6 Ways to Really Cut Down on Holiday Waste

Create less waste to stay ahead of the game.

Dec 17, 2019
Special Collections: REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE

(Maria Symchych / Shutterstock.com)

Alas the holidays are here! The season of hot cocoa, scarves, snow, gifts, and of course – holiday food – has dawned! 

And while the celebrations this time of year are full of magical moments, some of our rituals can be surprisingly wasteful as well. In fact, according to the EPA, holiday waste such as plastic packaging, gift wrap, and food scraps add an additional one million tons of waste per week in the US. That means that between Thanksgiving and New Years, Americans increase their waste by 25 percent and all those scraps end up in landfills, but this issue is not unique to just the US. 

Cutting down on holiday waste saves money, opens our creative chakras, and often brings us closer to the people we love. Greening our holidays doesn’t have to mean cutting back on timeless traditions, it just means looking around and identifying alternatives and hint; they’re usually hiding right under your nose. 

So, have no fear! There are a number of easy and fun ways that we can waste less this holiday season, without giving up any of our holiday cheer!

All Decked Out

Part of the holiday cheer definitely comes from the festive decorations that glitter our homes, cities, and community spaces. And here too there are infinite ways to greenify them. Take for example Christmas lights, which NASA has indicated can be seen from space, as they increase light pollution by 50 percent  A simple way to cut down on this wasted energy is by setting lights to a timer that turns off late into the night and use energy efficient LED holiday lights. Other decorations, such as tree ornaments, window embellishments, and holiday party decor can easily be DIYed, upcycled, and crafted from unwanted goods around the house or office such as egg cartons, pinecones, and coffee canisters.

(Nosov Dmitry / Shutterstock.com)

The Gifts You Give

Some gifts create much more waste than others. Clothing and fashion, for example is a highly polluting sector. According to the Council for Textile Recycling, Americans throw away on average 70 pounds of clothes or textiles every year- per person! By opting for gifts that focus on experiences as opposed to goods, you can cut down your waste exponentially. Experiences may include tickets to a show or sporting event, a voucher for a workshop or class (say, carpentry or improv), or entry to a museum or spa, for example. If you prefer a money-saving object, consider a DIY like homemade cookies or an upcycled craft such as coasters, a pillowcase, or ornaments made out of recycled goods.

(Roman Pyshchyk / Shutterstock.com)

Shop Package Free / Zero Waste

One of the easiest ways to cut down on waste is by shopping for products with minimal to no packaging. According to the EPA, 30 percent of American’s waste comes from packaging (in 2017 that amounted to 80 million tons of waste). By purchasing from local stores, craft markets, and second-hand boutiques, we can significantly cut down on this waste, especially when we bring reusable bags from home. When doing food shopping, look for supermarkets with bulk bins and bring a few jars to fill up on all your needs. There are also many companies that make package-free shopping their priority.

(Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com)

It's a Wrap

Officially decide that 2019 is the year you stopped using store-bought wrapping paper. Its an unnecessary purchase that is wasteful in its very nature (since its whole purpose is to be ripped up and thrown out). According to the new Use Less Stuff report, half of the paper that Americans consume is for wrapping and decoration. Um, what?! Here are a few ways to DIY wrapping paper: use newspaper, magazines, brown bags, road maps, or even brochures. This is a great craft project for the whole family since you can playfully decorate these things using a few crayons, markers, or paint. To get extra creative, you can also use old or torn up clothes, tablecloths, or be like Scarlet and use  window drapes.

(Arina P Habich  / Shutterstock.com)  

Oh, Christmas Tree

It's hard to discuss cutting down on holiday waste without addressing the green tree in the room. Everyone knows that trees are an integral part of life on this planet so when people cut them down and dispose of them improperly, they generate not only waste but also GHG emissions. The most significant way to minimize this harm is by avoiding purchasing a tree altogether. Instead, opt for a hand-crafted tree, and trust that bloggers have got you covered on incredible alternatives that are even more inspiring, engaging, and family-oriented than the conventional tree.

By making your own Christmas “tree” you turn the ritual into full-fledged family experience. If you do prefer to go the traditional route, make sure to recycle trees by donating them to charity, composting them, or turning them into wood chips. Did you know that trees that were indoors for less than 10 days can also be replanted? So do your part to make your holiday less wasteful.

(Gorynvd / Shutterstock.com

Stop Food Waste in its Tracks

One third of all the food grown in the world is thrown out- and half of that happens in our homes. That waste takes a toll on our bank accounts and on the planet, since food waste emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that contributes to climate change. You can drastically minimize food waste by avoiding overcooking especially for our holiday feasts, freezing leftovers or giving them to guests to take home in reusable containers, storing produce properly, and composting. You can also turn your leftovers into new and delicious meals. If you still find yourself with an abundance of food, donate it by connecting to an organization that picks it up and gives it to people in need.

(P Maxwell Photography / Shutterstock.com)

HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.
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