The Ultimate Guide to an Eco-Friendly and Zero Waste Christmas

The holiday season is officially upon us, and this is my ultimate guide to an eco friendly and zero waste Christmas. We’re going to go over everything… even the most heated debate of whether or not a real tree is more sustainable than a fake tree.

We’ll be covering ethical and sustainable party dresses, gifting, gift wrapping, even receiving gifts, and of course a Christmas guide wouldn’t be complete without talking about a few family traditions and food!

The ultimate guide to an eco friendly and zero waste Christmas from #zerowaste #christmas #holidays

For me the holiday season kicks off with Thanksgiving. Every Thanksgiving morning, I wake up to watch the parade.

Mostly because I love musical theatre and like getting to see the broadway numbers at the beginning…. but watching the parade led by Tom Turkey and ending with Santa on his sleigh always gets me a little emotional.

Maybe it’s because it was a tradition I shared with my grandmother or maybe it’s just because I’m a nostalgic sap, but it’s like I officially get permission to decorate the tree and put on the Christmas music.

I have found so much joy in Christmas these past few years, but this year especially. Last year, when we lived in the tiny home, there wasn’t any room to decorate and I was sad without a tree.

The ultimate guide to an eco friendly and zero waste Christmas from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #christmas #holidays

We didn’t go overboard this year, but we’ve hung a wreath, put up a tiny tree, and festively hung the stockings above the fireplace with care.

In the past, it's been difficult to find joy in the holiday season… but that’s mostly because I started singing Christmas carols in October thanks to being in choir…

I also worked part time at a UPS Store over the holidays season. Have you ever been to a UPS store the week before Christmas? It’s a MAD HOUSE. And, let me tell you after a week of that - you are OVER the holiday season.

Thankfully, I’m no longer singing Christmas carols for a quarter of the year and don’t have to deal with grumpy people at the UPS store.


the decor:

Let’s start off with the decor. The day after Thanksgiving while most of America is in a tizzy snapping up the latest deal, I’m at home in snuggly clothing listening to my favorite Bing Crosby Christmas record and breaking out every penguin stuffed animal I own.

My favorite animal is a penguin. And, the thing about having a favorite ‘anything’ is that people will start buying you gifts of said ‘favorite thing’.

So, I have a massed a penguin stuffed animal collection and instead of making them dog toys, I use them as my very festive Christmas decorations, and I think that’s just perfect!

Bottom line for this section, is use what you have.

the tree:

I was very excited to visit a Christmas tree farm for the first time! All of the trees were gorgeous. There’s been a huge debate over whether a real tree is more sustainable than a fake tree, and I believe that a real tree is more sustainable IF they’re composted at the end of their lives.

Christmas tree farms grow trees all year round which absorb carbon throughout the year! YAY! Just make sure that you compost them so they’re turned back into a nutrient rich soil.

If your only option is to dump your tree at the landfill, then consider opting for a fake Christmas tree or check out some non-tree ideas like this tree made from sticks and twine!

The ultimate guide to an eco friendly and zero waste Christmas from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #christmas #holidays

Of course, if you already have a fake Christmas tree then use it as long as possible. There’s no need to throw it out in lieu of a real one.

I really like this article by the New York Times. It brings up lots of good points but my favorite is the last one which says, we’re arguing over which tree is better when we should really be worried about the flight emissions.

around the house:

Some people abhor decorating, but I rather enjoy it. My home certainly isn’t going to win any awards for perfectly curated decoration. I keep it simply, but it’s something that I love doing.

I have a small fake Christmas tree that I picked up secondhand at the local thrift store several years ago, and a real Christmas tree that I got from the farm this year. Both are decorated with found items, and decor we already had.

We don’t go out of the way to buy new decorations, but prefer to keep it simple.

I love using found and kitchen objects for around the house like using cinnamon sticks, red leaves from fallen trees, stringing together popcorn strands, and even making an advent calendar out of an old shipping sleeve.

Let me know, if you’d like to see a tutorial on any of those!

I also strung my tiny tree with a homemade wine cork garland. Something, I’ve always wanted to make!

Our stockings and tree skirt have been passed down from my family. The Had everyone’s name embroidered into them, so I seam ripped my mom and dad’s name and replaced it with Justin and Nala.

