Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations

Piles of wrapping paper. Broken Christmas lights and ornaments. Browning trees resting on the curb. When you peel back the wrapping, the holiday season sure is full of trash.

Americans create 25 percent more waste in the month between Thanksgiving and New Years. That adds up to an extra 1 million tons of trash that go straight to the landfill or end up in the ocean.

Celebrate the holidays without the waste or the clutter with these zero waste Christmas decorations.

Cranberry and Popcorn Garlands

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Cranberry and Popcorn Garland
Reading My Tea Leaves

Compostable garlands are great to decorate your tree or hang around the house. Erin from Reading My Tea Leaves used cranberry and popcorn to create beautiful, mostly kid-proof decorations.


Petite Rosemary Wreath

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Rosemary Wreaths from Spoon Fork Bacon
Spoon Fork Bacon

Whether you are using them as place cards or just sprinkling them around the house, these little rosemary wreaths from Spoon Fork Bacon can be made out of compostable materials. They will also add a lovely scent.


Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Applesauce cinnamon ornaments
Katy Elliott

These clever ornaments or gift tags from Katy Elliott are made of two ingredients – cinnamon and apple sauce. They also smell divine.


DIY Eucalyptus Garland

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY Eucalyptus Garland via Homey Oh My
Homey Oh My

Decorations don’t have to be overly complicated or heavy. This DIY garland from Homey Oh My is a beautiful addition throughout the winter.


Felt Ornaments

Felt Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Ornaments via Purl Soho
Purl Soho

I’m such a sucker for plush ornaments. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about them that feels cozy and inviting. These ornaments from Purl Soho will last for years, and you can make them out of repurposed felt. They also seem like a great activity for kids on a cold winter day. (These snowball ornaments from Purl Soho are also great.)


Paper Snowflakes

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Paper Snowflakes via iheart Organizing

IHeart Organizing

These aren’t the clunky snowflakes you made in elementary school. Jen and her family at IHeart Organizing made their decorations in a single night.


Tree Trimmings

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Mason Jar Tree Trimmings
A Barefoot Day

Clippings make a great alternate to an entire tree. You can also take your tree trimmings and spread them around the house to enjoy the scent and the festivities everywhere.


Pine Cone Garland

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Pine Cone Garland The Sweetest Ocassion
The Sweetest Ocassion

My mom still has pine cones my brother and I painted in elementary school. This pine cone garland from The Sweetest Occasion is a bit more chic than those are, but the spirit is still there. Skip the paint to make these compostable and zero waste.


DIY Fresh Mini Trees

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY Mini Christmas Tree from Trimmings via Say Yes
Say Yes

Next year I should make one of these adorable mini trees from Say Yes for our tiny house. Make these without the hot glue in order to reuse the base and compost the top.


Foraged Garland or Mantle Decoration

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Foraged Garland Style Me Pretty
Style Me Pretty

Not only do you get a lovely winter walk in, but you get a free, stunning decoration. The incredible women behind Petal Floral Designs shared their tips for how to make your own on Style Me Pretty.


Floral Tree

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY Floral Tree
Design Love Fest

I’ve never seen anything quite like this. The results are stunning. I would imagine the downside would be that the flowers aren’t going to last very long resting in the tree without water. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take Design Love Fest‘s idea and use hardy winter berries or other longer lasting plants.


Cinnamon Stick Himmeli

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY cinnamon stick himmeli

You can’t beat the smell of cinnamon on a cold, dark day. Jojotastic created these beautiful decorations out of cinnamon sticks and twine. Use cotton thread and leave out (or save) the wooden beads to make these compostable.


More on celebrating the holidays sustainably:

Sustainable Christmas Lights

Minimalist Gift Ideas

15+ Christmas Cookies to Gift (And Eat Right Now)

Homemade Beauty Gifts

Last-Minute Homemade Gift Ideas

Sustainable Gift Wrap

Why You Should Celebrate a Minimalist Christmas

15+ Christmas Cookies to Gift (And Eat Right Now)

Yes, yes, the decorations are lovely, but hands down my favorite part of holiday festivities (after the people) are the Christmas cookies. For years my mom and I have made big plates of Christmas cookies and wintery desserts to give out as gifts. I love spending the time together in the kitchen… and eating all of the gooey cookies straight out of the oven.

