How To Enjoy The Holidays Without Creating Excess Waste

Now it is officially time to deck the halls—and do it mindfully. There are decorations, packaging, gifts, and food, and we tend to produce lots of waste during the holiday season.

A OnePoll study last holiday season found that Americans produce, on average, 43 percent more waste during the holidays than any other time of year. Not surprisingly, the biggest culprit is wrapping paper, followed by gift bags, tissue paper, and food.

However, for many people, it wouldn’t quite feel like the holidays without stringing the house with lights and garland – the good news is you don’t have to give up these joys in the name of sustainability if you don’t want to!

Below are some of my top tips for reducing waste this holiday season

How to Reduce Waste on Decorations/Cards

  • You should use qualified Energy Star LED string lights as your Christmas lights to reduce your impact this holiday season. They use 75 percent less energy than conventional incandescent string lights and are warranty-backed for at least three years.
  • As a lifelong real tree enthusiast, here’s one of my favorite tips: get a real Christmas tree! Real trees pull carbon from the atmosphere and typically travel much shorter distances to get to the consumer than artificial plastic trees. Plus Christmas trees are always being replanted, so they are not being diminished. When December is over, ensure your real tree is composted or chipped into mulch.  The city of Las Vegas has a recycling program after the holidays which makes it easy to recycle.  And if you go the artificial tree route, try to use it for many years to come. After about 20 years, the carbon footprint of an artificial tree tends to balance out with that of a real one.
  • Use decorations made of natural materials, or you and your family make them yourselves. Strings of popcorn, dried cranberries, or garland made of fresh cedar or fir give your space a cozy feel. You can always get more DIY ideas on-line. Treat your decor well.
  • You might want to make phone calls this season instead of sending out traditional holiday cards. But if you love the festivity of physical greeting cards (and who can blame you), look for cards that are made of recycled paper and are uncoated, so a glossy finish doesn’t come between your cards and the recycling bin.

How to Reduce Waste While Holiday Shopping

  • Shop in person this holiday season when you can. Shopping online means more wasted packaging and energy transporting the gifts straight to your house. And remember your reusable shopping bags!
  • Try to patronize local businesses; this way, you’ll have fewer products shipping overseas. Plus it’s good to patronize a business that is in your area – they appreciate the business more (Jeff Bezos will not go broke if you buy from the local store, but the local shop owner might go broke if you buy everything from Amazon).
  • Consider gifting experiences rather than physical gifts. Concert tickets, an Airbnb for a weekend, restaurant gift cards, museum memberships, cooking classes, a picnic in the snow at Mt Charleston and massage or facial gift certificates all make for thoughtful gifts. And they require little or no wrapping.
  • When in doubt, homemade baked goods like cookies or muffins always go over well—and they’ll be gone without a trace in a couple of days. Promise.

How to Reduce Waste While Wrapping

  • Use reusable gift bags instead of wrapping paper, and stuff the bags with newspaper or reused tissue paper from last year. And try to save any gift bags or the tissue paper you receive this year!
  • If buying new wrapping paper, look for paper made from recycled materials or paper that can be recycled after it’s used. Most wrapping paper, as long as it has no foil or other non-paper components, is recyclable.
  • Consider packaging gifts in colorful reusable tote bags. Not only will your wrapping job be low waste, but you’ll also gift the recipient a little something extra.

How to Reduce Waste During Dinner

  • Food waste tends to increase around the holidays as folks host parties with lots of leftovers. Online resources like Save the Food’s Guestimator helps hosts determine how much food to prepare—and remember to send your party guests home with leftovers!
  • If possible, use cloth tablecloths and real silverware and plates when serving food rather than disposable plastic utensils and paper plates. Bonus points if you use cloth napkins, too.
  • As always, shop local and/or from the bulk section when you are grocery shopping for a holiday party. Don’t forget your reusable totes and produce bags!

Bonus Tip: Recycle Properly

To further minimize your waste this holiday season, follow the recycling instructions from my previous blog post on the subject.  Many holiday staples, like tinsel, ribbons, styrofoam, and plastic bags, can’t be recycled, so keep them out of the recycling stream. There are many drop off points for your real trees to be mulched.

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Choose to have an amazing day….Jeff

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