Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

A Zero Waste(ish) Christmas

We’re happy to welcome back Joanna Bjerga, a member of LDS Earth Stewardship from Norway. She has written for us before, and she blogs at jojobjerga.com. On the heels of Black Friday and just in time for Cyber Monday and the rest, she shares ideas on how to consume less this Christmas.

Just after Christmas of 2014, I discovered Bea Johnson’s website Zero Waste Home, and then her book. Feeling inspired, I set out on a zero-waste home frenzy. Almost two years later, many of the new habits have stuck, some have been modified to suit our family, and some have just slid off quietly into oblivion.

I was quite adamant, however, about making our Christmas celebrations of 2015 more “zero waste” than before, and although there are still lots of improvement left to be made, I thought I would share some of the tweaks I managed to pull off last year, in time for you to maybe try some of them out.

I had four main areas I where I wanted to make changes.



I made homemade gifts and toys for all of my youngest nieces and nephews. Nativity wood puzzles and Nativity wood blocks, with illustrations from the Caravan Shoppe.


I made bracelet stacks for the teen nieces.


Our oldest son was about to leave on his mission and had asked for a camera to take with him. I pulled out my old trusty Cyber-shot that still worked just fine. (I replaced it a few years ago because I thought I had lost the charger.) I managed to find all the memory cards, cables, chargers, and batteries for it, and re-gifted it to him.

Another son had been borrowing a friend’s charger for his Macbook for almost a year, so we got him a new charger – not a new Macbook.

Some of the other teens received gift cards to the movies. Experiences instead of stuff. My favorite thing to gift.

I made edible gingerbread Christmas greeting cards for our neighbours.


I bought a beautiful photo calendar from a company that donates the proceeds to a local charity.

I asked friends and family to not give me THINGS – but if they absolutely wanted to give me something, they could donate to Doctors Without Borders.

There were other non-zero-waste gifts as well, but baby steps, right?



I normally purchase at least some new decorations for the tree every year, to go with whichever color or theme I had decided on. This year I found a video tutorial on how to make origami stars, and used pages from a thrifted book to make them. After a little practice, I could make one in a couple of minutes. They went on the tree, and I also used them as place cards, and even as small gifts for friends.


The only decoration purchases I made were two brass cones from the thrift store, which were the perfect size to go with this year’s gingerbread house.




On to wrapping – which is probably where most of my efforts went last year.

I made just over 20 super-simple fabric drawstring gift bags in various sizes from material scraps I already had around the house. And when I say super-simple, I mean super simple: 3 straight seams per bag, or 4 max.


I purchased some extra fabric from the thrift store, and I actually even up-cycled an unused roman shade I had and turned that into gift bags as well.

I used white pillowcases and big, red ribbons (which I already had) as gift bags for bigger items.

I didn’t buy any new wrapping paper, but pulled out whatever I had left over from previous years and set up a wrapping station for the rest of the family. But I encouraged them to try the bags before they reached for the paper. (About half of them did.)

I did not buy any new gift tags this year, but used my trusty heart punch from my scrapbooking supplies. I punched out lots of hearts and then punched a hole in each one so they could be attached to the ribbons easily. I also gathered all unused gift tags from previous years that were lying around in various Christmas boxes and drawers, and put them in an envelope at the wrapping station, for easy access.

I still have lots of leftover plastic ribbons from previous years, so they were available in the wrapping station, but I also made sure there were plenty of silk and satin ribbons there too. After the gifts were opened, I carefully collected all the reusable ribbons for future use, thereby reducing the amount of plastic ribbons ending up in the trash.

The biggest and most unexpected bonus about using the bags was actually how much less time it took to wrap the gifts, compared to using paper. (If you don’t count the time actually sewing the bags – but even that took much less time than I thought it would.)



Planning is – as always – key. When we went food shopping before Christmas, we didn’t just throw anything into the cart that we thought we might eat at some point. We stuck to our menu plan. And on the menu plan, for the first time ever, we scheduled a leftovers meal day. We still didn’t manage to eat up all the leftovers, so we had to schedule a second one! We had extended family staying for just over two weeks last Christmas, and although it was tempting to go shopping every day for new meals or eat out, we stuck to our plan. And everyone was well-fed.


Table set for Christmas dinner. In Norway the big formal dinner and opening of gifts takes place on the evening of the 24th.

So there you have it. Nothing extreme or complicated; quite the opposite. It was a simpler and more relaxing approach. Not to mention how good it felt to not be contributing as much to growing landfills!