Looking for a few easy ways to reduce waste this holiday season? The best way to influence others to start their eco-friendly journey is by example. Keep reading for tips on how to reduce holiday waste easily and effectively. Holiday trash has nothing on you!
Singing to the tune of It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams
It’s the most wasteful time of the year
With all the trash growing
And everyone telling you to relax
It’s the most wasteful time of the year
The winter holiday season is notorious for feelings of great cheer, generosity, and vast amounts of waste.
If you are on a journey to zero waste or just trying to minimize the amount of waste you produce, the holidays can be a tough time to persevere with your efforts.
Reducing waste every day is a challenge for sure, but it’s often more manageable because of the lack of overt outside influences.
For the holidays’ friends and family may give you things they normally don’t during the year, you’ll prepare more food at once than you typically do, you’ll feel more pressure to consume and buy when you don’t typically feel the pull during the year. But you can reduce your waste this holiday season with a few easy to implement tips.
How much food is wasted during the holidays?
Ready for this? Americans waste 40% of their food annually, so if that trend spills over to the holidays, we can assume we’ll also waste 40% of our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. For Thanksgiving that translates to 172 million pounds of turkey, 29 million pounds of vegetables, 38 million pounds of stuffing, and so on.
How much wrapping paper is wasted at Christmas?
In the UK, 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away each year. We throw away most wrapping paper because we cannot recycle it despite consumers thinking it can be. Wrapping paper is often metallic, can contain glitter, and lined with plastic to make wrapping easier.
This holiday-specific waste adds up from home to home each year, and much of it is completely avoidable. Here are a few steps you can take this holiday to reduce waste and lead by example.
Remember, much of the holidays revolve around traditions, which are sometimes wasteful, so implementing some of these strategies might feel difficult, but if you persist, they’ll become second nature and easily repeatable each holiday season.
How can we reduce holiday waste?
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Reusable Shopping Bags
Kick-off the holiday season by bringing reusable shopping bags with you to the store to avoid trash right from the start. Reusable shopping bags also make a substantial gift themselves or a reusable gift bag.
Split Up the Leftovers
Ask your guests to bring their own food storage containers to stock up on leftovers and bring them home to enjoy when they get home. One of the best parts of the holidays is the leftovers, right? You could pick up an extra set of glass containers to give to guests as a gift if you think they’ll forget their containers or will be too timid to bring their own. Don’t expect guests to help themselves to leftovers before they leave, help them along so less food is wasted.
Buy fewer decorations, food, gifts, everything. More is better is something we naturally think during the holidays, but it’s to our detriment. It’s like going grocery shopping when you’re hungry and leaving the store with tons of extra stuff you didn’t plan to get. Resist the temptation of “more” around the holidays and focus on what means the most, your relationships and connections with others. Decorate with seasonal gourds and pine tree branches, stick to a grocery list to avoid impulse purchases and, stick to the gift list and avoid buying gifts for the sake of buying.
Ditch Wrapping Paper
Sure, wrapping paper can be pretty, but not when it’s sitting in a landfill for years. Resist the urge to buy wrapping paper and use reusable paper gift bags or actual cloth reusable bags, use cardboard boxes or, make your own wrapping paper with craft paper. Use a stamp to decorate the craft paper or draw your own designs. Homemade stamped wrapping paper is recyclable and eye catching.
Re-gift Items in Great Condition
Don’t believe what you hear about re-gifting. Re-gifting items in great condition is a fantastic way to avoid buying new things and to re-home items that will be appreciated in another home. It’s also a genius way of reducing your carbon footprint, saving money, and saving items from the landfill. Items that live in our homes do not lose value and should be given to friends and family if they’re in great condition and are items they’ll cherish.
Reuse Ribbons, Bows, Gift Tags, Bags
Keep a stash of gift bags, bows, gift tags, and ribbons to reuse every year. Feel free to ask for the ribbons, bows, and bags back if the receiver isn’t going to reuse them.
Skip Disposable Cutlery, Plates, and Cups
Skipping disposables will save money and keep tons of trash out of the landfill. If you don’t have enough real cups, plates, and cutlery, ask your guests to bring their own table setting. Remember, if you want to reduce waste and lead by example, you must be daring and creative. Another benefit to guests bringing their own table settings is cups and glasses won’t get confused since they’ll keep an eye out for their personal items, thus reducing the need for extra cups and drinks.
Cloth Dish Towels
Cloth dish towels are a must when you’re hosting an event, for during the meal and for cleaning up. Plus cloth dish towels can make any meal feel fancier. Have a bin accessible for guests to toss their dirty towels and show them how easy it is to live without napkins and paper towels.
Reducing waste this holiday season can be easy with a little thinking ahead of time, planning, and speaking to your guests about your concerns. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to get involved by bringing their own containers for leftovers and table settings. And try your hardest to resist the “more” mentality of the holidays and enjoy what you have.