The holiday season is a time for family, gratitude, and joy, but...it also produces a lot of waste. According to Stanford University, Americans throw away over 25% more garbage during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year than they do the rest of the year. This is a staggering percentage, but unfortunately not too surprising.
Think of everything we buy and use during the holidays: the food, the decorations, the gifts, the wrapping paper, the trees! And at the end of the season, where does a lot of that end up? Unfortunately, the answer is usually in the trash.
Nonetheless, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy this time of year in a sustainable way, while likely saving yourself some money in the process. We’ve put together a list of a few low-waste ideas for how you can celebrate the holidays sustainably!
Low Waste Gift-Giving
The holidays wouldn’t be the same without thoughtful gifts for your loved ones, but the fact is, gift-giving can be incredibly wasteful. Between the wrapping paper, the bags, and the unwanted gifts that end up in the trash, there’s a lot of room for improvement in the way we exchange presents. Here are a few suggestions for low waste (but still thoughtful!) gifting:
- Reuse materials around your house for wrapping, like old newspapers or shipping boxes.
- Give your gift in a reusable bag that the recipient can keep and use again as a tote or cute grocery bag!
- Save the waste altogether by choosing gifts that don’t need to be wrapped. Some great examples are gift cards, concert/sporting event tickets, a nice dinner, a subscription to a streaming service, etc.!
- Or, you can give your loved one an eco-friendly gift, like the DAZZ Collection!
Low Waste Decorating
Before you go out and buy a whole new collection of holiday decorations, think about where all those garlands and Santa figurines end up when they’ve run their course: that’s right, the trash. This year, consider trying out one of the green ideas below to decorate your house!
- Find decorations at a second-hand shop in your area.
- If you have a lot of decorations already but are ready for something new, see if you can find a friend or neighbor who would want to swap some decor with you.
- Make your own ornaments! Get creative with pinecones, mason jar lids, ribbon, newspaper, etc., and make some garland with popcorn or dried citrus.
- Use LED lights to decorate your home or your tree. They use over 75% less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs, and will last longer.
Real vs. Artificial Trees: Which Is Greener?
The age old question! Is it more environmentally friendly to purchase a real tree or an artificial tree for your holiday decorating this year? There are benefits and drawbacks to both - a real tree is biodegradable and can be sustainably grown, but can still produce considerable waste if not disposed of properly. An artificial tree can be reused for many years in a row, but the production and improper disposal of them leaves a heavy carbon footprint.
We’d recommend considering the following before deciding on your tree this year:
- Real Trees: Christmas trees are typically grown on a farm, with the sole purpose of being harvested and sold for the holiday. The U.S. Forest Service strictly regulates the removal of Christmas trees from public land. If you’re planning on buying a real tree, do some research into the vendor you are buying from, and remember that local farms are usually a better option to keep the carbon footprint down.
When you’re ready to take down your tree, consider a few of these ideas for disposal:
- Repurpose the tree by planting it in your background, creating mulch from the tree, using the wood from the trunk for outdoor firewood, or using the tree limbs as insulation for your garden in the cold winter months.
- Compost your tree in your backyard compost pile.
- If you don’t have your own compost pile, find out if your city has any sort of pick-up or drop-off programs for tree recycling or composting.
- Artificial Trees: If you don’t have access to any real trees, or if you’d just like something with more longevity, an artificial tree can still be a good option. The key is making sure that you keep your tree for at least five years - this saves you money, as well as saves an artificial tree from being tossed in the landfill each year.
Low Waste Meals
It’s no secret that we like to eat during the holiday season. Nothing is better than getting your friends and family together for a hearty meal…but don’t forget that one meal can turn into a whole lot of waste. Below are some ideas for how you can reduce unnecessary food waste this holiday season, and what you can do with your leftovers!
- Save food scraps for future cooking (like vegetable stock) or save them for your backyard compost pile.
- Send guests home with leftovers (enough leftovers for a week, at least).
- Get creative with your own leftovers… we’re thinking turkey sandwiches, French toast with leftover rolls, mashed potato casserole, or maybe some turkey chili!
- Use the USDA’s free FoodKeeper app to find out which items you can freeze and for how long.
- Donate any non-perishables to a local food bank. You can use the EPA’s Excess Food Opportunities Map to find places where you can drop food off.