Zero Waste Committee: Ho-Ho-Hold The Waste This Holiday Season

Zero Waste Tip: Tap into your creativity to reduce, reuse and recycle when giving holiday gifts. Not only will you show love for friends and family but also for Mother Earth


A classic Christmas tale is O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi”. In the short story, a young couple struggles, since money is tight, to purchase Christmas gifts for each other. As a result, Della and Jim Young get creative and each sacrifices a prize possession to get the needed funds. Della sells her hair and Jim pawns his watch. The twist is that the Youngs buy gifts for each other’s prize possessions – Jim gives Della combs to put in her hair and Della buys Jim a chain for his watch. 

The moral of the story is the greatest gift a person can give to someone else is love. But perhaps a lesser-known message is to exercise creativity during the gift-giving season. 

With this year’s holiday season in full swing, consider being like Della and Jim Young. Tap into your creativity to reduce, reuse and recycle when giving holiday gifts. Not only will you show love for friends and family but also for Mother Earth. 

The internet is full of useful tips and resources for utilizing sustainability during the holidays.

For instance, suggests the following for low-waste gifts: 

  • Give great experiences as gifts such as tickets to film festivals, concerts, cooking classes, gym memberships or vacations.
  • Donate in a loved one’s name to a nonprofit, or send a gift card from a charity such as Global Giving, and let them select their own nonprofit 
  • Gift zero-waste essentials such as jars, reusable containers and bags. 
  • Shop at consignment and thrift stores. 
  • Regift things that someone else could use. 
  • Bake or give food that you know a person will enjoy. 
  • Offer biodegradable gifts that are compostable including toothbrushes, sponges, bath salts or plants
  • Make your own gifts such as potpourri or picture album.

If shopping at stores, there are things you can do to reduce waste. For instance, suggests:

  • When shopping, bring a reusable tote bag rather than accepting a separate bag for
    each purchase. 
  • Ask for either a box or a bag, but not both, to hold purchases.
  • Choose products that are minimally packaged. 
  • Shop at a thrift shop for gently used items.

When wrapping gifts, there are alternatives to wrapping paper. The website,, offers some alternatives such as:

  • Scarves, handkerchiefs and bandannas
  • Old posters and maps
  • Newspapers
  • Reusable containers like cookie tins, flowerpots and baskets or wrap gift in cloth napkins or kitchen towels
  • Create a “treasure map” to find an unwrapped gift hidden elsewhere in the house
  • Children’s or your own artwork
  • Photos clipped out of old magazines, catalogs and calendars
  • Re-useable or re-used gift bags
  • Wrapping paper made from recycled paper

It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money or utilize a lot of packaging to give a great gift. As The Gift of the Magi reveals, it is the thought that counts both for loved ones and the planet.

Need more tips, or have questions?  Visit the Zero Waste webpage for more resources LOSALAMOSNM.US/GOGREEN or contact the Zero Waste Team by email at ZWLA@LACNM.US.  Find us on Facebook, search for Zero Waste Los Alamos

The Zero Waste Team was formed at the direction of the Environmental Sustainability Board. Comprised of community volunteers and Los Alamos County employees, the team focuses on providing educational materials to the community regarding waste reduction, greenhouse gas minimization, and energy and water conservation. Parts of the team work with groups such as restaurant owners, businesses, schools and residents.