer’s market, where you can buy cheese by the kilo. There, you should be able to find fresh fruits and veggies without additional wrapping. You can also get that in most supermarkets nowadays.

Furthermore, you can use this step to plan your guests and ask them to bring specific food items in reusable containers. Incidentally, zero-waste means no food wasted, so if they already have containers, they can take some leftovers.

And that is it. With a bit of pre-planning, you can get pretty close if not all the way to zero-waste winter holidays, minimising your damage to the environment.

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