This year my boyfriend and I decided to forgo any decorations in our small space since we were both going home for Christmas. Instead, we are making a batch of cookies each week to eat and share. It’s also my first year baking 100 percent gluten-free, and so far, two weeks in, it’s going great!

Christmas Cookies to Gift

Christmas Cookies and Other Goodies to Gift

These are all cookies that look beautiful, hold up well, and feel special as a gift. But I beg you, don’t forget to save some for you too.

Christmas Cookies to Gift

Easy Shortbread Cookies

I love taking the dough for these and splitting them into different cookies. I’ve made them with cranberries, topped them with jam, and even sprinkled them with candy cane pieces. I’ll be adapting them to gluten-free flour this year.

Chocolate Chip Cookies Stuffed with Nutella

I used to work with Dzung from Honeysuckle Catering at Sunset, and people would go CRAZY for her cookies. We would seriously run down the halls to try to get there first. They go FAST.

I’ve only had her original version (just leave out the Nutella for the recipe), but the look on people’s faces when they bite into this Nutella stuffed version is pure heaven.

Zebra Cookies

My brother asks for these every year. You probably should too.

Soft and Chewy Ginger Cookies (GF)

I’ve made these twice… in the past two weeks. If sugar wasn’t bad for you (and I wouldn’t get sick) I would make them when no one was home and eat the whole batch.


Bonus: These cookies look amazing, but they are all cookies I haven’t made yet so I can’t vouch for their tastiness.

Super Soft Gluten-free Sugar Cookies (GF, V)

Chocolate Brownie Cookies (GF)

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I’m a sucker for salted chocolate chip cookies. The sheer number I have eaten is unreal. I might just need to try to make these gluten free with my own flour blend…

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies 

These have a vegetable in them (pumpkin), therefore they are good for you.

Homemade Salted Butter Caramels

Chocolate Loaf Cake

This recipe makes my mouth water every time I see the picture on my Pinterest. It doesn’t help that it’s the cover photo for my dessert board.

Clementine Butter Cookies

I’m usually a fan of thick, chewy cookies, but these thin cookies look soft enough to melt in your mouth.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Natural ingredients, beautiful finished product.

Christmas Cookies to Gift

Raspberry Hand Pies (GF, V)

I would cry tears of pure joy if someone gave me buttery, homemade gluten-free hand pies. Huge hint.

Cookies to Eat Right Now

Christmas Cookies to Gift – healthy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

My Standby ‘Healthy’ Oatmeal Cookies

Gingerbread Men (GF)

Sure, you could give these away. But why would you share them?

A photo posted by Angela Liddon (@ohsheglows) on

Jumbo Chocolate Chunk Cookies (GF, V)

You only have to dirty a single bowl.

Perfect Holiday Party Treats

These treats are the perfect thing to share.

Chocolate Molten Cakes in a Cupcake Pan (GF option)

I made these for a work holiday party last year and they were a huge hit. They worked out great with gluten-free flour.

Chocolate Sheet Cake (GF Option)

This recipe feeds a crowd and comes together FAST. I’m so happy to just pour on frosting and be done with it. Plus, just grab the entire sheet and go. You can decorate it like the cake above or make your own chocolate trees. I won’t tell if you just leave it plain too.

2-Ingredient Dark Chocolate Truffles (GF, V)

People go crazy for little bites. Especially if it’s something that is relatively healthy.

Minimalist Christmas

As kids we are taught to have a Christmas list where we put all of the things we even vaguely want, and they magically appear for us. We are never told about the debt many people accrue over the season or the environmental impact of all of the gifts that end up shoved in the back of our closets.

For months we are bombarded with ads that make the holidays look like some sort of shopping utopia. People often confuse the joy of the holiday season with the short excitement and anticipation they get from receiving new things and buying gifts for other people.


I want the holidays to be about spending time with my friends and family. I want sip on warm drinks under twinkling lights. I want to remember the laughs we had at the table and the time my mom made the turkey walk the plank. I want to put my feet up, grab my book, and relax during the shortest days of the year.