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Now we have very festive, vintage, and hand quilted items to hand in our home. Asking friends and family if they have an excess amount of ornaments or Christmas decorations is a great way to accumulate a few festive pieces.

I find that most people have an overwhelming amount of decor (My grandma is always trying to give decor away) - all you have to do is ask!

the gifts:

Gifts can be kind of tricky. I see value in buying something someone needs or wants, but I also see value in buying experiences because maybe someone doesn’t need or want anything.

I think the most important take away from this section is have conversations and truly find out what someone wants before buying anything!

I’m also running a series on my YouTube channel all about easy, last-minute zero waste DIY gifts that you can whip up in only a few minutes. Check out the first in this series!

buying gifts:

This year, as we put up the tree, I was so happy and inspired to come up with 50+ ethical gift ideas for everyone on your list!

Last year, I created massive gift guides for experience gifts and consumable gifts. But this year, I wanted to create gift guides that highlight some really awesome ethical brands.

Some people are a little confused as to why I don’t advocate for 100% second hand, but I personally don’t think that’s sustainable for the long term, and I like to see a healthy mix of both.

If all of the people who believe in sustainability refused to buy from sustainable brands, what kind of message does that send to the market?

I’m personally all about a healthy mix of giving someone what they want and also giving experience and consumable gifts!

Basically have a conversation with someone about they want and how you can add value to their life.

One of my favorite gifts that I’ve been giving to family recently, is donating to an organization close to their heart in their honor. It’s been received exceedingly well! So, if you’re a little stumped on what to give someone, I would give them a card and donate to a great cause.

Here are some of my favorite organizations to donate to for the holidays:

If you’re gifting for an acquaintance I think that a nice gift would be these cards from Arbor Day where each card plants a tree - how cool is that!?

I also think a great gift idea is to give gifts that encourage eco-friendly living. Maybe your mom might use less plastic wrap if you gave her some beeswax wraps. Maybe your roommate would refuse the straw if she had a sleek glass straw to carry around.

Maybe your dad would use fewer takeaway coffee cups if he had a nice thermos? Looking for more inspo? Take a peak at the shop tab on my blog.

receiving gifts:

I’m sure some of us have received less than stellar gifts in our lifetime? The thing is… most people don’t want to give a bad gift.

Where the disconnect is, is the lack of communication. My recommendation is always for making a list! I wrote a full guide on the best way to go about this called The Zero Waste Guide for RECEIVING Gifts.

I think you’ll find it really helpful, in getting gifts you want and align with your values.

The ultimate guide to an eco friendly and zero waste Christmas from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #christmas #holidays

wrapping gifts:

Once you have the perfect gift picked out, what comes next? The wrapping of course!

Did you know that most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable? And, after tearing through all of it, it’s probably not reusable either.

In order to prevent this, stick to gift wrapping that can be used over and over like holiday bags and tissue paper or the beautiful cloth alternatives.

Or you could also go for a double gift and make the wrapping part of the present.

I wrote an entire guide for wrapping beautiful holiday presents and ways to upcycle your holiday cards from the year before. Be sure to check it out.

Zero Waste and Eco Friendly Guide to Wrapping Holiday Presents


Can you believe we’re only half way through this guide!? When I said Ultimate… I meant ULTIMATE.

One of my favorite parts about the season is all of the family traditions passed down.

As a family we didn’t have a ton of traditions, but one of my favorites was always going to look at the lights the night before Christmas Eve and sipping homemade cocoa.

We would also always make the classic Christmas sugar cookies complete with red and bright green frosting.

When switching to a zero waste lifestyle, I’ve had some traditions that work and some that don’t. I wrote about my failed attempt at zero waste-ifying a king cake.

However, I’ve had a lot more success with creating delicious and colorful sugar cookies with natural food coloring! Also, check out these amazing candy cane cookies!

I love being able to use natural food dye from things around my kitchen instead of those tiny plastic bottles filled with synthetic dyes.

Maybe see if there’s a few family traditions you can do while creating a little bit of less waste. I personally opted for the homemade advent calendar that’s full of things to do instead of small items.

If you’re looking for inspo Reading My Tea Leaves has been doing this for a long time.

