(almost) zero waste packaging

Filed in Blog by on December 22, 2008 20 Comments
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Christmas hamper 2I’m feeling a bit pleased with myself. You might remember that I don’t do artistry in any form. Making cards, knitting things, sewing, painting – I leave it all to the experts.

Ask me to create a meal from nothing or write a few thousand words on a subject close to my heart then I’m your gal, but home grown decorations and cards; forget it.

I have the ideas; it’s just I need someone else to actually do the work and make the product metamorphose from idea to reality.

This weekend, however, Grandma and Granddad Green and I exchanged Christmas presents. Food is their thing; a nice meal, copious amounts of coffee and a good wine is the name of the game for them.

This week in Lidls, they were selling wooden crates of oranges. They looked gorgeous and my one creative sinew flexed a bit when I laid my eyes upon these beauties.

Little miss green is getting over the lurgy, so I figured freshly squeezed orange juice a couple of times a day would be just the ticket for full recovery. Whatsmore, this cute wooden crate would be the real deal for creating a hamper.

I lined the bottom of the hamper with rafia (straw would have been great, but I didn’t have a spare bale lying around). Onto the rafia bed were placed two bottles of wine, some local coffee, a couple of bars of organic burpilicous chocolate and a voucher for one of their favourite eating houses.

I even surpassed myself by studding an orange with some cloves for a festive twist. Ok, so it had a bit of foil ribbon around it, but I don’t pretend to be perfect (yet).

A tag made from last years Christmas cards and voila! An edible Christmas present with some recycable / reusable packaging. Perhaps I’ll even get the crate back to use as kindling 😉

Tell me about your zero waste presents and packaging ideas. What have been the biggest successes so far?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (20)

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  1. Hi Mrs Green,

    “Almost Zero-Waste Packaging” is good enough at this time of year. My own efforts will be compromised by Christmas realities. As it is the first attempt at it, we should not be too self-critical.

    The gifts and food from my own family and friends, I expect to be non zero waste to put it mildly. It will be a worthwhile exercise to tabulate all the waste. Then a strategy for next year can be developed to make a difference, hopefully.

  2. Kris says:

    That looks really beautiful Mrs G 🙂

    I’ve made a decision this year to use up wrapping paper that I already have and for next year, look for gorgeous cloth bags/sacks to use instead.

  3. My daughter is busy knitting me up a gift! I will be putting the finishing touches on it (sewing on the buttons) but it’s going to be gorgeous, unique, and useful. I’ll try to remember to post pix!

  4. And excuse me – phone interrupted my thought. I meant to say I’d be absolutely thrilled to receive the gift you’ve put together. I adore the feel of presents received in natural materials.

  5. ClaraP says:

    Hey Mrs G – the hamper looks gorgeous! Lucky lucky parents. I did food a few years back. What I remember most is making ornamental bottles of oil with chillies and garlic in. I remember these, because the chillies and garlic went mouldy on everyone without exception after about a month. Was hilarious! This year, I have cut up a lot of old clothes, and have made: 2 teddy bears, 1 pig-shaped, rice filled doorstop and a bookmark. I can send you a picture if you like : ). I have had SUCH a gorgeous time sitting and sewing … and it has been a zero waste experience too! 1)recycled clothing, 2) I did buy a new sewing kit which came in a box, but I am using the box for the piggy doorstop. And 3) I did buy organic cotton wool for teddy stuffing, which came in a plastic drawstring bag, but I’m going to use the drawstring bag as a wash bag once it’s empty, as I don’t have one any more!

  6. Oh ClaraP, so sorry about your mouldy oil gift. I suggest herbs as well; one year I was big into making my own herbed oil and I’ll do it again once my garden is ready. So easy – garlic cloves and lots of herbs. And yeah, I gave those out as gifts. Great for dipping bread or salads or cooking. Yum! So glad you mentioned this; I’d totally forgotten.

  7. indiebird says:

    Ooooh lovely Mrs G!! Well-done you! I love your clove=studded orange….I need to have a go at that sometime soon, the kids would love it!! If I don’t get back before xmas have a lovely onexxxxx

  8. Now that looks a gorgeous gift. If you need any more boxes like that, you should check out your local market, which is what citrus fruit are often delivered in before they’re displayed in bowls and baskets. You may be able to pick up some free packaging and save some more things from going to waste. xx

  9. Mrs Green says:

    Hi John,
    yep, we soon realised that a true zero waste christmas was virtually impossible. We’re happy with a compromise on this, and so far so good 🙂 Good luck with your family; do keep a record of things and let us know how you get on.

