December 4, 2014

A Zero Waste Christmas: Tips to Build Karma Points & Feel More Fulfilled.

Photo: Heather Christie via Flickr.

The holiday season is upon us, and it seems stress and anxiety are as well.

Expectations are high and we can quickly become overwhelmed. I always seemed to feel depleted after the holidays, both financially and spiritually.

A year ago, I tried a different approach and it has changed my life for the better.

What if you could make the commitment this year to do things differently, stay stress free, save money, feel more fulfilled, have ample time to enjoy yourself and others, all while building karma points for being good to the planet? 

Here are a few ways you can start doing just that, right now:

1. Declutter.

When I started the daunting task of cleaning and sorting out my closets, it felt so good that I couldn’t stop. Repurpose, fix, donate, sell or give as thoughtful gifts to friends for Christmas. Only, of course, if you truly think your friends will love it.

Use old scarves as wrapping paper, sew a patchwork of old fabric or a reusable bag, give up buying tape, stickers, wrapping papers, ribbons, cards. Be creative!

After sorting through all my photographs so I no longer have to store them in boxes (which I would never open), I kept some of them to pin onto the gifts I was giving to my family and friends and used them as Christmas cards. It cost nothing, took no time and was a sweet touch.

I quickly noticed decluttering was helping me let go of everything else and creating good vibrations around me. It felt like a natural high. It was my brain I was decluttering; I felt more relaxed, ideas and solutions started to flow freely.

2. Give up one habit.

Choose one that is not good for you or the planet. Yes, this is your Christmas gift to the planet this year. Plastic bottles? Plastic bags? Walking with a coffee in my hand in a paper carton I never seemed to recycle while on the phone and walking the dog was my first choice.

“When I drink tea, there is only the tea and me,” says the wise Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Now when I drink tea or coffee, I sit down, sometimes with friends. I drink it in a real cup. At home, I keep one French press, one tea pot, organic loose tea and bulk fair trade organic coffee. Interestingly, since I traded the quality for the quantity, I spend less money and no longer waste my precious beverage. It has become a ritual.

On a personal level, after I started to analyze my habits, I realized I was a compulsive muncher. Cooking? Munching. Stress? Munching. I saved some big bucks when I gave that up, not to mention extra weight and food for others on the planet! During this holiday season, this might also save you from putting on extra pounds. When I truly became mindful of the habit, it seemed to dissolve on its own—kind of magical when you think about it.

3. Start a reward jar.

Pay yourself from all the efforts by decluttering, selling, donating and cleaning. You are worth it. When you give up a habit to be good to the planet or yourself, put the cash you would have spent in the jar. In the end, it’s about rewarding yourself and seeing the abundance you can create. It could also be used as your Christmas budget.  I could not believe how fast my jar filled up.

4. Make a list.

Lists allow you to shop with a purpose, and preferably in one store. After a year of adopting a zero waste lifestyle, I only shop in one store for everything—groceries and all. Online can also be an option. It can be geared toward used or recycled items and you can save time and energy, but set a timer when you shop online, or you can end up surfing for hours in search of the perfect gift! Too many choices lead to dissatisfaction and anguish, not to mention it’s a waste of time.

Avoiding distractions with lists will save you from second guessing yourself or being in an indecisive fog! It’s a smart Christmas marketing jungle out there; don’t be caught in it. I guarantee you this “single point” shopping will be fun again, especially when you know you will have ample time to spend doing what you actually want to do.

5. Make your gifts, but stay simple!

You don’t have to prove anything; remember people are much less critical than you are. I’m no longer cooking a recipe that requires special skills and equipment or expensive, obscure ingredients I won’t use for the next decade or that are time consuming. I have noticed that the simple, practical stuff seems to always be much more appreciated.

I love going to grocery stores where I can shop in bulk. For some of my healthy friends, I fill a jar with organic bulk protein bars, or a mix of colorful organic heirloom beans with a recipe attached. Simple mixed nuts are also an easy choice. For some, I make a yoga mat spray with two or three essential oils, buy a few fair trade chocolate bars I can attach with a recycled ribbon. Or I give an aloe plant for their kitchen that they can use if they burn themselves.

Mason jars are perfect gift containers, they are cheap and they can be reused. Now you can even shop with them and put bulk items directly in them so your gift is ready! Baths salts? Bulk soaps? Green rice? Be creative and make sure the cashier deducts the tare weight of the jars.

6. Build your neighborhood.

The emptiness I often felt during the holidays came from not feeling useful, as well as overwhelmed by meaningless shopping and excessive eating. When I decided to adopt a zero waste lifestyle, I had a lot more time on my hands, and while I felt connected to the planet on a macro level, I also wanted to feel closer to my community.

There are the obvious charity choices you can sign up for, but how about starting one with your neighbors? Get to know them!  This is the basic level of your community. Can you start a group on freecycle.org where people exchange things?  Clean your building’s hallway? Start a community fridge? Pick up mail and packages and put them in front of their doors? Offer to take their dog for a walk? Potluck dinner? There is a myriad of small gestures you can choose from—soon people will adopt the same attitude.

Kindness is contagious.

Vow to be true and grateful this Holiday season! Give to yourself, others and the planet.

Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson
Worldchanging, a user’s guide for the 21st Century



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Author: Hélène Dubois

Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Heather Christie/Flickr

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