According to the EPA, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, American household waste increases by more than 25 percent. In the midst of the celebration and merriment, it’s easy to get caught up and forget some of the sustainable behavior we’ve been practicing throughout the year.
So how do you make the most of this season without creating excess waste? Check out our top 10 tips for a waste free holiday:
1) Email Your Greetings
Consider an e-card or email rather than a paper card this year. It’s cheaper, faster and waste-free. Plain cards are recyclable, but often cards are coated or have glitter or other adornments that make them landfill bound. If you have to purchase cards, look for ones made with recycled content.
2) Don’t Leave the Lights On
Twinkle lights may be festive, but they can also drive up your energy bill. Go with LED string lights that use up to 70% less energy and last longer than traditional conventional incandescent lights. Turning off lights or using a timer to regulate hours is another great way to keep energy consumption down.
A note about string lights: String lights are not recyclable. They are considered a contaminant in your curbside recycling cart and can cause damage to machinery at the recycling facility. They belong in trash.
3) Smart Food Shopping
Studies have shown that 40% of U.S. food goes to waste. Be realistic about how much food you need for holiday meals to avoid waste. Making a list before you go to the store (and sticking to it!) is a great way to reduce food waste.
4) Alternative Wrappings
We’d prefer it if you ditched wrapping paper altogether, but If wrapping is a must, consider using brown paper bags, newspaper, or fabric such as old scarves or tea towels. Reusable boxes, baskets or bags work well too. Reuse old ribbon or bows (neither are recyclable) or consider alternatives decorations such as twigs and leaves for a more natural look.
A note about recycling wrapping paper: if you do end up with wrapping paper waste, remember that only plain, glitter-free and non-laminated paper gift bags, wrapping paper and envelopes can be recycled. Fancy bags, cellophane wrapping paper and shiny bows are not recyclable. Save and reuse these materials next year.
5) Gifts: Less is More
The more people on your list, the more stuff you’re going to buy. Try drawing names and doing a family (or friends) “Secret Santa” so you’re only responsible for one truly amazing gift for one person. You’ll produce less waste and may notice your stress level goes down too.
6) Gifts: Go Digital with Entertainment
Instead of giving physical CDs, DVDs, books, or magazines give digital versions or gift cards to streaming services that conveniently provide electronic entertainment.
7) Gifts: Home Cooking
Food is one of the best parts of the holidays so why not put your maker skills to work giving edible gifts such as breads, cookies, cakes, dried fruits, nut mixes, canned goods, jams/jellies, or savory sauces. Reuse a basket and deliver the gift of yum to family and friends.
8) Gifts: Go Local
Speaking of food, a great way to support local business and make somebody’s day is with a restaurant gift card. Especially now, local businesses can use our support.
9) Gifts: Non-Profits Need Our Help
In the spirit of the season, donating to a local non-profit charity in someone’s name is a lovely way to double the impact of your gift. Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County has information about Food Banks, including a list of feeding organizations and ways you can help. Visit their website at www.capsbc.org.
10) Compost Your Tree
And finally, when it’s time to take your Christmas tree down, let’s get those trees composted. Many High Desert communities are collecting trees curbside during specific times while others offer drop-off locations. You can find your hauler’s contact information here.