What would you like to search for?

6 ways to a waste-free festive season

Feasting, gifting, and decorating our homes are all part of the fun during the festive season but what we overlook is the amount of waste we generate in the process. How about making the switch this year by aiming for a waste-free festive season?

Christmas gift
© Unsplash
The plastic used in many of the items, including gift wrapping paper, may not be obvious but it is there.

December is usually the busiest time of the year, with people travelling and spending money to entertain themselves, their families and friends. It is also the time of the year that has huge environmental impacts, in terms of waste and the emission of greenhouse gases from the manufacturing of some of our much-loved holiday treats and staples – and plastics are a big part of it.

Over the years I have learnt about the harmful effects of plastics to the environment, and have become conscious of how I use it in my daily life, but this will be the first time that I attempt a waste-free festive season. The great news is that I have nothing to lose but everything to gain, knowing that I am contributing to a cleaner and healthier environment. If you feel the same, join me.

Here are some simple steps on where to start:


Plastic-free grocery shopping

Fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains, sweets, and cookies are all available from local food markets that don’t use plastic packaging. Do some research and find one near you. Don’t forget to take your own re-usable bag, box or container when you go shopping.

Vegetable market
© WWF South Africa/Natasha Prince
Fresh food can be more nutritious and free from potentially harmful chemical wrapping found in plastics.
Give an experience or donation

There are many ways that we can give to our loved ones. Think of something people need and  value, or what they enjoy, like an experience or a donation to a good cause. It could be an outing to their favourite destination like a national park, nature reserve or restaurant; a ticket to a movie, concert or sport match; a gym annual membership; gift voucher or a donation in their name, to a cause they are passionate about – like WWF’s conservation and environmental work.

BRREP's 11th release of a new population of black rhino was successfully completed in October 2017.
© WWF South Africa Melissa du Preez
WWF-SA’s Black Rhino Range Expansion project that aims to conserve Black rhinos is one of the initiatives that one could donate to.
Support local

There will always be those talented individuals who are good with their hands. They usually stand on the side of the road, with a stall or in a small shop filled with some amazing items that make for great gifts. You may find something unique at a price much lower than what you would pay at a mall.

Supporting small businesses is one of the great ways to give to those in need. For some, their business is the only means of income and the only source of their festive spending. Many of the gifts you can find in these local shops are hand-made or made from recycled or upcycled materials – like jewellery; clay or wooden kitchenware and décor; wooden toys; sculptures; soaps, accessories, and clothing. 

plastic-free gifts, Christmas, Durban
© WWF South Africa/Dimpho Lephaila
The promenade at the Durban beach front is one of our one-stop destinations whenever my family and I visit the beautiful province of KwaZulu-Natal, and looking for something local.
Rethink the wrapping paper

Bright-coloured, glossy gift wrapping paper, glitter, tinsels, ribbons and bows are strikingly beautiful and they add a bit of gloss to any gift. I have used some of these items myself, but that was before I knew any better. Most of these decorations have plastic lining in them that can’t be recycled. And when you consider that they’re used once and then discarded, it seems to be an unnecessary expense for both your wallet and the environment.

But if you really have to gift wrap, then look for that bag you put away when someone gave you a present, and re-use that. Remember to think about what you put inside – no plastic!

Christmas plastic-free gift
© Unsplash
Your gift can be beautiful without the artificial colourful decorations on it. Re-used box, brown paper and twine are inexpensive, natural and good for the environment.
Opt for environmentally-friendly décor

I enjoy seeing festive decorations in the malls and in other people’s homes, but it is one thing that I have never tried doing. So, it will be my very first time doing my own this year, which is quite exciting, more especially because I will be doing it the environmentally-friendly way! I think it will be fun.

If décor is one of your highlights for the season, then let’s do it the right way. If you have some décor that you’ve been using and keeping over the years, you are good to go. Re-use it as you have done in the past. If you don’t have any existing décor, create your own. Use an indigenous living tree because you can replant it in your garden when the season is over. Real trees are 100% recyclable.      

Environmentally friendly decor
© Unsplash
You can decorate your tree with pinecones, holly berries, cinnamon sticks, orange and clove pomander balls; and use bark candles to light it up.
Make your own eco-crackers

Crackers are some of the fun items to have on the dinner table, but many of them are filled with plastic items, and we often lose them within a day after cracking them open! You don’t have to ditch your favourite table decorations, but you can make your own. It’s also a great way to connect with your creative self. Checkout this video:

So, are you looking forward to a waste-free fest? Do it for the environment, and most importantly, for you!

Dimpho Lephaila Photo
Dimpho Lephaila, Communications Officer

Dimpho believes in the power of science communication, because it is through knowledge sharing that people can learn and change their behaviour.

Stay updated

Sign up to get regular news on how to live in harmony For Nature. For You.