Eco-warrior, 28, celebrates her FOURTH zero-waste Christmas

Eco-warrior is set to enjoy her fourth zero-waste Christmas by decorating with popcorn, banning wrapping paper and giving experiences instead of gifts

  • Kathryn Kellogg, 28, from California had first zero-waste Christmas in 2015
  • Content creator gives experiences such as baseball tickets instead of objects
  • Buys a real tree, which she will compost after, and creates her own decorations
  • Tries to buy all her food at farmers markets to avoid plastic packaging  

An eco-warrior will enjoy her fourth zero-waste Christmas this year – using only recycled materials and buying no material gifts.

Kathryn Kellogg, 28, from San Francisco, California celebrated her first zero-waste holiday in 2015 and now cannot imagine a Christmas with garbage bags full of trash.

To achieve an eco-friendly season she gives experience gifts not objects, chooses recycled wrapping paper, steers clear of tinsel, and won’t serve any food that comes in non-recyclable packaging.

Her biodegradable decorations are made from garlands of recycled wine corks, popcorn, dehydrated oranges and cinnamon sticks. 

She said: ‘It’s a normal Christmas but there’s not going to be any trash left over.

Kathryn Kellogg, pictured, will be enjoying her fourth zero-waste Christmas this year. The content creator, 28, uses only recycled materials and gives experiences instead of objects

She bought a real tree at a farm – which she will chop up and chuck into the compost bin once the festive season is over – and decorated it with garlands made from wine corks and popcorn, plus a few ornaments donated by friends and family

‘There’s nothing I miss about a traditional Christmas. I do everything I used to do but I think about the environment.’   

Kathryn and husband Justin Norton, 31, an audio engineer, have decorated their home with a real tree, vintage Christmas baubles and homemade ornaments.

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Kathryn said: ‘Some people think that a secondhand fake tree is more environmentally friendly but as a Christmas tree grows it absorbs carbon which is great for the environment.’

And once the season is over, the couple will ensure that the tree biodegrades in their compost bin.

Now she says she could never imagine a Christmas with garbage bags full of trash. She first started living her zero-waste life after a cancer scare in 2011 which made her more conscious of what she was putting into her body

Then she and her now-husband Justin, pictured together, moved to San Francisco and she was shocked by the amount of rubbish piling up on the streets. It motivated her to reduce the amount of plastic and non-recyclable items she was using

Kathryn also relies on the generosity of friends and family who pass on decorations they no longer need. 

How to enjoy your own zero-waste Christmas 

Buy a real tree: Then chop it up and compost it when the festive season is over. If you already have a fake tree, use it for as long as possible.

Use natural decorations: Objects such as cinnamon sticks, red leaves from fallen trees, or baubles and decorations donated by friends will brighten up your tree instead of buying new.

Avoid material gifts: Instead give loved ones experiences such as theatre or baseball tickets. Alternatively, you can donate to a charity close to their heart or give them something edible. If you want to encourage them to move to a zero-waste life, buy them items such as a reusable coffee mug or straw set, or beeswax wraps that can be used instead of clingfilm. 

Recycle your wrapping: Choose gift bags and tissue paper that can be reused over and over again instead of wrapping paper (just don’t forget to take the old tag off!) 

Avoid food packaging: For your feast, get your turkey from the butchers and bring your own container to pick it up in. At the supermarket, buy individual items of fruit and veg rather than multipacks covered in plastic.  

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.’

If she does give a friend presents, she uses string and homemade decorations made from dehydrated oranges 

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.’

Kathryn made her own reusable advent calendar using string and labelled envelopes (pictured) 

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 started to watch 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 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.’ 

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