This Christmas, I am thinking more carefully about my festivities and trying to make them less wasteful. I’m not eschewing gift-giving or anything like that, but as far as it’s within my power, I’m trying to enjoy treats and activities that come with less packaging and less unnecessary consumption.
So, while I was walking outside Whole Foods one day, I spied this bin of cuttings from their Christmas trees. I asked if I could take some branches, and the answer was yes. So I did. I used a wire hanger, shaped into a circle (with the hook left on the top to hang), as a base to make a wreath. The easiest way to attach the branches turned out to be just twisting and weaving them around the wire and each other, working with their natural curve and spring. I added some dried greenery left from a flower bouquet.
I have always thought that real greenery, however amateurish my construction, looks far nicer than anything artificial. For this wreath, I’ll dismantle it and take the greenery to the city’s tree recycling drop-off in January, and probably keep the hanger to use again.
Also in the realm of decorations, I made a batch of cinnamon applesauce ornaments. These are made from a dough of applesauce and cinnamon, rolled and cut like cookies, and then dried. They smell heavenly. I decorated mine with a ‘frosting’ made from flour and water, piped on (with a ziplock bag, okay, not a zero waste option there!), and some pink peppercorns I found in the bulk section. That makes these ornaments COMPOSTABLE! Why is no one else as excited as I am about this? You could throw them out the window into nature and it wouldn’t matter! (Not that I recommend that; I suppose an animal might eat them.) I can also attest, from the versions I made in my childhood, that these ornaments last for years smelling wonderful.
I also oven-dried some slices of an orange that was losing its appeal for eating. Hung on the tree with a paperclip, the stained-glass effect is lovely.
Craving Christmas candy, but not wanting to buy it packaged, I found a recipe online for peppermint patties. It was easy, and the results were delicious.
And craving mince pies, I also made some of those. Mincemeat is a zero waste dream, really: dried fruit and nuts from the bulk bins, candied citrus peel which uses otherwise wasted parts of the fruit (mine was homemade), apple, spices, a little brandy. (I always use coconut oil in place of the suet…it seems to work fine.)
I took the mince pies to a Christmas party, packed in a tin, along with another tin of homemade cheese crackers. I stacked the two tins and tied them up in a cloth for easy transportation.
For wrapping gifts this year, I’m using a mix of wrapping paper and cloth. We still have some wrapping paper which it seems silly not to use, but I went thrift shopping for some cloth wrapping as well: some red placemats worked perfectly as they were, and a big Christmas tablecloth yielded fabric for several big wrapping squares. I also pressed a couple of our pillowcases into service. My collection of ribbons came from many sources over the years, and they’ve already seen one Christmas and some birthdays; I expect they’ll see more.
This is one area where I feel the reusable options are an upgrade over the disposable: they are charming (if not high-end), less messy to use (no paper and ribbon scraps to clean up) and less messy when you’re done (no debris to sort and clear – just fold the cloths and put everything away). And no combing post-Christmas sales trying to find 99-cent bargains for next year’s wrapping paper.
I’ve especially enjoyed my Christmas crafting this year. Trying to adapt to buying fewer packaged, disposable and plastic things has made me rethink what I do and why, and aside from learning new skills and enjoying new creative outlets, it has meant that I pick the activities I really enjoy and value. And of course, at the end of the day, if all of this sounds exhausting…no need to bother with any of it. Christmas is about Jesus Christ.