How to Reduce Holiday Consumption

It’s finally here, one of the best times of the year––the holiday season! I love spending time with my friends and family, sipping on hot cocoa (or a turmeric latte), and buying gifts for those that I love. I love helping my mom decorate the house for Christmas on Black Friday. And most of all, I love sampling all of the tasty food at all of the parties I go to.

It truly is such a magical season!

But with the joys of the season, comes a lot of atypical consumption. From take-out boxes from holiday dinners out, to packages from online purchases, and all of that wrapping paper! The unnecessary waste does add up!

However, it doesn’t have to!

Obviously, everyone lives in different environments with different options for accessibility of zero and low waste options, so don’t feel bad about not being totally zero waste! We don’t live in a plastic-free world, and for many of us, it’s simply impossible to get through the holidays without at least a little plastic consumption. Each person doing there best is really all that we can do, isn’t it?

Here are some of my favorite tips to reduce your holiday consumption this year:

1. Shop in Store

Sure, online shopping is great. Ordering Amazon orders from the comfort of your favorite pajamas is one of the best inventions of the twenty-first century. However, it’s totally wasteful. Consider all of the excessive boxes and packaging that are shipped with your favorite online orders. An easy fix is going to your favorite shopping center to buy all of your holiday goodies.

Sometimes ordering online is totally necessary, I get it. Instead of ordering several smaller orders with only one or two items, consider buying just one order with all of the items you’ll need for the holiday season.

You can use the box it’s shipped in to wrap one of your gifts, or recycle it too!

2. And bring your own shopping bags with you

While you’re out shopping, make sure that you bring your own shopping bags from home! Whether you’re buying groceries for the holiday feast or gifts for that special someone reusable cloth grocery bags or tote bags are a great choice.

3. Bring your own take-out boxes to restaurants and family dinners

The holiday season is a time for more leftovers than can be managed. Help yourself out by bringing your own Tupperware to any holiday events or dinners out. This will help you reduce plastic waste from restaurants or cut down on the amount of food waste from your family events.

As an added tip, consider re-portion your leftovers into single serve containers once you get home, and even label them with the date if you have time. This will help you make sure you eat the treats before they go bad!

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4. Reuse wrapping paper or put gifts in reusable bags

Wrap your holiday presents in old newspaper or old paper grocery bags, both of which are easily recyclable. Another option is to reuse any gift bags that you already have laying around. I don’t know about you all, but my mom has a ton of old Christmas bags in our attic, which are just begging to be reused!

Consider wrapping your gift in a reusable cloth grocery or produce bag to give a special bonus gift!

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5. Choose gifts wisely

When making your Christmas gifts list this year, consider buying eco-friendly gifts to your friends and family. Choose either gifts that are manufactured in an environmentally friendly way or gifts that will encourage their new owner to adopt eco-friendly tendencies. Also, take into consideration what the person you’re giving a gift to actually needs. Think about the sort of things that they could incorporate into their lifestyle rather than tossing into the closet.

Some great options are reusable straws and mugs, plastic-free soap and shampoo, and consciously made clothing, such as by the brand Everlane.

6. Send e-cards instead of physical cards

Let’s be honest, we all love receiving ‘fun’ things in the mail (i.e. not bills). However, sending tens of cards out to your family and friends is really wasteful. Consider sending e-cards to those who are usually on your Christmas card list. Or better yet, call everyone on your list to check in and see how they’re doing for more of a personal touch.

7. Use cloth tablecloths and napkins at your holiday dinner

Throughout the holiday season, my family and friends have so many get-togethers. From Friendsgiving, to regular Thanksgiving, to Christmas morning breakfast, and to Christmas dinner with the whole family, it seems like there are so many options where it would be easier to use paper plates and plastic cutlery. Sure, it may be easier to use these single-use items, but it’s definitely worse for the environment.

If you can’t provide reusable plates and cutlery for the party, feel free to bring your own individual plate and fork to the party. This way, you’ll at least be able to reduce your own personal waste, which is still a big win!

