Published on December 19th, 2016 | by TerraCycle


Eco-Conscious Tips for Last-Minute Holiday Prep

Holiday preparations often bring to mind shopping, wrapping gifts and parties against a backdrop of twinkling lights and whimsical decorations. Understandably, the holidays are also a time that we experience a degree of stress, which may cause us to prioritize convenience over eco-consciousness, especially if we’re dealing with some last-minute holiday prep.

Demands on our time and resources put pressure on us year round, so when the Fall and Winter months creep up, thinking about the environment and ways to scale back on potentially wasteful holiday plans can be difficult.

Last-Minute Holiday Prep

The holidays are so fun– but be mindful about your waste!

With less than a week left before the holiday, keeping it green may seem like a daunting task. But not only can you get it all done without sacrificing your traditions, setting intentions can help you balance out the last-minute holiday frenzy.

Make a list and set a time limit

Whether you are heading out to the supermarket, to the shopping mall or to the local brick-and-mortar shop, the longer you stay in there, the more likely you are to buy things you don’t need. Planning is everything. Writing out a list and crafting up a game plan for your shopping route may seem like a waste when it’s crunch-time. But this exercise in mindfulness will give you clarity, resulting in increased productivity and a better use of that time.

Try your hand at some DIY projects

In these final hours, getting some time for yourself may seem impossible. Keep your head on straight with some of TerraCycle’s holiday DIYs, which include some pretty decorations and bows that will “Wow” guests and the recipients of your thoughtful gifts. Find more options for homemade holiday gifts in our list here.

Buy gifts for use, not for the “big reveal”

Speaking of gifts, one of the most common qualifiers for not being “done” with holiday preparations is that you have not finished getting your gifts in order for friends, family and other loved ones. While you scurry to cross the last names of your list, consider these findings from a recent review of research on the psychology of giving and receiving gifts: one of the biggest mistakes gift givers make is focusing too much on the moment when the recipient will open the gift, instead of how they will use it in real life.

Keep food and alcohol more eco-friendly

Try to opt for local farms, artisan producers, wineries and breweries when planning meals and fixings, as this supports small business and sustainable practices and scales back on transportation and shipping costs. Try to stay away from convenience foods that come with excess packaging.

And this may seem obvious, but the more you cook and prepare your own foods (around the holidays and year-round), the better it is for the environment. Connecting with your food in this way gives you a more accurate idea of what you actually need in regards to entertaining and/or household meal-planning. This cuts down on food waste, which goes beyond wasting money and food that could feed others; food waste in the landfill will release methane, a greenhouse gas, into the air during decomposition. Give the gift of healthy foods for those on your list that love to eat! 

Wrap gifts sustainably

As mentioned in a previous blog, if every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Wrapping gifts with stuff you already have is a challenge of creativity and resourcefulness, and can present some surprising opportunities for recycling and reuse. For example, wrap and tie a scarf that’s part of your gift around a smaller item to make one gift out of two.

Prepare end-of-holiday solutions ahead of time

One of the hardest parts of the holiday is when it’s over: cleaning up, putting away, boxing things and wrapping leftovers. Make plans for each aspect of your holiday celebrations so that you know exactly how to wrap gifts in a sustainable way, instead of going the route of convenience with linear solutions.

last-minute holiday prep

Unwrapping presents will often result in a flurry of bows, ribbon, wrapping paper, gift bags and tissue paper. Open carefully and save what you can to keep these items for next year. Note that many municipal programs do accept wrapping paper for recycling along with regular paper, with the exception of foil wrapping paper or paper with any metallic pieces or flecks.

For things you can no longer use or recycle through your curbside collections, TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Bags boast an assortment of custom waste solutions for the home and office, including the Kitchen Separation Bag, which allows you to recycle things like party supplies, dining disposables (if you happened to use them) and more.

Get the Green Living Ideas book in softcover or PDF for as low as $2.99!

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About the Author

Founded in 2001, TerraCycle, Inc., is the world’s leader in the collection and repurposing of hard-to-recycle post-consumer waste, ranging from used chip bags to coffee capsules to cigarette butts. Each year, across 20 countries, TerraCycle collects and repurposes billions of pieces of waste, donating millions of dollars to schools and charities in the process. To learn more about TerraCycle or get involved in our recycling programs, please visit

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