An eco-warrior will enjoy her FOURTH zero-waste Christmas this year – using only recycled materials and buying NO material gifts.
Instead of drowning in the usual sea of laminated wrapping paper and plastic packaging, every element of Kathryn Kellogg’s festivities will be waste-free.
The content creator, 28, gives experience gifts not objects, chooses recycled wrapping paper, steers clear of baubles and tinsel, and won’t serve food that comes in non-recyclable packaging.
Her biodegradable decorations are made from garlands of recycled wine corks, dehydrated oranges and cinnamon sticks.
Kathryn celebrated her first zero-waste holiday in 2015 and now cannot imagine a Christmas with garbage bags full of trash.
She said: “It’s a normal Christmas but there’s not going to be any trash left over.
“There’s nothing I miss about a traditional Christmas. I do everything I used to do but I think about the environment.”
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the amount of trash produced in the US soars by a staggering 25 per cent, according to the National Environmental Education Foundation.
Americans discard an estimated 38,000 miles of ribbon, 15 million used Christmas trees and $11 billion worth of packing material.
Kathryn and husband Justin Norton, 31, an audio engineer, will not add to those numbers as they celebrate Christmas while producing zero waste.
The couple have decorated their home in San Francisco, California, USA, with a real tree, vintage Christmas baubles and homemade ornaments.
Kathryn said: “I bought a real tree from a tree farm.
“Some people think that a second hand fake tree is more environmentally friendly but as a Christmas tree grows it absorbs carbon which is great for the environment.”
Once the season is over, the couple will ensure that the tree biodegrades in their compost bin.
She said: “You have to make sure you compost it. We are going to chop it up and put it in the compost bin.”
Kathryn relies on the generosity of friends and family who pass on decorations they no longer need.
She said: “I have ornaments that I’ve had for quite a while and I just reuse those, I don’t go out and buy new ones.
“I might ask friends and family for decorations that they already have.
“A lot of people have so many that they are happy to pass them on.
“I popped up a whole lot of popcorn, strung it with a needle and thread and created a beautiful garland for the tree.
“I picked beautiful dried red leaves and used them as decorations along with dehydrated oranges and cinnamon sticks.
“I have been saving all my wine corks throughout the year to make a garland for my Christmas tree.”
The couple steer clear of giving objects as presents to friends and family and instead choose experiences which won’t add to the gift receiver’s carbon footprint.
She said: “I love giving experience gifts.
“Last year, Justin bought me tickets to the opera and I got him tickets to go to basketball games.
“It was great because we were starting the year off with dates already planned.”
Most of Kathryn’s friends and family support her zero-waste lifestyle and give her gifts that are good for the planet.
She said: “One year my mom Gina, 56, put $50 in an envelope each month and wrote ‘Kathryn and Justin date night’.
“So we had a date night sorted for every month of the year.
“It was such a sweet, thoughtful present.
“It’s important to buy something that someone wants.”
Kathryn ensures her Christmas feast is waste-free by taking her crock pot to the butcher and asking him to drop her meat right into the pan.
“I’m lucky that in California it is very easy to get package-free food. You can go to a farmer’s market and get everything you need without packaging.
“I used to make Christmas cookies with dye but a couple of years ago I bought a reusable piping set so I don’t have to throw away plastic bags.
“I make my own food coloring now, it only takes a minute.
“I use turmeric powder to make gold, matcha for green.
“I have all these powders already in my house that I can turn into natural food coloring.”
The eco-warrior’s passion for the environment was sparked by a breast cancer scare while she was in college in December 2011.
She said: “I started feeling an unbearable pain in my left breast.
“It was exceedingly painful to raise my arms and I couldn’t wear a bra.
“I went to the gynecologist and was immediately set up with an appointment in the breast cancer ward to get an ultrasound where they found several tumors.”
Thankfully, the tumors were benign but the experience made Kathryn far more aware of the potentially toxic ingredients in beauty and cleaning products.
She said: “The whole experience really got me thinking about what I put in and on my body.
“I had never considered it before. I just assumed everything I was consuming was safe.
“What I learned is that there is very little regulation and testing for a lot of the products we buy like beauty products and cleaning products.”
She reduced her contact with plastic, switched to a natural deodorant, made her own cleaning products and watched her sugar and caffeine intake.
When she moved to California with future-husband Justin in January 2014, she was horrified to see litter piled up on the streets.
She said: “When I arrived, I was shocked to see all of the litter and plastic lining the streets.
“We were so close to the ocean and it all clicked for me.
“Plastic isn’t just bad for personal health, it’s bad for the health of the planet.”
Kathryn has not looked back and now shares tips for zero-waste living on her website goingzerowaste.com and in her book, to be published next April, 101 Ways To Go Zero Waste.
She added that even if you can’t commit to a totally zero-waste Christmas this year, there is one simple thing everyone can do: make the most of leftovers.
She said: “You don’t have to be perfect.
“If you have leftover food, make sure you freeze it.
“That simple step will reduce your food waste.
“Try to focus on what you have, rather than on buying new things.”