On an average day, most of us create roughly four pounds of waste. During the holidays, food waste, shopping bags, packaging, and wrapping can add up to a strain on precious resources.
Sometimes the most treasured gifts we can give are our time, love and energy. In the spirit of giving, we’ve gathered some holiday ideas here that create less waste and more memories.
Love to Shop? Choose Re-Used
Gently used items make wonderful zero-waste gifts. Buying things that have been used before means that your purchase doesn’t require additional natural resources or energy use.
If you are hesitant to give used gifts, for fear of being considered “cheap,” here are some ideas:
- Include a message explaining why you value the practice of reuse so highly
- Select gifts with care.
- Personalize your gift with an appliqué, initials, sports team logo, or adding craft items to a used picture frame.
- Consider giving antiques, vintage items.
- Your buck goes a lot further when purchasing refurbished tools and electronics.
Some Shopping Places to Get You Started
Antiques & Collectibles:
Art Supplies: MECCA
Fashionista: Buffalo Exchange
Give the Gift of an Enjoyable Experience
Give a gift that both children and adults will remember long after the snow has melted—the gift of an event, trip or other activity.
Tickets to a college or professional ball game, a play, a concert or a movie is unforgettable.
Classes and lessons:
- Art or cooking classes
- Furniture refinishing class
- Music and vocal lessons
Travel is a great gift. Trips can be half day, all day or longer. Children remember time spent with relatives and the adventure of travel.
- Emerald City Roller Girls family fun
- Eugene Parks and Rec ballet, yoga
- MECCA art classes and crafty parties
- Science Factory ’Edutainment’
- Willamalane the home of ‘Splash’
- Willamette Pass ski & snowboarding
The overwhelming majority of folks who receive dining gift certificates report they would welcome that type of gift again.
Give the Gift of Helpful Service
Are you handy? Can you sew? Write a good resume? For those of us that aren’t or can’t, the gift of mending clothes, repairing a leaky faucet, or updating a resume would be MOST welcomed and appreciated! Some folks would truly love the gift of raking leaves, lawn mowing, dog walking, childcare, respite elder care, or home cooking.
Children love a day-off from chores or extended bedtime coupons, or a maybe a one time, super duper room cleaning by a
Several free online templates exist for making your own gift coupons or you can free-style it using any number of reused materials.
Some coupon ideas for your services:
- Candlelit dinner
- Child care
- Lessons in baking, a hobby or craft
- Massage or back rub
- Trip to the nearest State Park
Some examples of services you can purchase and give include:
- Computer tune-up or diagnosis
- Diaper service
- Green fees
- Gym membership
- Hair cut
- Housekeepingor trip to a spa
- Internet service
- Language or music lessons
- Membership to a museum or aquarium
- Newspaper or movie subscription
- Oil change or tune up
- Online magazine subscription
- Passes to museum or special exhibit
- Service memberships like AAA
- Sports instruction (ie. Golf or Skiing Lesson)
- Vegetarian meals delivered
- Yard Service
Volunteer as a Family, Team or Work Group
Share the joy! Non-volunteers report they are more likely to serve if a trusted friend asks them to. Invite your friends and relatives to volunteer with you!
Include children. People who volunteered as youth are twice as likely to volunteer as adults than those who didn’t experience the ‘glow’ as kids.
Time, enthusiasm and skill are valuable gifts. And, they’re waste-free! Volunteers provide much needed services. Volunteering has been shown to increase or preserve physical and mental health. Volunteers tend to feel happier and live longer than those who do not volunteer.
Finding Local Volunteer opportunities is easy. Visit United Way of Lane County's volunteer page
Take Time to Make Memories
Spend time Together. Nature hikes with siblings and parents create time for conversation and sharing and can be a strategic way to get kids out from under foot while food is being prepared. Some ideas for your family to try:
--Making homemade gifts (here is one example)
--Trim a tree with popcorn, cranberries and pinecones for wildlife to enjoy
--Preparing a family recipe together and do it again next year!
Holiday projects are remembered fondly so don’t worry messing up the kitchen or getting everything just right. The shared experience has priceless value.
Make Good Use of Leftover Holiday Food
Food waste now represents the single largest component of Municipal Solid Waste reaching American landfills and incinerators. According to an annual statewide waste composition study performed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), more than 450,000 TONS of food waste enter Oregon landfills and incinerators each year—nearly 10% of that goes straight to Short Mountain Landfill right here in Lane County!
Send extra food home with guests. Have a supply of reused containers on hand or ask guests to bring their own.
Many holiday foods freeze well. Make sure leftovers are sealed up tight so you can enjoy them months later.
Use reusable place settings and cloth napkins. Instead of Plastic or Paper plates, cups and utensils and paper napkins, make a family tradition of clearing the table together. You can borrow up to 100 place settings from Lane County’s Reusable Dish ware Program at www.LaneCounty.org/EventRecyclingBinsandDurables
Have food to donate? Contact the Eugene Mission at 541.344.3251 or Food for Lane County at 541.343.2822
More detailed info from press release
Artful ReUse Ideas for the Holidays
The holidays were made for crafting! Scrap crafts are far more fun and inventive and they don’t require any shopping! Stamps made from potatoes (cut a potato in half and carve a shape on the flat side, dip in paint and decorate paper grocery sacks to make gift wrap or to use as gift bags).
Make bows out of used paper, discarded cassette or video film, or shredded wrapping paper.
Make snowflakes out of six-pack holders,
Gift sleeves from holiday cards,
Gift boxes from holiday cards,
Stars from blister packs,
The possibilities are endless!
Here's a pattern and instructions, found online, for making beautiful flowers from old calendars and other used paper.
New this year!
Instructions and template for sewing simple bean bags from scrap materials. Includes a 'How to Juggle' instruction booklet!
Purchase Gift Certificates from Waste Free Non-Profits
A gift certificate from Bring’s Planet Improvement Center can help a dear one finish a remodeling project. NextStep’s Springfield and Eugene ReUse stores sell gift certificates that allow your loved ones to get the refurbished electronic items that they want. MECCA Money or a membership from Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts, allows creative folks on your list to craft sustainably and use the studio space and tools available.
Put Unused Electronics Back to Work
Have you looked in that drawer or closet lately? Chances are you have many unused personal electronics still sitting around since the latest ‘upgrade.’ Those items still have life in them but the longer they sit, the more likely they will have to be recycled rather than refurbished. Don’t delay. Donate unwanted electronics right away. Better yet, give the gift of electronics removal to friends or relatives. Help folks donate* TVs, CPUs, Laptops and Game Consoles right after the holidays. Put these valuable items back into action serving our local community through job training opportunities, technology grants for local schools and at risk families.
*With full knowledge and permission of the donor, of course.
Check Out These Great Resources:
New! Master Recycler's Favorite Waste-Free Things to Give and Recieve
Eco-Consumer Holiday Page
Center for a New American Dream
NRDC Green Gifts
Ways to Trim Your Holiday Wasteline
Master Recyclers' Reduce, Reuse, Recycle the Holidays Guide
Christmas planner values worksheet
NRDC important celebrity humorous messages
Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season by Jo Robinson
Hundered Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben
New American Dream Simplify the Holidays Booklet
Lane County Brochure "Tips for Reducing Waste During the Holidays" Hard copies are available at Lane County's Public Service Building, 8th and Oak St. (downstairs in front of Cafe)