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Zero Waste School Supplies

Since I was a kid I loved back to school shopping. I loved having new pens, paper, and a backpack. I just loved being prepared for the new academic year. Now I’m entering into the last year of my undergraduate degree and although I still love the back to school season, I know how to shop a little more environmentally friendly. Here’s a list of some of my favorite zero waste school supplies.

Before beginning shopping for your back to school supplies, take inventory of what you have left over in your home. Do you have any pens, pencils, or notebooks left from a previous semester? If so, use up those before you go out and buy more! If not, turn to local stores, like your favorite bookstore or stationary shop, before turning to big box stores and online retailers. Usually smaller stores offer the option to buy single pens and pencils rather than many wrapped in plastic.

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Paper

Obviously, as a student, you’re going to need paper––and lots of it! Being completely zero waste as a student is usually impossible because of paper. Many professors are opposed to digital note taking at my university, so writing on paper is the only option for us. Although paper can’t be categorized completely into zero waste school supplies, there are steps that can be taken to reduce your waste––like buying recycled paper and recycling your notebooks after you’ve used them.

My favorite notebooks are Muji’s Recycled A5 notebooks. A5’s are smaller than normal notebooks, which is why they’re great for making heavy college backpacks smaller.

Guided also has recycled notebooks. Their notebooks range in size from 3x5 to 8x10, so you can pick the size that’s best for you. As an added bonus, you can get their notebooks in two colors––brown and black. Guided products are shipped in waste free shipping, so buy online if you need to!

A final option is Staples Wire bound notebooks. This one is a five subject notebook, which is perfect for your entire semester. It is wire bound, so it isn’t as environmentally friendly as the other options.

Writing Utensils

When looking for zero waste school supplies we would all ideally use fountain pens. However, fountain pens aren’t exactly the most conducive to quick note taking in classes. Here are some zero waste writing utensils.

Instead of tossing out a pen that has been used up, keep the casing and buy a refill. Muji and Pilot (and most other pen brands) offer refills for their most popular pens.

If you prefer to write with pencils, there are bunch of options on the market. Ticonderoga offers a ten pack of recycled pencils. Even if you don’t buy speciality recycled pencils, most normal pencils can be composted––just remove the eraser.

I know that I love highlighting my notes and textbooks, but I hate using the ones with the plastic casing. Stubby Pencil Studio makes highlighters that are made of wood, and they don’t dry out like traditional highlighters do.

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Backpacks

Backpacks are one of the necessities of being a college student. A good backpack will stand up to wear and tear, and last you for years. I personally use a Re-Kanken. It’s durable, waterproof, and made from eleven recycled plastic bottles. I’ve had mine for a few years now, and I don’t think that I’ll need a replacement for many, many more years.

Matt & Nat backpacks are another great option. They’re made of vegan leather, and the brand attempts to be as sustainable as possible.

Patagonia makes eco-friendly backpacks for back to school, too. Check out their 20 liter Ironwood Backpack! It comes in a bunch of cute colors and patterns.

Bonus: Love taking your lunch to campus? Buy a stainless steel bento box to bring with you! It’ll last for years and years, and make sure that you eat healthy, nutritious food while at school.

Planning

I’m so busy at college, and I always feel the need to plan out my day hour by hour. It helps with back to school anxiety, and insures that I get all of my assignments and projects turned in on time. Instead of keeping a physical paper planner, I use a few apps to help me keep things organized. With these apps I’m totally zero waste in terms of planning out my schedule.

I use the iStudiez Pro ($2.99) app to keep my classes organized. I can add each of my classes, and their assignments to the app. It’ll even remind me when an assignment is due soon. Plus, it syncs with the Calendar app on my iPhone as well as all of my other devices for seamless integration which is nice. There is a free version, so I recommend that you try it before you buy it.

Zero waste school supplies planner

Another app that I use is Asana. It’s great for making lists of things that you have to get done. Asana sends you an email when you have an upcoming task due, so it helps you stay on track.

Plus, I use the Blackboard app to keep my syllabi and other important information handy!

Do you have any zero waste back to school products or tips?

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