Reducing Holiday Waste

From large meals, to gifts, to decor (and so much more!) the holidays are a time of celebration and fun. But they can also be a time of waste! Americans produce more waste during the holiday season than they do the rest of the year – and lots of it goes straight to our landfills.

That said, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the season sustainably! Join us as we dive into some of our favorite tips for reducing your holiday waste.

Gifting

Gifting is a huge part of the holidays. When it comes to finding the perfect gift for a friend, family member, coworker, pet, whoever:

  • Ensure you’re looking for products that are quality – or serve a purpose.
  • Support ethical brands that are actively making a difference…as opposed to brands with little transparency or potentially shady practices.
  • Find gifts that are meaningful, functional, and made to last. Bonus points if your gift “tells a story” – like donating to charity, or removing plastic from our oceans!

After you’ve found a gift that aligns with your values, and the values of the recipient, dive into packaging: the packaging of the product, how it will be shipped to you (if it’s not bought locally!), and how you plan to wrap it for the recipient.

Did you know that most wrapping paper usually can’t be recycled? That’s why wrapping paper and plastic shopping bags account for four million tons of trash in the USA annually! Instead, opt for recyclable brown paper bags, or an option like Wrappily – wrapping paper made from recycled newspapers that’s also recyclable after use! Instead of plastic ribbons, swap them out for twine, hemp cord, or paper ribbon. Pro tip: decorate the top of boxes with natural elements like pinecones, flowers, shells, and other biodegradable elements!

Choosing to send holiday cards this year? Choose cards made from recycled paper, which saves trees! Tree-Free Cards are made from non-toxic soy ink, post-consumer paper, and are created in a factory powered with wind power. How cool is that?!

Meals + Food Waste

Holiday meals are some of the best parts of the season, and are a wonderful way to celebrate! But without proper planning, food waste can become a huge consequence – as can waste from disposables like plastic plates and cups.

When it comes to serving food, we suggest using reusable plates, silverware, and cups. While it might make cleanup a bit longer, you’re saving tons of resources that tend to go into single-use dinnerware.

  • Let your guests help you clean by setting up stations!
  • Have a trash can visible for leftovers that can’t be saved (or compost bin, if you are able to compost!), and a bin or bucket (or the sink if available!) they can put their cleared plates and silverware in for further washing.
  • If you would prefer to go the disposable route, opt for compostable plates and dinnerware they are a lot more sustainable than single-use plastic alternatives.

When it comes to leftovers that can be saved, you can do a couple of things! If you’re having guests this year, we love the idea of asking them to arrive with their own Tupperware, so everyone can go home with some leftovers – and nothing is wasted. You could also make your guests take-home plates using the compostable plates.

If you plan on keeping all the leftovers yourself, make sure you have plenty of stainless steel or glass reusable containers and food storage wraps to keep everything fresh as long as possible, so less is wasted. Turn those leftovers into yummy sandwiches, and get creative with how to transform them into new meals!

Decor

We love the holiday season – and beautiful decorations make it all the more festive! But there are some tips and tricks to keep things clean and green.

Let’s start with lights! We suggest you get energy-saving LED lights (unless you already own lights – then it’s more sustainable to keep using those until you can’t anymore). You can also get a light timer, which automatically turns off your lights when you don’t need them on – like when you’re asleep or early in the morning! This works really well for both your outdoor lights and your indoor tree lights.

If your family plans to have a tree, it is actually more sustainable to put up a live tree – unless you already own a plastic tree, (then continue to use that!). Something else to consider is a potted Christmas tree – while a little harder to find in the traditionally larger sizes, more and more Christmas tree farms and other stores are offering them. We love this solution: you don’t have to cut a tree down; and in fact, can use it year after year (there are even some potted tree rental services!).

If you go for a cut live tree, check with your municipality when the holidays are over to see if they have any tree compost collections, or plan on collecting trees to turn into mulch. If you have a fireplace, you can use small pieces of the tree as kindling, or home compost the smaller pieces.

For overall decor, always try to reuse and repurpose! Get creative:

  • Choose popcorn garlands or wool garlands over plastic decor.
  • If you already own plastic decor, reuse it again and again.
  • For ornaments, do the same! Your family can make their own ornaments out of natural materials, which is a fun craft activity.
  • Or, opt for glass or wool ornaments that will last for years with proper care.
  • For stockings, look for organic cotton stockings or other eco materials.

The holidays can be stressful – but with a little bit of planning, you can transform them to become a whole lot more sustainable for you and your loved ones. From green gifting, to eco-friendly food storage for leftovers, to changing up the way you decorate, there are tons of ways to modify your holiday routine to be more mindful. What are some of your favorite sustainable holiday traditions? Comment them below and let us know!

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