Each year, in the United States, we produce nearly 300 million pounds of waste and send about half of it to landfills. While this number is already high, it jumps significantly during the holiday season. According to the EPA, household waste increases by 25%, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Though the final months of the year can be a busy time for preparing and enjoying holiday gatherings and celebrations, we can still make sustainable choices while we celebrate.
Here are Goodr’s top 4 ways to focus on sustainability this holiday season:
- Plan to Prevent Waste
- Reduce Food Waste with Composting
- Reuse and Recycle Gifting Materials
- Don’t Forget Additional Festive Elements
Plan to Prevent Overall Waste
One of the first ways to take a green approach to the holidays is to plan ahead! The waste management hierarchy reminds us that the best way to reduce waste to landfills is through prevention. Rather than waiting until the end of the holiday season to decide what can be reused and recycled, think about how waste can be prevented from the start. Before you become busy with holiday preparations, take some time to plan what your celebrations will look like and need.
- Take Stock: Review what you already have and decide what can be reused before purchasing new items.
- Reflect on Previous Celebrations: Consider the items that typically go to waste in your household around this time of year and think about ways to cut down on that or remove those items from your celebration altogether.
Prevention takes some planning but doing so can help us make good choices from the beginning of the holiday season as well as keep sustainability top of mind throughout it.
Reduce Food Waste
For many of us, celebrating the holidays includes hosting or gathering with loved ones for a holiday meal. As a result, this season represents an important time to be mindful of our food waste. There are numerous strategies that can help us reduce food waste in our homes including carefully planning meals to feed the exact number of guests, saving bones and scraps to make soups and broths, and storing leftovers in the freezer to preserve them for longer.
Another useful tactic in reducing food waste is composting. Composting allows us to recycle inedible food and scraps (as well as certain other specific items) so that it can become useful organic material that fertilizes soil rather than waste in a landfill that produces harmful emissions.
The holidays present a great opportunity to start a composting practice that can continue year-round. Here are a few things to keep in mind, as you prepare to compost:
- Know What Can Be Composted: Unfortunately, not all organic material is compostable. Take some time to understand which materials you can include in your compost and which you can’t. Be sure to clearly communicate this with any holiday guests
- Decide Where to Compost: Once you start composting, you can choose to either manage the process at home or drop your compost off at a local composting program. There are many local businesses and organizations across the country that provide pickup or drop-off options for compost.
- Encourage Others: As you begin to compost and see your waste reduce, be sure to tell friends, family members as well as businesses and local organizations about the benefits of composting and your experience. For businesses or organizations interested in composting, we offer an organics recycling service aimed at making the process as easy as possible.
Composting provides a great opportunity for each of us to reduce our food waste and make an immediate and measurable impact on the environment. Consider adding compost this holiday season to reduce your food waste during gatherings and start a new sustainable tradition that can continue year-round.
Reuse and Recycle Gifting Materials
Gifting is a popular aspect of many holidays. Unfortunately, the process of ordering, packing, and opening gifts creates the opportunity for a significant amount of waste. Luckily, by making some simple choices, you can decrease your waste from gift-giving and receiving.
- Utilize Reusable Bags: Rather than bringing your purchases home in plastic bags, bring reusable bags with you to the store. Doing so will cut down on the new plastic that you bring home during the holidays.
- Recycle Shipping Materials: Online orders often leave us with excess cardboard boxes, plastic bags, and tissue paper. Ensure these items make it into the proper recycling channel. If you don’t have time to manage this during the holidays, set these materials aside throughout the season to sort and recycle after the holidays.
- Reuse and Recycle Gift Wrap and Bags: As gifts are opened and wrapping paper, it may be tempting to toss these items directly into the trash. However, many of these materials can be discarded sustainably. Save gift bags and bows for next year’s gifting. Most wrapping and tissue paper can be recycled and or composted, with the exception of metallic or glitter paper.
By reusing and recycling throughout the entire gifting process, you can cut down on the landfill waste that you produce in your home tremendously.
Don’t Forget Additional Festive Elements
For many, the holidays include additional festive elements that complete the celebration like Christmas trees, candles or flowers. As we enjoy our celebrations, it’s important not to forget these elements and how we can incorporate them into the festivities while also reducing our household waste.
- Christmas Trees: Consider getting a tree with the trunk and root still attached so that it can be replanted. You can also find a local business that will recycle your tree. Many companies that sell trees also offer a pickup or dropoff service so that the tree can be properly recycled and turned into mulch or wood chips.
- Candles: Candles can range from the centerpiece of your holiday celebration or a fragrant and festive addition to your home. For candlesticks, be sure to recycle the plastic that the candles are wrapped in. For candles in glass jars, consider reusing the jars once you’ve removed the wax. Many candle jars can also be recycled as long as the remaining wax has been removed from the jar.
- Flowers: Flowers make a beautiful addition to our homes or a thoughtful gift for others during the holidays. Rather than discarding dying flowers in the garbage, compost them much like food waste. Composting flowers offers the same benefits as composting food waste; flowers become useful environmental additions instead of creating emissions in a landfill.
With these tips, we can all make a few simple sustainable choices this holiday season that will allow us to reduce our waste significantly. Leave a comment and let us know which of these tips you’ll be using this year or what other suggestions you have for reducing holiday waste.
Happy Holidays from the Goodr Team!