I have definitely noticed, that I’ve tended to simplify some of my traditions. I don’t think it makes them any less special, it just makes them more intentional. This post does a great job of talking about simplifying during these busy times.

the food:

There are so many layers to the food. There’s food waste, buying the food, planning the food, and of course eating the food which I’m sure you don’t need any help with. ;)

When it comes to buying the food, be sure to check out my Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping.

When it comes to food waste, I created a great guide full of creative ways to use up your holiday leftovers. But, sometimes, the food is just pass it’s prime. If that’s the case then don’t toss it in the landfill - compost it!

I have great guides on composting in your backyard and composting if you live in an apartment.

Now, if you’re planning food for a crowd, then be sure to check out the next section all about parties… my fav.

The ultimate guide to an eco friendly and zero waste Christmas from #zerowaste #ecofriendly #christmas #holidays

the parties:

You know me, I LOVE a good party, and I especially love throwing them. On Thursday, I’ll be sharing my lust worthy ethical and sustainable holiday dress guide with dresses perfect for your office party down to ringing in the new year so stay tuned for that.

Here’s my top five tips for throwing a zero waste party and my tips for staying zero waste at a non-zero waste party.

It might be kind of weird at first to bring your own cup to a party, but I do it all the time and have had nothing but positive responses.

But, the one thing I always do when I show up to a party is come with a gift. I think bringing a hostess gift is always so classy. These are my favorite zero waste hostess gifts.

During the holidays, I find that lots of parties include the white elephant party game - which means you’re most likely to wind up going home with something that you don’t want.

If you can help plan this party, maybe suggest doing a cookie swap instead? That the gift should be consumable? Or that the gifts be donations towards charity instead?

If you can’t get away from it, I would probably bring a small item like reusable straws, neutral tea towels, nice handkerchiefs, or a thermos. I’d try to opt for something that helps to reduce the receivers waste.

WOWZA. This was a monster post. If you feel like I missed anything please, let me know down in the comments down below and I’ll do my best to answer it. :)

6 Ways to Use Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

I love a big ‘ol plate of leftovers after Thanksgiving, but there always seems to be that one leftover dish that’s never ending.

I can eat leftover plates till the cows come home but when it gets down to just mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce it’s time to find new and interesting ways to incorporate them into my menu. I’ve rounded up my 6 favorite ways to use up leftovers with my friends over at Morton Salt.

6 ways to use your Thanksgiving leftovers from #zerowaste #thanksgiving #erasefoodwaste #endfoodwaste #leftovers #holidays #thanksgiving
This post was sponsored by Morton Salt but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

We waste 40% of all our food in America the equivalent of throwing out 150,000 tons of food each day.

Really, why are we wasting so much food!? And, we waste even more this time of year. On average 25% more waste occurs between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and according to the BBC Americans waste 200 MILLION POUNDS of edible turkey each holiday season.

I think that’s ridiculous, don’t you?

So, let’s make sure that we’re eating all of our leftovers. Check out my plastic-free guide to storing leftovers, sending guests home with food the zero waste way, and tips for utilizing your freezer to prevent food waste.

And, of course, be sure to check out these 6 delicious ways to reinvent your leftovers!

Before we get to the recipes, I have to mention the epic giveaway I’m doing with Morton Salt on Instagram. You DO NOT want to miss it!

6 ways to use your thanksgiving leftovers from #thanksgiving #leftovers #zerowaste #endfoodwaste

If you’re in the market for a zero waste kit including tons of essentials like nesting tiffins, stasher bags, a metal water bottle, a reusable bag, and even my friend Joel’s cook book all about using your food scraps… then this is the giveaway for you.

Without further adieu here are 6 of my favorite recipes.

1. leftover roasted veggie hash:

My favorite dish on the Thanksgiving table is my roasted vegetable medley. There’s just something so tasty about sinking my teeth into sweet, caramelized root vegetables.

If I have any of the roasted veggies left over, I love to reheat them in a cast iron skillet on the stove top. It’s a nice way to crisp up the veggies.

Then I’ll make a hole in the center of the vegetables and crack an egg. Sprinkle with a little bit of Morton All Purpose Sea Salt for the perfect day after Thanksgiving breakfast!

