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There are number of ways to reduce our plastic when it comes to the holidays.

Advent Calendars: Choose reusable advent calendar. If you wish to wrap individual advent gifts then use old magazines, newspapers, books or reuse wrapping paper from previous gifts. If your crafty, you can sew little bags for small gifts to create a hanging advent calendar that can be used year after year. 

Plastic-free Gift Ideas:

  • Candy
  • Homemade bookmarks
  • Pencils
  • Socks or other small, useful items of apparel
  • Body care products like soaps, bath bombs, toothpaste and bamboo toothbrushes
  • Used toys
  • Wooden pencils (you can break up a pack and give 1-3 at a time)
  • Hair ties (eco-friendly)
  • Reusable straws
  • Printouts of mazes and coloring sheets (many like these are available online for free)
  • A glass jar or paper sachet of gourmet cereal
  • Popcorn
  • Wooden toys, e.g., a few blocks at a time is often plenty
  • Holiday-themed books, preferably used
  • A paper sachet of hot cocoa mix
  • Cress seeds (fun and easy to sew and watch grow)
  • Small non-plastic game or puzzle
  • A ball of yarn for finger-knitting or cat’s cradle
  • Metal gingerbread molds for making baked goods, holiday decorations or stamps to create wrapping paper.
  • Prepared materials for paper chains, paper strips to staple together or popcorn, thread and needle to make popcorn garlands.

Another great idea is creating an advent calendar that centers on different activities we can spend together.

Ideas for family activities: 

  • Game night
  • Baking
  • Outdoor winter fun, like making a snowman, sledding skiing or ice skating
  • Crafting projects
  • Making homemade play dough
  • A walk to see the holiday lights
  • A trip downtown
  • Cozy night at home (popcorn and movie)
  • Making holiday candies
  • Visit a museum to discover how the holidays were celebrated in olden times
  • Visit the library for holiday crafts, group story time or to find holiday books to read together
  • Write out holiday songs and sing them together

Of course, there’s no reason to choose one or the other. A mix of gifts and activities is always a great way to go.

Even the Yuletide Lads like to go plastic-free! Here are some items they are known to bring as shoe-stuffers:

  • Candy
  • Homemade bookmarks
  • Pencils
  • Socks or other small, useful items of apparel
  • Body care products like soaps, bath bombs, toothpaste and bamboo toothbrushes
  • Used Playmobil, Lego or other building toys
  • Wooden pencils
  • Hair ties (eco-friendly)
  • Reusable straws
  • Baked goods (good for those yuletide lads who wake up early)
  • Printouts of mazes and coloring sheets (many like these are available online for free)
  • A glass jar or paper sachet of gourmet cereal
  • Popcorn
  • Wooden toys, e.g., a few blocks at a time is often plenty
  • Holiday-themed books, preferably used
  • A paper sachet of hot cocoa mix
  • Cress seeds (fun and easy to sew and watch grow)
  • Small non-plastic game or puzzle
  • A ball of yarn for finger-knitting or cat’s cradle
  • Metal gingerbread molds for making baked goods, holiday decorations or stamps to create wrapping paper.
  • Prepared materials for paper chains, paper strips to staple together or popcorn, thread and needle to make popcorn garlands.

Holiday Crafts: Center crafting projects on items that you already have on hand around the house. Make origami, bookmarks, gift boxes and other items from old books and magazines. Make a lovely new gift candle from candle stubs and place them in glass jars decorated with items like dried leaves or sea salt.

Holiday Baking: Try to source baking supplies that are package-free or plastic -free. Use reusable baking mats instead of disposable parchment liners or simply grease your cookie sheets. 

Holiday Clothing: Using dressy clothes that you already own is an eco-friendly way to celebrate the holidays, or buying used clothes.

Holiday Decorations:  

  • Use what you already have on hand 
  • Buy used
  • Make yourself

Holiday Cards: Send e-cards. Or for those who want to send paper cards, make them yourself from materials you already have on hand, like old holiday cards, decorative packaging or kids artwork.

Christmas Trees: 

  • Potted Christmas trees and be used year after year
  • Buy or make a wooden Christmas tree, as was the tradition in Iceland in earlier years  
  • Use an artificial tree if you already have one
  • Buy from a local forest association that plants a new tree for every tree purchased. Decline the plastic netting when transporting your tree.

Wrapping: Reuse wrapping paper from last year, old books, papers, newspapers or advertising brochures. Sew reusable gift bags from textiles you already have on hand like old duvet covers or table clothes. Or buy inexpensive material from thrift stores. Reuse old holiday cards and gift tags. Choose plastic-free tape and ribbon or reuse ribbon from previous gifts. You can always decorate packages with pinecones or twigs or make origami ornaments from old paper.

Alternative Holiday Gifts:

  • Decide to forgo gifts 
  • Make a donation in someone’s name
  • Make gift certificates for baby sitting, dinner parties or game nights
  • Gift certificates for activities or events
  • Magazine subscription (online or conventional)
  • Local Icelandic crafts
  • Something that can be used up like food items, eco-friendly body care products or Icelandic essential oils
  • Objects the encourage an eco-friendly lifestyle like reusable cotton rounds, a water bottle or a travel set of reusable utensils.
  • Knit a sweater, mittens, socks, scarf or dish cloths
  • Crochet cotton rounds, table cloth, blanket or dish cloths
  • Homemade treats like candies, jams or cookies
  • Used household goods or clothes
  • Books, used or new but preferably not wrapped in plastic
  • A library membership or membership to other shared-access networks like a tool library, equipment library or bike-sharing or e-scooter-sharing network
  • Membership to an audiobook network or music subscription service
  • Gjafabréf á hjlóðbókaveitu eða tónlistarveitu
  • If you do buy new items, choose items that are eco-certified like those carrying the green swan Nordic Ecolabel. Likewise, choose apparel carrying an eco-certification like OEKO-TEX® or GOTS.

Have something to say? Engage with others in our Plastlaus september discussion groups on Facebook or send us a message over email.

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