    Kris, I love the reusable bag idea; I know some people who visit the site have been busy making morsbags; perhaps my new years resolution should be to overcome my fear of sewing and teach myself to make them!

    Hi Thinking Woman; it’s lovely that your daughter is making you a gift – she’s very talented and is learning some great skills that will evolve as she grows up 🙂 Enjoy your present!

    Clara – you’ve been really resourceful and your gifts sound gorgeous. I would LOVE to see a pic please! Could you email it to me? Thanks for the heads up about the oils; how weird things went mouldy. You’d think that the garlic would preserve things beautifully. Sewing is unlikely to go off, so is probably a better choice LOL! and it sounds like you have created a truly zero waste experience for yourself. Very inspiring – thank you for sharing 🙂

    Thanks Indiebird – you have a wonderful time too and I hope you get chance to make the clove studded orange. It is now hanging on my parent’s tree. They smell SO gorgeous!

    Thanks for the tip Mrs A – We have a local grocer, so I’ll see if he can put things to one side for me 🙂

  10. what a healthful gift, an orange pomander to hang in the closet to scare the moths and perfume the cloth. some beneficial resveratrol in the enjoyable form of a wine sampler. the orange could even be steeped into hot red wine to cure all ills and rheumatism too.
    a Christmasy sangria anyone? just slice orange between cloves and float in punch bowl with a couple of bay leaves and banish all bad, forgive all deeds, instant purification ritual…
    now that the sun is catching up with the moon, the slippers are warm and the fireplace sings, i send the song of the coyote and the longing of the buffalo across the cold waters toward you, cozy winter to all of you.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    Hi nadine, always a pleasure to see your face here. I hope you had a good Christmas. Orange oil steeped in wine sounds wonderful and a cure for all ailments from A-Z!
    My slippers are indeed warm, I had an alpaca pair for Christmas 😉

  12. Condo Blues says:

    This year my dog’s gifts were zero waste! My sister and I don’t feed our dogs food or treats containing corn or wheat. I made both dogs allergy free peanut butter treats that I packaged in empty spaghetti sauce jars that look like canning jars. I also made them braided fleece chew toys out of scrap fleece.

    Christmas is the one day out of the year that my dog is allowed to rip and maul paper. To make it easier for him to “unwrap” his gifts I put them in gift bags. I glue an old Chrismas card, etc. over the logo from a paper holiday bags I get from the store, since he may shred them anyway although he hasn’t done this in the last 4 years. So I just keep reusing his gift bags for him until they become compost fodder.

  13. ClaraP says:

    Condo Blues I loved your comment! I am gearing up to working out how to “green” my cats … any advice would be much appreciated, and I thought I might do a little blog on it if I get enough useful material together.

  14. Poppy says:

    Hi Clara, my mission is the same as yours. I have a pair of 4 month old babes that have until now, mainly been fed on pouched foods. I cringe when I think of the amount of empty pouches that I have sent to landfill 🙁 When this last box has gone though, they will be on tins, foil packs or fresh food.

    The other issue is of course the cat litter. I had hopes of getting them onto wood chip/sawdust pellet stuff that turns to sawdust, that I could dispose of via my garden and compost bin, but they have shown a preference for the yucky clay stuff. I have been putting bags of soiled litter into the dog waste bins, but I realise that this may be saving my bin, but it is still heading for landfill, so it’s far from ideal. I will persevere for the time being and hopefully, as they are now going out a fair bit, they will realise that the big wide world is a far better place to relieve themselves!

  15. Mrs Green says:

    Condo blues; it sounds as if your dogs had a wonderful zero waste Christmas! I bet they loved their presents.

    ClaraP, Happy new year to you! Which aspects of cat care do you want to green up? We have a 16 year old feline friend, so might be able to throw out some suggestions…..

    Like poppy says, the cat litter is the biggest problem. I’ve been planning a blog post on this for about 4 months, as it is one of our most frequent asked questions, but not come up with a great solution (yet!)

