Christmas is right around the corner, and some of you may have  already had holiday celebrations with friends and family.  I love this  time of year, and I think I’m almost as excited as my three year old for  Christmas morning, but probably for different reasons.

As wonderful and joyous as our celebrations are, they can also leave  us a little stressed and overwhelmed trying to deal with all the  cleaning up once the holidays have passed.

There are a few things we can do ahead of time to help make our  post-celebration clean ups easier for us and on the earth.

Reduce Waste Before Christmas

We can begin  by striving to reduce the amount of disposable products we use for our  holiday celebrations which means there is less waste to fill up garbage  bags and landfills afterward.

Parties and Dinners

If you are hosting a holiday party or dinner, use real dishes,  silverware, glasses and cloth napkins.  Consider borrowing from a friend if  you don’t have enough place settings to cover the number of people you  will be hosting.

Or if you often host larger get-togethers and use disposable  products, consider investing in an inexpensive set of dishes or  silverware to use on such occasions.

Photo by Emily McClements

Wrapping Gifts

Katie already gave us some great ideas for eco-friendly gift  wrap, so if you’re anything like my family and haven’t wrapped your  gifts yet, be sure to check out her post and use reusable, recycled or recycleable materials to wrap your presents this year.

My favorite way to wrap gifts is with fabric gift bags that my sister made me as a gift a few years ago.  No scissors, cutting, folding or tape necessary. Just gather the top together and tie with a ribbon. Simple, easy and beautiful.

A few other great last-minute gift wrap ideas are using a bandanna or  large scarf to wrap around a present and tie the ends together at the  top. Or you can even use a pillowcase as a fabric gift bag in a pinch –  just add a festive holiday ribbon to make it pretty enough to sit with  other presents under the tree.

Reuse After Christmas

We can also plan ahead with ideas for saving, reusing and repurposing items to help us deal with the post-holiday mess.

Packing Materials

Make an effort to keep and reuse as many packing and wrapping materials as you can.  Boxes can be saved and reused to hold miscellaneous gifts year after year. One of the jokes on Christmas morning when I was growing up was unwrapping a box for all-beef hamburger patties and exclaiming, “Oh, this is just what I’ve always wanted!” although not actually knowing what the present was inside the box.

Tissue paper can be folded and reused to wrap around gifts again.  Paper gift bags can be passed on until the handles start to fall off or the bottom gives out.

Reuse bubble wrap (that hasn’t been popped yet by little hands) as an insulator for your windows. With our old, drafty windows, I’m hoping to get some extra bubble wrap from my extended family to fill in the ones in my kids’ and master bedrooms.

Packing paper is great for arts and crafts, and you can even have your kids paint or draw on it and then use it to wrap a gift next Christmas.

Photo by WordRidden

Christmas Cards

Katie also has some great ideas for what to do with Christmas cards after the holidays that she shared at Green…Your Way.  There  are even more ideas in the comments, my favorite one is cutting the  fronts off of traditional cards and using them as a post card for a  thank you note. The card gets used twice, and you save on buying thank  you notes and on postage!


Give new life to holiday decorations that you may be growing tired of,  and find new inspiration for decorating your home next year, by hosting a  decorations swap with your friends after Christmas. Instead of packing  up all your decorations again, invite a few friends over and ask everyone to bring several decorations they don’t really  use, or aren’t their favorite, to exchange.

When everyone gets together and displays all of their unused or  unloved decorations, you may find the perfect tree-topper, or table  runner, or candle arrangement.  And someone else may love that garland  or wreath that you just couldn’t find a good spot for in your home.

Hosting a decorations swap can help to keep holiday decorations out of  the landfills, saves you money on buying new decorations, and keeps you  from holding onto decorations that you don’t really use, and end up just  cluttering your house.

We can be kind to the earth during and after the holidays by being mindful of the materials that we use for our celebrations, as well as the ways we can reuse and repurpose items instead of just throwing them in the trash.

How do you reuse and repurpose holiday items?  What do you do with your old Christmas decorations?