Reduce Waste During the Holidays

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. Follow these tips to get started:

1. Throw a green holiday party

Get ideas from our 10 Simple Ways to Go Green at a House Party list.

2. Reduce food waste

Make cleaning up after your party easier by reducing holiday food waste.

3. Send eCards or recycled-content cards

Recycle paper cards and send electronic holiday cards to reduce paper waste.

4. Give the gift of togetherness: No-waste gift ideas

Sometimes the most cherished gifts we can give are our time, love and energy. consider making a charitable donation in someone else's name. Or, give an experience or an event to remember, such as:

  • Candlelit dinner
  • Tickets to a concert sporting event
  • Passes to a favorite park
  • Gift certificates to dinner, for a massage or day at the spa
  • Membership to a museum or zoo
  • Make a coupon or gift certificate that offers your time to walk a pet, babysit or help with extra chores

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.

5. Take reusable cloth bags on shopping trips

Thousands of bags end up in our landfills during the holidays. Reduce the number of bags by bringing reusable shopping bags for holiday gift shopping. If you do use paper bags or plastic bags, recycle them when you no longer need them.

6. Give quality gifts

Durable products last longer and save money in the long run. Cheaper, less durable items wear out quickly and create more landfill waste.

7. 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

8. Use rechargeable batteries

About 40 percent of all battery sales* occur during the holiday season. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.

9. Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day

This saves energy and lights last longer.  Recycle unwanted or broken string lights.

10. Recycle your live Christmas tree

When the holiday season is over, recycle your holiday tree and wreath.

Quick Facts

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.


*Fact source: EPA at https://www3.epa.gov/epahome/hi-winter.htm

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