The Morton All Purpose Sea Salt comes in a full cardboard container which you can recycle or compost. If you’re recycling be sure to cut the top off to make sure that the cardboard is clean! You can read more in my post How to Recycle Paper the Right Way.

UPCYCLING HACK: The tops with the metal swing lids make a great edition to mason jar tops. Perfect for dispensing spices, snacks, or cleaning products easily!

6 ways to use your Thanksgiving leftovers from #zerowaste #thanksgiving #erasefoodwaste #endfoodwaste #leftovers #holidays #thanksgiving

2. leftover sandwiches:

Whether or not you’re making a whole roasted cauliflower or a turkey, leftover sandwiches are always a great way to use up lots of your ingredients including those dinner rolls!

I like my Thanksgiving sandwiches STACKED.

  • dinner roll

  • roasted cauliflower

  • roasted veggies

  • onion rings (from the green bean casserole)

  • spinach

  • mayonnaise

3. leftover shepherd’s pie:

Mashed potatoes are one of those dishes I make way too much of. I love to use the leftovers to make a shepherd’s pie. It’s also a great way to use up leftover turkey!

Mix the turkey with leftover roasted vegetables or keep it traditional with peas, carrots, and a sprinkle of Morton Coarse Sea Salt (the larger salt crystals add a crunch along with a burst of flavor to any food, making it a great option as a finishing salt).

Place the mixture in a baking dish and cover the top with mashed potatoes. Bake until everything is heated through and the top is looking golden brown.

The nice thing about shepherd’s pie is how flexible it is. You can make it in individual dishes or make it in a large pie tin depending on the crowd and amount of leftovers that you have!

6 ways to use your thanksgiving leftovers from #thanksgiving #leftovers #zerowaste #endfoodwaste

4. cranberry sauce grilled cheese:

I’m typically the only person that likes cranberry sauce, so I’ve found myself forgoing it. It’s hard to eat that much cranberry sauce by yourself….

So, if you’re in a similar situation, you have got to try cranberry sauce grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s also a great way to use up leftover cheese from the cheese platter.

If you like sweet and salty flavor combinations, then you’re going to love this.

I think it’s best with a little bit of mild cheddar and brie. If you eat meat, turkey would make a great addition too. Add all of your ingredients to either a leftover dinner roll or sandwich bread and grill on the stove top.

Bon appetit!

5. turning wine into vinegar:

party, I always find at least one bottle of wine half drunk and uncorked.

The wine is far too oxidized to drink, but it makes GREAT vinegar! Yes, you can turn your stale wine it into a delicious homemade red wine vinegar.

If you already have a bottle of red wine vinegar in your house, you can just add your wine to that batch and it will turn into vinegar in a few short days.

If you’re starting from scratch, place the wine in a clean jar and add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar with the mother into the batch.

Cover with a swatch of cloth so it can breathe for several weeks. Eventually it will turn into vinegar, and the next time you wind up in this situation, you can just keep adding to that batch!

Check this post out for more information on making your own apple cider vinegar.

How to make homemade apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar / 6 ways to use your Thanksgiving leftovers from #zerowaste #thanksgiving #erasefoodwaste #endfoodwaste #leftovers #holidays #thanksgiving
How to make homemade apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar / 6 ways to use your Thanksgiving leftovers from #zerowaste #thanksgiving #erasefoodwaste #endfoodwaste #leftovers #holidays #thanksgiving
How to make homemade apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar / 6 ways to use your Thanksgiving leftovers from #zerowaste #thanksgiving #erasefoodwaste #endfoodwaste #leftovers #holidays #thanksgiving

6. sweet potato chocolate ice cream:

Oh yes, you read that right! This is one of my favorite recipes. It makes amazing milkshakes too. Now, I don’t know how sweet your sweet potatoes are to begin with, but you can adjust the sweetness with maple syrup and don’t forget to add a pinch of salt!

Fine Salt is a flavor enhancer! It can actually increase sweetness, unami, and reduce bitterness. The fine sea salt crystals dissolve quickly and blend in easily creating a perfect balance for this dessert.

  • 1 cup of mashed sweet potatoes

  • 2 cups of non-dairy milk coconut is best!