  16. ClaraP says:

    Poppy and Mrs G – thanks so much for your responses. Like Poppy says, it’s mainly the litter I am concerned about. But also like Poppy, my kitties will be going out soon, so it won’t be a concern for long. I do use the woodchip that turns to sawdust with them, but the packet says not to add the litter to compost because of the bacteria usually in cat poo. So it’s going in landfill. I do try to make it last a bit longer by cleaning it out a couple of times a day and by sprinkling it with bicarbonate of soda to keep it smelling fresh for them.

    The main long term question for me is what to feed them. So I’d appreciate guidance on this. Is it appropriate to wean the kitties off meat? Where can I buy vegetarian cat food that doesn’t cost the earth? Can I cook my own that has the right nutrients in for them?

    Any input really gratefully received!

    Maybe between us we can put together a blog that we can all post!

    Happy New Year dear friends.

    VegBox Clara


  17. Gemma says:

    I think the clove studded orange is a great idea! 🙂

  18. Mrs Green says:

    Hi ClaraP – our cat is an outdoor cat, so we don’t have to worry about litter. Even though she is now elderly and I would rather she slept indoors; I just can’t bring myself to going back to the ways of a litter tray.

    Do you have room for a couple of compost heaps in your garden? If you do, perhaps one could be used for a sawdust litter, which could be left for a couple of years before being put under ornamental beds and the other compost could be your ‘food’ one for use on things you might eat yourself. I sort of don’t understand why people get so stressed about cat bacteria in compost, as they crap in your garden anyway! But maybe I don’t know enough about it……..

    Tbh, despite being a veggie of 20 years, I’m against feeding cats on a vegetarian diet. They need meat and if you don’t give it to them, they will go and catch their own anyway. When you ask ‘Can I cook my own that has the right nutrients in for them?’ see if you can imagine what happened to cat owners 50 years ago – did they buy Whiskas in a foil pouch? Nope; they fed their cats scraps and expected them to hunt. A few hundred years ago all cats ate was the food they caught. I think we forget that inside every soft kitten is a wild animal perfectly capable of fending for itself.

    To me, tinned pet food is like eating McDonalds every day; it’s the scrapings from the factory floor at best and shouldn’t be anywhere near my beloved feline companion…….

    Our cat is fed on chicken, liver, scraps and fish. She has a mixture of raw and cooked food and she eats the houseplants or grass if she needs a little roughage. To my knowledge she has given up hunting (she’s 16), so does tend to rely on me more for food now.

    Does this help at all? They are only my feelings and do not come from any knowledge base……

    Thank you Gemma; they were fun to make – glad you like them.

  19. Poppy says:

    >>To me, tinned pet food is like eating McDonalds every day; it’s the scrapings from the factory floor at best and shouldn’t be anywhere near my beloved feline companion…….<<

    Yikes! One step at a time Mrs G! We’ve ditched the totally useless plastic pouches and will gradually work on the tins. At least we can recycle them. They all (dog as well .. and foxes!) did well out of the Turkey carcass and we aim to expand on that theme. But we can’t go cold turkey 😀 lol!

    You say that you don’t intend to go back to a litter tray, but it may be a case of needs must with your old lady creeping on in years. I had to re-introduce one this time last year, when my previous old mogs started prefering corners of the house to the big wide world.

    I agree with you about the bacteria issue. I don’t get that one at all. That said, for the sake of fresh air, most solids that I had in the wood pellet litter went down the loo, so it really was just sawdust that went into the compost bin. The last lot went straight onto the garden in a futile attempt to show them that this was an okay place to go.

    They’re only babies still though. I’m sure that when they spend more time outside, coming back to ‘pay a visit’, will be too much hard work.

  20. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Poppy,
    My comment about pet food was a bit OTT, I’ll admit, but I’ve been thinking this way for years, so sorry to shock you on that one lOL!

    The cat has peed a few times (behind the toilet 😀 ) of late, but I think that is less to confusion and more that I was upstairs and she was desperate to go.

    She couldn’t get out of the dining room door to come and find me, whereas usually she trots up the stairs and tells me in no uncertain terms that she has a need to attend to.

    She is a farm cat, so I’m hoping she won’t need a litter as she gets older. None of the others did, so fingers crossed. But I will provide her with one if things get bad……

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