County Zero Waste Team Provides Sustainable Holiday And Gift Giving Guide


  • Zero Waste Tip: Give the gift of quality time to family and friends.

Americans throw away 25 percent more waste during the winter holidays than at any other time of the year.

For this holiday season, the Zero Waste Team would like to offer a few ideas to have a sustainable holiday and give gifts with a lower carbon footprint and less waste.

These suggestions can inspire a different approach to make holidays special while reducing material waste and the carbon footprint. The gift of our time and connection with family and friends is often more enjoyable than yet another item.

How to Have a Sustainable Holiday:

  • Reduce food waste! We all throw out around 40 percent of our food (an accepted number throughout the food waste research community), and the holidays only increase the amount of consumable food that is wasted. Send food home with someone from a potluck, eat those leftovers, prioritize produce in the fridge, re-use leftovers and aging produce in creative ways like making soup, or freeze it to eat later.
  • Turn the thermostat down by 2 degrees, then put on an ugly holiday sweater. For every degree reduced, it can save between 1 and 3 percent on the heating bill.  ( Open the curtains and let in that gorgeous New Mexico sunshine during the day, and close them again at night for extra insulation. Setting the temperature low before leaving for any trips saves both money and energy.
  • Try Reusable Gift Wrap. Holiday fabrics of all kinds makes for fun, re-usable gift wrap. Try using pillowcases or pieces of cloth to wrap up gifts or re-using ribbon and bows. If every family saved and reused even just two feet of holiday ribbon, it would be enough to wrap the entire planet in a bow ( Newspaper/funnies makes for fun wrapping, too.
  • Put a timer on those lights! This can reduce the energy bill and uses less power. Use a timer on house lights too, if leaving for the holidays.

Sustainable Gift Giving Ideas:

  • The aviation sector currently accounts for about 2.5 percent of global emissions, and is one of the fastest-growing carbon emitters on Earth. For a friend who flies a lot, how about a gift of a carbon offset? Cool Effect is one source of offsets ( Or, if the person has a favorite reforestation or climate organization, just make a donation.
  • Try giving a Zero Waste kit for dining out. Include a washable cloth napkin, stainless steel straw, a reusable container, washable travel mug and flatware.
  • For the exercise enthusiast, consider the gift of a pass or membership to a local fitness center, the ski hill, ice rink, or swimming pool.
  • An aspiring artist might enjoy a gift certificate for a class at Fuller Lodge Art Center or UNM-LA in pottery/ceramics, oil or water-color painting, drawing, or stained glass.
  • For the musician on your list, how about a certificate for a series of lessons or for local maintenance, repair, accessories or parts for instruments?
  • For the life-long learners, the gift of tuition for a class might be appropriate.
  • A self care gift certificate such as a massage, acupuncture, float, or hair and nail care.
  • Animal lovers are easy to please. If they are animal guardians, a gift certificate to the local pet shop or a pet groomer will help them care for a furry, reptilian, or amphibious friend. Horse guardians are a gift class unto themselves. They always enjoy an equine gift certificate for themselves and their horses, regardless of what they already have. Our local pet shop carries equine supplies.
  • If someone has difficulty with mobility, a wonderful gift is to prepare and share a meal with the individual.
  • Buy tickets for going to the movies, theater, opera, museum, concert, theme park or sports events.

For more information on how to get involved with the Zero Waste team, email