packages under Christmas tree

Stressed, broke, overwhelmed, and feeling a bit Grinchy about the impending holidays? We’re here to help with tips to reduce stress and expenses and, most importantly, to help you reduce waste during this year’s holiday season.

1. Trim the List

Rather than buying gifts for every single one of your siblings, in-laws, friends, and co-workers, try adopting a Secret Santa gift exchange instead. Names get put into a hat and the name you pick is the only person you buy a gift for. This not only helps cut down stress and excess around the holiday season by addressing the sheer volume of the gifts needed to be purchased, but buying one gift instead of 12 also means that you can devote more time, thought, and money into finding something perfect, rather than just stuffing your shopping bags with whatever you can find, just to check off another name on your to-buy list.

2. Redefine Gifts

Take a lesson from the green guy himself: “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!” He’s right, you know. Christmas doesn’t have to come from a store, and that can hold true even if you do still want to give something to your loved ones.

Think beyond the toy catalog or the jewelry box and give an experience rather than a physical thing. For the children in your life, consider passes to museums or science centers, movie tickets, or contributing toward the cost of extracurricular classes or sports activities.

Similarly, the adults in your life might like a spa service, a pass to go climbing, cooking classes, or tickets to a concert or exhibit that interests them. Depending on your budget, you could also coordinate a small trip or visit from a much beloved (and missed) friend or family member. So much better than jewelry!

The memories of the gift will last far longer and be more meaningful than anything you could find in a store. Plus, you get to avoid the mall, and that’s almost reason enough in itself.

Dreaming of Christmas
Image courtesy of sunlight cardigan

3. Shop Locally

No one works harder than small business owners, and if you decide to buy something this holiday season, please try to support small businesses and local artisans. Seek out local craft fairs, small shops, and independent boutiques for one-of-a-kind, handmade gifts where your dollar will make more of a difference. It’s likely that the environmental impact of your locally crafted gift is a fraction compared to that of a mass-produced item.

4. Wrap It Differently

Wrapping paper is one of those strange items that we purchase simply to dispose of. We can save millions of trees and have the most beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree by skipping the purchased wrapping paper and getting creative. A few ideas for easy wrapping-paper alternatives:

  • Newspaper, dressed up with colorful fabric ribbon or natural raffia
  • Children’s artwork
  • Fabric scraps
  • Cute tea towels

The holiday season seems have become almost synonymous with excessive consumption, but by using these four tips to pare down gifts, give things that will leave lasting memories, support small businesses, and create a waste-free celebration, seasonal celebrations can once again become something truly worthy and joyous.

All of us at Earth911 wish you a happy, waste-free holiday!

Feature image courtesy of PhotoMIX-Company, Pixabay.

Originally published on December 4, 2014, this article was updated in December 2022.

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.