During the holidays, Americans produce 25% more waste. That equates to 1 million extra tons of trash each week from Thanksgiving to New Year…or a whopping 25 million tons total. This year, put Mother Nature on your Christmas list and give her the gift of a cleaner, greener planet with these 5 simple suggestions to reduce holiday waste:
#1 – SHOP WITH REUSABLE TOTES 🛍👍🏾
Every minute, 1 million plastic bags are used around the globe. According to Plastic Oceans, the typical plastic bag is used for only 15 minutes before it’s thrown in the trash. But don’t fret: this is the easiest holiday waste problem to fix.
Cut out the paper and plastic shopping bags and opt for reusable tote bags instead. Plenty of people use tote bags for grocery shopping, there’s no reason they can’t be used for other shopping, as well. And let’s face it, reusable tote bags are more durable than flimsy paper and plastic shopping bags, which means they will better protect your holiday purchases.
The Totebag Factory sells reusable bags for as low as 45 cents per bag. You can even shop for the tote bags by fabric or by purpose. Given how inexpensive they are and easy to shop for, there’s no reason to not grab a few…unless you’re just a downright scrooge.
#2 – DITCH THE WRAPPING PAPER ❌🎁
If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields! The problem with wrapping paper is it is often made from materials that can’t be recycled (metallic, for example). Here are some great ideas to forego wrapping paper for a more environmentally-friendly alternative:
Use Newspaper– this is the most inexpensive alternative to using wrapping paper. You could also use paper bags, magazines, or—my favorite—old maps. If you do use a newspaper, use the comic section—the Sunday comics are usually in color.
Recycled Gift Wrap – if you must use wrapping paper, try purchasing gift wrap that is made from 100% recycled materials, like the paper from Green Field Paper Company. They also use soy-based inks instead of petroleum-based…AND they make the paper in the U.S.!
A Gift in a Gift– think about putting your gift inside another usable item: a flower pot, a pair of gloves or socks, a purse or satchel, or even something more utilitarian like storage containers (the choices are endless).
Cloth Gift Bags – this one is my favorite. Instead of wrapping in paper, wrap your gifts in holiday-themed cloth bags. Loganberry has instructions to make your own bags in 5 minutes. This gives you the option to pick out whatever fabric you like. If you aren’t a DIYer, you can purchase cloth gift bags on Etsy that are fairly inexpensive…and they have numerous choices (think of all the time you’ll save not having to wrap gifts in paper). And if you want to buy some basic bags in bulk, try State Line Bag Company. They offer quality cloth bags in bulk at great prices!
While we’re on the subject of gift wrapping, ditch the holiday ribbon, as well. If every family reused just 2 feet of ribbon, we could save 38,000 MILES and tie a bow around the planet! If you must use ribbon, use fabric ribbon that can be reused.
#3 – CUT DOWN ON THE HOLIDAY CARDS ✂️📬
According to Hallmark, 1.3 billion cards are sent during the holidays. Many cards can’t be recycled thanks to plastic appliques, metallic components, and glitter. I appreciate getting a card in the mail, but after it spends a couple weeks on my fridge, it goes into the trash, recycling bin, or shoved into a box in the closet. How about trying:
Handmade Cards– if you’re crafty, you can make your own holiday cards. If you make them yourself, you can be sure they are made from recycled materials. And it adds a nice personal touch.
Send Recycled Cards – Green Field Paper Company comes to the rescue again with cards made from 100% recycled ingredients, using no chemicals, dyes, or additives. They also sell Grow-a-Note® cards that are made from plantable seed paper! These are my favorite because they give the receiver an incentive (and guilt-free permission) to dispose of the card in an eco-friendly way.
Send E–Cards – the best option to save resources is to send an electronic holiday card. It’s free, doesn’t require using precious resources, and doesn’t leave behind waste.
Reuse Holiday Cards – if you receive holiday cards that can’t be recycled, a great way to reuse them is to cut off the decorative front of the card and use it next year as a gift tag. Here’s a great how-to video.
#4 – REDUCE PACKAGING, REDUCE HOLIDAY WASTE 🙅🏻♂️📦
Packaging makes up 30% of America’s trash—the largest portion of municipal solid waste generated. That’s a whole lot of useless waste! There are many approached to reducing holiday waste generated from packaging:
Skip the Packaging –consider giving a gift that doesn’t require packaging: a gift certificate, tickets to an event, lessons of some kind, donation to a charity, or savings bonds, for example. Or you could give someone the gift of something handmade. Crafting a Green World has some great ideas for homemade gifts. My favorite, however, are the handmade gifts for cooks…I love anything I can use in the kitchen!
Reuse packaging – save your boxes and gift bags you receive to use next year to package your gifts in. These don’t need to be holiday boxes and bags. That shoebox might be used to send a package in the mail or be wrapped for under the tree. You’re still using packaging (if you must) but at least your reusing what would otherwise be waste.
Use Less Packaging – many retailers will ship items with reduced packaging materials if you ask them. After all, less materials save them money. Contact the company you are ordering from to ask if they can forego the plastic fillers or foam peanuts. If ordering from Amazon, they have Frustration-Free packaging available for a lot of their products. Frustration-Free packaging comes with less packing materials and the package is easier to open.
#5 – RECYCLE YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE 🎄♻️
Every year, 25-30 million Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. Imagine all that waste if you aren’t responsible with your tree disposal. For the record, I’m never going to argue for an artificial tree. Christmas tree farming is a sustainable industry that provides jobs to over 100,000 people. And one acre of Christmas trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people (there are currently about 350 million Christmas trees growing on farms in the U.S alone—that’s a lot of oxygen production). When you are done with your tree, you have two great options:
Recycle –there are more than 4,000 Christmas tree recycling programs throughout the U.S, so it shouldn’t be hard to find something to do with your tree. Earth911 has a search option for the recycling program closest to you, but most local waste management companies recycle your Christmas trees if you dispose of them properly and at the right time. Obviously, your tree needs to be clear of décor. Contact your local waste management office and find out their tree policy.
Replant –If you purchase a tree with a root ball attached, you can replant it after the holidays. If you live in a cold climate, however, there are steps you need to take for this to be a viable option (like digging the hole you plan to plant your tree in in the fall due to frozen winter ground). Better Homes & Gardens has some great tips if you choose to go the replanting route. But this option takes pre-planning.
If you live here in Central Florida like I do, rest assured: the City of Orlando recycles your trees on your regular yard waste collection day. Orange County Landfill chips the trees and turns them into mulch, which is free to city and county residents willing to go to the landfill to pick it up (with your own shovel and bags). Helpful tip: the rest of the year, yard waste is composted and the compost is free to the public!
Here at Brite Homes Florida, we are always looking for helpful ways to live cleaner and greener. If you have any other suggestions to make the holiday season more sustainable and eco-0friendly, please feel free to comment and let us know. Have a Festive Holiday and a Happy New Year!