I feel sad when I drive past a packed mall parking lot and when I hear people talk about how stressful December is for them. The ads and the special packaging and the holiday cups and the “deals” seem to make us less and less happy with what we already have.

We’re missing the point. And it’s making us miserable.

When I first started actively pursuing less, I didn’t really know how to handle the holidays. I wanted a minimalist Christmas… but I didn’t even know what that meant. When faced with questions about what I wanted, I ended up only asking for things I needed. Which was great, but it didn’t solve the root of my problem.

I wish there wasn’t so much pressure to ask for things.

What if we don’t ask for anything? What if we don’t want anything?

My family is fully supportive of my efforts to reduce the amount of things I own and my impact on the world. They have thoughtfully given me amazing things like yoga classes or the entry fee for a race I’d like to do. They didn’t laugh at me when I asked for socks or a salad spinner. But my friends are a little less certain of what I’m doing, and I feel pressure to reciprocate with little things they probably won’t use either. At work we traditionally do a novelty t-shirt exchange, and I was torn between sitting out so no one would waste money on something I wouldn’t use and joining in on the office-wide fun. I opted to join in and instead ask for a poster that I could hang up at my desk (something that I will actually use that will have less of a carbon footprint than a t-shirt).

I’ve found that living with less is particularly challenging around the holidays. Relatives and friends are constantly asking what’s on your list. People give you funny looks or think you are being difficult when you say you don’t want anything. Really.

No one wants to be the Grinch.

But at the same time, being open and honest about what you really want (“I’d love to spend some time with you. What if we went out for coffee and a movie instead of exchanging gifts this year?”) makes everyone happier in the long run. People are buying gifts to bring joy to someone else. They aren’t trying to clutter your home or challenge your beliefs.

It’s uncomfortable at first, but the more I talk about it and the more I express what I really want, the happier I am (and hopefully my friends and family are too).

A Merry Minimalist Christmas

This Christmas my family decided that instead of giving each other gifts we were going to put the money we would have spent toward our family vacation in August.

I know what you are thinking, ‘Wait, no presents under the tree?!?’ but before you completely freak out, it’s not as scary as you think.


It was quite liberating to not have to worry about getting the right thing or fitting new items into our already full lives and to enjoy a minimalist Christmas. (I am still abiding by my ‘one in one out’ rule, so the thought of new things made me slightly anxious of what exactly would get the boot.)

And Christmas didn’t feel any less joyous. We filled each other’s stockings with fun magazines, a cookbook for the whole family to enjoy, and of course, chocolate. We made cookies and laughed about the sad state of our seen-better-days artificial tree.

In years past we had wrapped our gifts in repurposed or reusable materials, requested things we really needed, and gave each other delicious treats. And while all of those years were great, there was something special about this year. I can’t wait to have a blast together this summer.

Sustainable Christmas Lights

In the darkest part of the year it’s hard to deny the beauty of trees and homes sparkling. But all of those Christmas lights drain our electricity and rack up massive bills. Electricity usage spikes a staggering 39 percent during the holidays. Holiday lights alone use more than six terrawatt hours every year, which is enough to power 500,000 homes for a month. Collectively Americans’ Christmas lights consume more electricity than entire countries use in a year.

Sustainable Christmas Lights and Decorations

But you don’t have to go full on Grinch to save electricity and celebrate sustainably. There are easy, inexpensive changes you can make to reduce your impact throughout the holiday season.

Sustainable Christmas lights tips:

1. Only use Christmas lights for a few hours per day.

For outdoor lights, a good rule of thumb is to turn them on once the sky is completely dark and turn them off as soon as the first person in your house goes to bed. Don’t forget to turn off the lights on your tree before you go to bed and consider only plugging them back in once the sun has set the next day.


2. Put your lights on a timer.

You no longer have to worry about if you turned them off and they are always on at the perfect time.


3. Invest in LED lights.

They are less expensive than they used to be, and they pay for themselves over their lifetime in the amount of energy saved. They last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use 90 percent less electricity. I even have a pair in my room that I use when I don’t feel like having a bright lamp on, and the light they give out is softer and easier to look at then the original LED Christmas lights were.


