The holidays are just around the corner and I am so excited!!!!! I love the holidays, and no matter which ones you celebrate in November and December, they all involve spending time eating the most delicious food with friends and family. They often involve some gift giving too.
Despite the feel-good atmosphere and carefree nature of the holidays, I am always drawn to how much garbage we create during this time. Information from the California Department of Conservation/Division of Recycling states that we generate 25% more trash during this time, creating 7 million pounds of waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Large parties often lead to disposable cutlery being used to save time with kitchen cleanup. Or the giving of gifts leads to bags of wrapping paper being thrown away. So when you are spreading cheer over the next couple of months, remember the planet and give her a gift, too. The gift of less garbage.
Are you hosting one of the holiday meals?
Last year was my first time hosting my family for Thanksgiving in my home and I was stressed. But I made it a priority to reduce the amount of garbage our meal created by recycling cans and boxes from the food purchased, using only reusable glassware, plate ware, cutlery, and napkins. I also made to-go meals for everyone in reusable plastic Tupperware. There was so little waste generated, it made the day even more special.
Are you giving gifts?
Giving gifts has become the norm for many of the holidays we celebrate in December. Think about what material you use to wrap or package the gifts. I love to use newspaper or magazines as my gift wrap. The material is free, and save you the trouble of purchasing wrapping paper; a product which takes many resources such as trees and fossil fuels to create. You can also gift items in reusable bags or cute baskets, completely avoiding the need to wrap anything.
Are you doing all of your shopping online?
Do you have to do all of your shopping online? Think of all the material that is required to ship the item to your house. Instead make homemade gifts. One year I decided to make candles for family and friends. I used glass jars I had collected over the year and made these super cute gifts that people loved. I did make the mistake of putting pine cones in the candles, which turned out to be a really bad idea. (Let’s just say pine cones make great fuel!)
Are you sending gifts through the mail?
My mom would always make me the best gift boxes when I was in college. I would get them around holidays or near big exams. If there was too much space left in the box, instead of using plastic wrap or plastic packing peanuts, she would put a fluffy pair of socks or a bag of popcorn instead. I was able to use the items meant to stuff the package instead of throwing them away.
I hope some of my personal experiences have given you some new ideas about how to reduce the amount of waste you produce during the holiday season. And remember, when you go to the store to shop for food or gifts, bring those reusable bags!
- 25% more trash: Stanford University, 2017, Frequently Asked Questions Holiday Waste Prevention adapted from the Green Holiday Guide created by the California Department of Conservation/Division of Recycling, https://lbre.stanford.edu/pssistanford-recycling/frequently-asked-questions/frequently-asked-questions-holiday-waste-prevention
- homemade gifts: Good Housekeeping, 2017, 50 DIY Holiday Gifts to Start Making Now, http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/gift-ideas/g1266/handmade-gifts/?slide=5
Jill Bartolotta is an Extension Educator for the Ohio Sea Grant College Program.