As the holidays approach, so does the amount of waste that is produced by households. Stanford University's Waste Reduction, Recycling, Composting and Solid Waste Program reports that there is a 25% increase in waste from Thanksgiving to New Year's. This additional waste, in the form of food, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons, contributes to an extra 1 million tons of trash entering landfills each week during this time frame. In the US only!
Reducing holiday waste doesn't have to be difficult. But where to start? From the tree you buy to the decorations you put up, to the food you eat. We summarize the ways how you can make your Christmas a little greener.
1. Sustainable Christmas gifts
The holidays can be a time of stress and worry, especially when it comes to gift giving. It's easy to get caught up in the frenzy of buying presents, only to end up with a pile of stuff that no one really needs or wants.
Instead of succumbing to holiday consumerism, try making your gifts count by giving items that are meaningful and have purpose.
Some great ideas for greener gifts are:
- Plants: A plant can last forever with the proper care from its owner. Furthermore, by keeping a plant alive, you are being kind to nature.
- Do it yourself: there are so many ways to create beautiful and tasty gifts yourself. It will not only be good for nature, but also show how much you care about the receiver.
- Shop sustainably: there are many sustainable brands, from fashion to zero waste stores that will give your Christmas gifts a green touch.
- Sustainable gift sets: If you want to go a step further, you can find amazing sustainable gift sets will make the eco-conscious receiver happy. If you're struggling to find inspiration, a sustainable shopping add-in for your browser can make gift shopping so much easier.
- Give experiences: what better way to care about someone than spending time with them? Think about giving experiences, like sustainable travel, watching a comedy show, or even going tree planting with your loved ones.
2. Sustainable Christmas Trees
Are you searching for a Christmas tree with an eco-friendly twist? Research has revealed that natural Christmas trees are far more sustainable than their synthetic counterparts. Fake Christmas trees are made from a mix of PVC plastic and steel and are not recyclable after disposal. A study found that to be greener, you'd have to keep your fake tree for two decades!
That said, if you already have a fake tree, it is the most sustainable option to use it as long as possible before throwing it away.
If you don’t have a Christmas tree yet, a real tree is the most eco-friendly alternative. Christmas trees are produced on large farms and not cut down in forests, which generates less impact on nature.
If you want to be even more sustainable, buy one with intact roots to plant it in your garden after Christmas. Some locations in the US and Canada even offer to rent a living tree and deliver it to your doorstep.
If you decide to opt for a cut tree, make sure you check out your city recycling program that disposes of Christmas trees properly.
3. Sustainable Christmas Decorations
The same goes for your Christmas decoration. As long as you go with the natural variant, try to avoid plastic decoration, and compost, reuse, or recycle your decoration after the holidays you can celebrate with a good conscience.
There are lots of opportunities to make your own decorations from natural materials. Home-made salt-dough hangings, dried orange slice ornaments, candy canes, and sprigs of cinnamon for the tree all provide fully compostable alternatives to plastic trinkets.
Another fun way of preparing for Christmas decoration is a walk in the forest with your family. By collecting pine cones, fallen off branches, and peeled off tree bark, you will have a great basis for Christmas decorations and spend time in nature.
4. Sustainable Gift Wrapping
Do you often find yourself reusing wrapping paper from last year? That is fantastic! Reusing paper can be a great sustainable option to reduce Christmas waste.
However, what many of us don't realize is that some rolls may contain non-recyclable materials such as foil, glitter, and plastic.
To determine whether your wrapping paper can be recycled, simply make a ball out of the paper and then release it. It's completely recyclable material when it stays crumpled up. If it unfolds by its own, it indicates that there are likely non-recyclable elements included. Try using eco-friendly recyclable paper wherever possible.
If you want to be even more sustainable, wrapping your gifts in beautiful reusable fabrics can be a fun twist this year.
5. Reusable Advent Calendar
How great would it be to surprise your loved ones with a reusable advent calendar that is filled with items you chose yourself. You can even fill it with homemade cookies or sweets that will show how much you care with every bite.
6. Christmas Lighting
Christmas lights can have a significant impact on energy consumption. Every year, the Christmas lights in the US use enough energy to power 14 million fridges for one year. To prevent this, opt for LED tree lights that are solar-powered and turn them off at night. This way not only will you reduce the impact on the environment, but you’ll also save money.
7. Sustainable Christmas cards
Greeting your loved ones over the holidays doesn't have to be a wasteful endeavor! Instead of traditional cards, why not try out something new? Check out these ideas for more sustainable and creative ways to spread joy this season:
- DIY cards: use what you already have at home to create thoughtful DIY cards. It is also a fun exercise for the kids and your recipients will love them – guaranteed
- Natural and biodegradable cards: many store-bought Christmas cards like wrapping paper contain plastic in disguise. When you shop Christmas cards, make sure you buy the eco-friendly biodegradable or recycled alternatives without glitter or plastic lining.
- E-cards: we live in a digital world, so why not send a Christmas greeting cards via e-mail. If you want to make it more personal, you can even send a small video of your family greeting the recipient or singing a Christmas song.
For the cards that you receive make sure you recycle them appropriately.
8. Buying Organic Food and Avoiding Food Waste
What would Christmas be without a nice Christmas dinner? While planning your dinner, being conscious about where you buy your food can make a big difference. Try shopping locally and organic. While it might be a little pricier, it will make a big difference and you will notice the difference in quality. If you plan to serve Turkey, duck, or other meat, go with the organic one. Rather have a smaller high-quality bird that was ethically raised and increase the amount of delicious veggie side dishes.
As the festive season approaches, it is also important to be mindful of food waste. While we may typically get creative with our leftovers throughout the year, Christmas can often lead to excessive amounts of food being thrown away.
An easy way to reduce waste is to buy less in the first place - however this can be tricky when hosting guests. Fortunately, there are now technological solutions that allow us to connect with those who need help accessing food during the holidays. Olio is an app which allows users to list what they have available, add a photo, and share their location so others can easily find them.
Another app that can be used while planning is Too good to go. The app is connecting you with restaurants and stores that have unsold food at risk of being thrown away. It is sold at a big discount, and you’ll be surprised of the great food you can find there.
Whether you use an app to reduce waste or not, make sure to plan properly, use all your leftovers, and compost what you cannot use. As a pro tip, try eating your leftovers before Christmas to free up space in your freezer for after the holidays.
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Photo credit: Pixabay
Sources: cgdev.org, lbre.stanford.edu