4. If you can see your house from space, it’s too much.

Do you really need that many strands of lights? Instead of covering every inch of your home in lights, consider just doing the outline of the roof or a single tree. Highlight what you want with your lights instead of blinding your neighbors and drivers. Same goes for your tree, if it hurts to look at, it’s way too much. Try to cut back to two or three strands of lights.


5. Avoid the blow up creatures that live on people’s lawns.

Not only do they require a lot of energy, but they are also noisy and not made out of sustainable materials. Instead, consider making your own figures out of wood or other sustainable materials. Pinterest has some great DIYs for wooden outdoor holiday decorations or you can find handmade decorations on Etsy.


6. Stick with the classics.

The multicolored strobing neon lights seem really cool this year, along with the plastic snowflakes and figures that light up, but will those still be useful in 10 years? Pick timeless shapes and colors that will not become outdated before they run out of life. The average LED light when treated well is expected to live at least 20 years, that’s a long time to be looking at Santa’s belly light up.

To see out how much energy your new LED lights can save or how much your old lights use, check out this calculator.

Updated Dec. 2016. 


More on celebrating the holidays sustainably:

Minimalist Gift Ideas

15+ Christmas Cookies to Gift (And Eat Right Now)

Homemade Beauty Gifts

Last-Minute Homemade Gift Ideas

Sustainable Gift Wrap

Why You Should Celebrate a Minimalist Christmas

Christmas Break

Today is my first real day of Christmas break, and I am enjoying it to the fullest. I woke up and read “Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness,” by Scott Jurek (more on that later) for an hour. I will finally massively clean our apartment today and watch some truly horrible Christmas themed TV later. I can’t wait to finally take a deep breath, catch up, and enjoy my last break before the real world is beating down my door in a few months.

It’s incredibly wonderful to be able to relax and do exactly what I want. Even though I have work to do today, and for the rest of break, at least it’s doing things I love.

Christmas Confusion

It’s that time of year. Malls are packed, the television is constantly trying to convince me I need something, and shopping bags and coffee cups are dressed in red and white. It seems like every year the “official” Christmas season starts earlier and earlier.

But with Thanksgiving a week away and Christmas barreling down the corner, I am starting to feel the holiday pressure. I have holiday baking on my mind (mostly because I want to eat the cookies) and gift ideas randomly written on my homework.

I have started my hunt for gift ideas of things I can make, and so far I am overwhelmed and unsure. Every year I either make gifts or give things that people really need and will use regularly (as stated by them, not just my imagination). But this year I am more or less at a loss.

What are you making people this year? How are you feeling this holiday season?

Christmas Eve in the kitchen

Every year my family and I spend a great deal of time over the holidays in the kitchen. Whether we are cooking our meal or baking for friends and family, we typically have a great time turning simple ingredients into great food. 

This year I made sweet potato fries to keep us fueled for our long day ahead. 

We made most of the deserts that we are giving away today, including homemade peppermint bark, Linzer cookies three ways, and “Zebra Cookies.” Tomorrow we will make cream puffs and put our holiday plates together to give as gifts. 

These are my favorite cookies. I love biting into them and having the delicious, flavorful jam burst out. They are just the right hint of sweet and fruity. I made sure we made extra of these so we would have plenty to keep after we give away our plates. 

Last year I got my wisdom teeth removed a week before Christmas. On Christmas day I still could not eat solid food, and I missed the chance to eat all of the amazing holiday treats. To make up for my missed chances last year, we made a lot of cookies and peppermint bark. The snowflake cookies above are drizzled in chocolate and topped with crushed candy cane that was left over from our peppermint bark. We made them on a whim, but they turned out great. 

In order to make the most out of the dough, we split our batch into thirds and made one the jam, another the snow flakes, and the last one we chopped up dried cranberries and added them in. We finished them with a light drizzle of orange icing (made by simply adding juice from a fresh orange to powdered sugar until we liked the consistency). 
I hope you all are enjoying your holiday weekend as much as I am. Merry Christmas.