  • 1/4 cup of cocoa powder

  • 1/4 cup of coconut oil

  • A pinch of Morton Fine Sea Salt

  • 1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract

  • Maple syrup to get desired sweetness

  1. Blend all of the ingredients together until silky smooth

  2. Pour the mixture into a 9x9 pan

  3. Place in the freezer

  4. Once frozen through (a couple of hours) scoop and enjoy!

If you found this post useful, please share it with your friends so we can #EraseFoodWaste together! And, don’t forget to enter the giveaway on Instagram for some sweet zero waste goodies.

2 Showstopping Vegetarian Mains for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is amazing, but when you’re a vegetarian what do you put at the center of the table? I love sides as much as anyone, but it is nice to have a showstopper - a main - a kick-ass focal point that would put any turkey to shame!!

Two showstopping vegetarian mains for the holidays from #vegetarian #holidays #thanksgiving #christmas #cauliflower #acornsquash

I love to have something that really ties the plate together, and I think both of these options would be a beautiful edition to your menu.

If you haven’t checked out my zero waste Thanksgiving guide make sure to grab a copy, it has an entire guide including a grocery list, menu, recipes, and even a cooking schedule!

Two showstopping vegetarian mains for the holidays from #vegetarian #holidays #thanksgiving #christmas #cauliflower #acornsquash
Two showstopping vegetarian mains for the holidays from #vegetarian #holidays #thanksgiving #christmas #cauliflower

roasted cauliflower:

I love this roasted cauliflower. It has this beautiful crust on it that makes more beautiful than a golden brown turkey!

45 Minutes / 400 Degrees / 4 Servings

  • 1 head of cauliflower

  • 2 tablespoons of flax meal

  • 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast

  • 1 teaspoon of salt

  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon of parsley

  • 1 teaspoon of mustard powder

  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon of cumin

  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

  • 1/4 cup of water

  • juice of 1 lemon

  1. carefully remove all of the leaves from the cauliflower leaving the stalk fully intact

  2. place the cauliflower in a pan stalk side up

  3. mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl

  4. pour half of the mixture into the cauliflower and tap it to make sure the mixture is evenly dispersed through the cauliflower

  5. bake the cauliflower stalk up for 20 minutes

  6. take the cauliflower out and turn it so the florets are on top

  7. spread the rest of the mixture over the cauliflower

  8. since there’s flax meal, it might get a little congealed so feel free to add 1-2 more tablespoons of water

  9. bake for 25 more minutes until golden brown

  10. pull out of the oven and let it cool for half and hour

  11. slice into steaks and serve with a side of gravy

You can grab my gravy recipe in my Thanksgiving Guide!

Two showstopping vegetarian mains for the holidays from #vegetarian #holidays #thanksgiving #christmas #acornsquash
Two showstopping vegetarian mains for the holidays from #vegetarian #holidays #thanksgiving #christmas #cauliflower #acornsquash

stuffed acorn squash:

This is such a festive edition to the table and a complete celebration of fall produce.

30 Minutes / 400 Degrees / 2 Servings

  • 1 acorn squash

  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa*

  • 1/4 cup of toasted pecans

  • 1/4 cup of toasted cashews

  • 3/4 cup of shiitake mushrooms

  • 3/4 cup of granny smith apples or dried cranberries

  • zest and juice of one lemon

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • fresh sprigs of thyme

  1. slice the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds and insides

  2. salt the acorn squash generously

  3. place the acorn squash flesh side down on a greased cookie sheet

  4. place in an oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and the flesh is caramelized and fork tender

  5. chop the nuts

  6. sauté the mushrooms and the apples together until tender with the lemon zest and lemon juice

  7. add in the quinoa and the nuts and salt and pepper to taste

  8. once the squash is out of the oven scoop the quinoa stuffing inside

  9. top with fresh thyme and serve

Two showstopping vegetarian mains for the holidays from #vegetarian #holidays #thanksgiving #christmas #cauliflower #acornsquash

If you make any of my recipes this holiday season, please tag me on Instagram! Be on the look out next week because I’m going to be sharing recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers, AND I’m going to be sharing an awesome giveaway…. it’s going to be good. ;)

Two showstopping vegetarian mains for the holidays from #vegetarian #holidays #thanksgiving #christmas #cauliflower #acornsquash