From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent! Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons—it all adds up. And it’s not just trash. The average American spends $800 on gifts over the holiday season. With a little thought, you can reduce, reuse and recycle during the holidays to give the environment the precious gift of less while saving yourself time, money and stress.
Here are some ways you can reduce holiday waste:
Thousands of paper and plastic shopping bags end up in landfills every year. Reduce the number of bags thrown out by bringing reusable cloth bags for holiday gift shopping. Tell store clerks you don’t need a bag for small or oversized purchases.
- Send recycled-content greeting cards to reduce the amount of virgin paper used during the holidays. Remember to recycle any paper cards you receive. You can also try sending electronic greeting cards to reduce paper waste.
- Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Doing so will not only save energy, but will also help your lights last longer.
- Approximately 33 million live Christmas trees are sold in North America every year. After the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of sending it to a landfill. Check with your community solid waste department and find out if they collect and mulch trees. Your town might be able to use chippings from mulched trees for hiking trails and beachfront erosion barriers.
- To help prevent waste from cutting down and disposing of live trees, you can buy a potted tree and plant it after the holidays.
- Have a create-your-own-decorations party! Invite family and friends to create and use holiday decorations such as ornaments made from old greeting cards or cookie dough, garlands made from strung popcorn or cranberries, wreaths made from artificial greens and flowers, and potpourri made from kitchen spices such as cinnamon and cloves.
- Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money.
- Use earth-friendly gift wrapping alternatives, such as scarves, handkerchiefs and bandannas; old posters and maps; newspapers (the comic sections works great); a present in a present — place gifts inside reusable containers like cookie tins, flower pots, and baskets or wrap gift in cloth napkins or kitchen towels; give a “treasure map” to find an unwrapped gift hidden elsewhere in the house; wrap gifts in your children’s or your own artwork; look through old magazines, catalogs and calendars to use attractive photos; use re-useable or re-used gift bags; replace ribbons and bows with natural evergreens, berries, dried flowers — keep them as decorations or compost them after the gifts are unwrapped; wrapping paper made from recycled paper.
- When buying gifts, check product labels to determine an item’s recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials. Buying recycled encourages manufacturers to make more recycled-content products available.
- Shipping a gift? Reuse the foam peanuts from another package, or use unbuttered popcorn for packing. Return unwanted Styrofoam packing PEANUTS to local UPS Stores. Please call before delivering.
- About 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.
- Giving the gift of an experience is a great option for children who want to give family gifts but don’t have the money or a way to buy them. Let children know that homemade gifts and gifts of their time are more valuable to you.