Low Cost/Low Waste Winter Celebrations

—by Nicole Infinity

There are a range of environmental, economic and health concerns impacted by winter celebrations. The over-consumption of stuff, food, and alcohol can lead to debt, stress, unwanted weight gain, damage to the environment, extra clutter from unwanted/unneeded purchases and gifts, and generally an unpleasant time. There are some solutions for these problems, some of which will take work and others that are quite simple.

It has been brought up many times, but the first step of the recycling triad is “reduce.” Each year folks from all over the world choose to celebrate Buy Nothing Day instead of Black Friday. Some go further and don’t purchase anything through the end of December: Buy Nothing Xmas.

Unconsumption is another idea that has been circulating as well. (Check out the links at the end of the article for more information.) My lady friend and I have chosen to not buy gifts or items for ourselves during this season for a few years now. Avoiding stores during this time is great. We don’t wait in line, spend extra money, or end up with a house full of stuff we don’t need.
Although we are not religious folks and our friends and family mostly are not either, the culture of gift giving is still incredibly present. So, what to do for your friends and family who insist on buying gifts?

A few ideas that we use for all sorts of celebrations:

  • Make a dessert or other food dish
  • Write down some recipes on cards
  • Write a poem or a story
  • Give concert, play, movie, or other event tickets
  • Give a family heirloom or photo
  • Draw a picture
  • Make something from household stuff

It is important to note that homemade gifts do not need to be useless and ugly, as is the general misconception. Focus on what you are good at. If you make wonderful pies, then make a pie. If you write or draw, do that. Suggest to friends and family that you don’t need extra stuff this year and share some ideas with them as well.

We also reuse gift wrapping, use paper bags or newspapers, or just avoid gift wrap altogether. I have also heard of having kids draw on butcher paper and then wrapping the presents up in that. Traditional gift wrap is not easily reused or recyclable, so any step you can make in the recycle triad is for the best.

All of this is about creating new traditions of buying less, wasting less, and taking celebrations back to their roots of spending time with the people you love or are at least related to. If you are not quite ready to dive into the buy nothing movement, try cutting back on spending this year, set a budget for yourself, and try to find the things in life that are better than things.

For holiday meals, consider potluck to help reduce the stress of hosting. Encourage folks to bring healthier dishes with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Also, be sure to avoid paper napkins, plastic cutlery, paper plates, and disposable serving dishes. Having a potluck should help with this as the number of dishes the host needs to wash is reduced by the number of dishes brought home by others. If you are hosting, also make sure to encourage people to bring glass or plastic containers to take home food. This way, the leftover food will be spread out over many people instead of being left for you to eat.

Traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations usually involve lots of alcohol consumption. Many folks, however, choose to have a completely sober New Year’s Eve. The reasons vary considerably, but sobriety is the common thread. You can save money, whether hosting or having a family evening, by purchasing some sparkling juice (which is conveniently sold at the co-op). Host a sober
New Year’s Eve celebration or bring a non-alcoholic beverage to a gathering. Either way, you will save money and avoid the need for a designated driver.

Think about giving some of these suggestions a try and have a less stressful, less expensive, and more enjoyable season.

1. http://unconsumption.tumblr.com
2. http://www.pinterest.com/unconsumption
3. http://www.buynothingday.co.uk
4. http://www.buynothingchristmas.org

[Nicole Infinity works in public education, makes art, and enjoys community living with her lady friend.]