More Joy Less Waste: A Holiday Guide

by | Dec 7, 2023

We are entering the craziest, busiest, and most stressful time of the year…. the holiday season! With so much going on in the world right now, our natural feelings of overwhelm and anxiety that we experience during this season feel even more intense this year. With our weak economy and financial struggles, why not take a step back and remember what’s important, what we value, and what we want to spend our precious time and money on? It feels like we all need a moment to catch our breath, and in order to do so, we need to slow things down, simplify, and make our lives a little bit easier. Let’s get back to creating traditions and memories throughout the holidays rather than focusing on all the “stuff”. Let’s find ways to have a magical holiday without surrendering to all of the marketing, expensive presents, wasteful wrapping and the resulting stress on our livelihoods and the environment!


Think about some of your favourite traditions you had growing up that have now gotten lost in the craziness of the holidays. One of my favourite traditions growing up was when my mom would hide everyone’s names on the presents. So we never knew whose they were and we would spend extra time trying to find out who the present belonged to. We didn’t have a lot of money for tons of presents but this was one way we made the fun last longer! By reincorporating some of your favorite childhood traditions, you can make the holidays feel more meaningful to yourself and your family without any added costs.

Alternatively, it may interest you to create new traditions with your family. You can even have your loved ones help brainstorm creative new ideas. Keep this simple and cost effective. For example, if you have children, they might enjoy popping popcorn and stringing it into garland that you can use to decorate your christmas tree or maybe every year you help them craft a new christmas tree ornament out of materials found outside or around the house. Add their name and the date on the ornament and you can see how their creations evolve over time.


Create lasting memories with gifting experiences over presents. If you can afford it, plan a winter getaway; stay in a lodge, go skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, enjoy an outdoor campfire. Another idea would be to gift tickets to a play. You could get dressed up, have a fancy dinner and enjoy a show together. Tickets for an awesome concert or festival is also a great idea. 

Some low cost experiences could be tickets to the movie theatre, passes to the bowling alley, or a promise to cook your loved one a nice dinner. There are so many great experiences you can have. Creating those everlasting memories, will be much more special than the toy your children will play with for a few days and then forget all about.

When it comes to buying children toys, there are so many options to chose from before buying new. Try Facebook Marketplace and your local thrift stores first. They are teeming with brand new condition toy listings from parents whose children barely touched them. If you can’t find what you are looking for there, try local, small businesses before shopping on Amazon. Consider educational, open ended, creative toys that will hold your childs attention longer and won’t be as harsh to the environment when your child is through with them. Some examples include books, puzzles, board games, wooden blocks and craft supplies.

Read about how much money per shopper is estimated to be spent this holiday season


Luckily when it comes to Christmas trees, there are options. The latest and most eco-friendly option is to buy a potted real tree. When the holiday’s are over you can replant it in your backyard. If you don’t have the space or property to plant a tree, buy a real tree from a tree farm rather than buying a new artificial tree. Lucklily, there are a variety of tree farms in the area that offer the experience of cutting your own. This could become one of your new traditions! Most tree farms also offer a complementary hot drink and seats around a fire to keep you warm and the children happy. 

If you prefer the convenience of an artificial tree, purchase one second hand. There are so many trees listed for sale on Facebook Marketplace or shop for one at your local thrift store. Purchasing a new aritificial tree is wasteful. They are made of plastic and ultimately end up in landfills, in which they won’t ever breakdown.

Real vs New Artificial Trees ttps://,properly%20recycled%20real%20Christmas%20tree.

Wrapping Paper:

There are so many alternatives to wrapping paper. I can’t think of anything more wasteful than wrapping paper, tissue, and bags! Gifts wrapped up in traditional paper look beautiful but you can use different materials and find creative, eco-friendly ways to make your gifts aesthetically festive. Reuse newspapers, towels, fabric, magazines, or kids artwork to wrap your gifts. I like to keep brown paper bags and packaging material and use that to wrap my gifts in. Its a classic look that can be added to with natural accessories or twine. 

Check out this great article for more great ideas for zero waste wrapping.

Shop Small and Local:

Support local! Now more than ever, we need to support local, small businesses. This helps not only that business but also your community. Put less money into the pockets of billionaires and more into the community of aritsans and entrepreneurs in your city. They also often have really great quality, and unique toys, clothing, and gifts for everyone on your list. This is easier to do than ever before with pop up Christmas markets happening in multiple places every weekend in December. There is nothing like browsing a holiday market with a hot apple cider in hand and making someone’s day when you purchase their beautiful handmade creations.


Enjoy the sparkle and joy that lights bring to the holiday season, but ensure you are using LED lights. LED lights use about 85% less energy than traditional lights. This doesn’t mean you should go out and buy brand new lights. If you still have lights that work, use them up and when you need new ones, always shop second hand first. Another easy way to reduce energy use is to put your lights on a timer. This way you and your neighbours can enjoy them while everyone is out and about but you won’t forget to turn them off when the neighbourhood is quiet and asleep.

The Holiday season can be filled with so much joy but it doesn’t have to be filled with waste. We just have to take time to be mindful of how much waste we are producing and how we can implement changes in our holiday traditions. Educate yourself and find new ways to create a magical holiday and everlasting memories.