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The holidays are a time for many cheery things—including (but not limited to) festive parties and Michael Bublé on repeat—but they’re also full of excess. Between scraps of cast-aside wrapping paper and single-use cocktail glasses, December inadvertently ends up being a pretty wasteful month. To help make this season a little kinder to Mother Earth, we tapped Christine Liu, a California-based sustainability expert and author of Sustainable Home, who has some seriously smart tips for going zero-waste (or as close as possible) for the holidays.

You don’t have to forgo gifts or resort to Scrooge-like tactics to cut down on contributing to landfills during the festive season. Liu believes it’s all about making small but meaningful swaps that build up over time—something as simple as switching out the gift wrap you use can go a long way. Her philosophy isn’t about cooking a feast made entirely from freezer leftovers or gifting compost bins to everyone this Christmas. Liu’s approach is realistic and actually doable—which makes it right up our alley. 

Here’s how she tackles everything from cooking to tree trimmings: 

On Gift Wrapping

“Reuse lightly-folded gift wrapping or be sure to opt for recyclable paper and twine. Add a few elements like dried leaves” and pinecones for a natural touch—or choose a reusable Japanese furoshiki wrap.”

On What to Give

“Gift giving doesn’t have to be wasteful! I like to give experiences, such as classes or concert tickets…but if you prefer physical gifts, browse Etsy for artisan-made, eco-friendly products. Also, ask the seller to place everything in recyclable, paper-based packaging.”

On Cooking

“Buy only what you need based on how many people you’ll be serving. If you have leftover produce scraps, save them in the freezer to make your own homemade veggie broth. After the party, be sure to freeze leftovers for a rainy day and reheat them for a yummy holiday meal later.”

On Decking the Halls

“Try DIY natural garlands made of pine, pinecones, or even dried fruit that you can compost afterward, instead of anything plastic. If you’re looking to purchase ornaments, look to smaller artisans for eco-friendly alternatives.”  (Psst: We love Fredericks & Mae and Favor for scoring those unique-looking trinkets.)  

On Entertaining

“Always use durables (reusable glasses, silverware, plates, and linens) when hosting. If you don’t have enough, suggest that people bring their own set; you can also ask that they bring food with minimal packaging for hostess gifts. For example, going to a local bakery with a container to pick up those sweet treats, instead of getting them in a disposable box.”

Ready to get in the holiday spirit (in eco-friendly fashion, of course)? These smart staples will come in handy year after year:

See more ways to be sustainable this year: Reusable Paper Towels Might Be the Best Thing to Happen to Your Kitchen Make Those 8 Cups of Water a Done Deal With a Filtering Water Pitcher Could You Go Trash-Free for 24 Hours?