How to Reduce Waste During the Holidays

Peter Chambers

Jan 16, 2024

wrapped presents on top of a table

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How to reduce holiday waste during the holidays? Think about the wrapping paper, decorations and leftover food during the holidays—it adds to a lot of waste. Celebrations can be tough on the environment, from the glittery gift wrap to the plastic ornaments. 

Cutting down on your holiday waste matters for a few essential reasons. It’s about being kind to the Earth. Less waste means less strain on the planet’s resources and helps keep the environment healthier. Plus, it’s a way to do your part in the fight against climate change.

Mindful Gift Giving

When selecting gifts, choose items built to last and produced with the environment in mind. 67% of individuals in the United States mentioned they are highly likely to consider the environmental effects of a gift before buying it.

Look for products made from recycled or sustainable materials, reducing the impact on the planet and ensuring your gift stands the test of time.

Instead of physical items, consider gifting experiences or consumables. Whether it’s concert tickets, a spa day or a basket of gourmet treats, these gifts create memories without adding clutter. Consumables also tend to have minimal packaging, reducing waste.

Ditch the disposable wrapping paper and opt for reusable alternatives. Cloth wraps, scarves or even repurposed materials add a personal touch and significantly reduce waste. It’s a small change that makes a big impact on the environment.

Eco-Friendly Decorations

Making eco-friendly choices adds a special touch to your surroundings and contributes to a more sustainable celebration. Here are some practical ways to decorate mindfully: 

  • Opt for natural and reusable decor: Choose decorations made from natural materials like wooden ornaments, pinecones or garlands crafted from dried flowers. These bring a touch of nature indoors and can be stored and reused differently each year, minimizing the need for new purchases.
  • DIY decorations using recycled materials: Create unique ornaments from old buttons, transform wine corks into charming decorations or fashion a wreath using reclaimed fabric scraps. Make easy DIY Christmas ornaments by slicing an orange, baking them at 250°F for three hours and then poking holes to add ribbons for your tree. The possibilities are endless— you’ll reduce waste and infuse your decor with your style.
  • Avoid single-use, disposable decorations: Say no to single-use decorations like plastic banners and disposable table centerpieces. Instead, invest in timeless pieces such as quality holiday lights, durable ornaments or fabric bunting. These choices add to the longevity of your decorations and contribute to a more sustainable holiday ambiance.

Conscious Food Choices

As you start planning your holiday menu, consider how your food choices can make a difference.

Being mindful about meals doesn’t mean taking away the fun—it’s about finding the balance that’s good for you and the planet. Here are some tips:

Plan Meals to Minimize Food Waste 

95% of Thanksgiving food waste ends up in landfills. In just one Thanksgiving, the United States generates carbon emissions equivalent to driving 1.1 billion miles.

Think ahead to avoid waste during the holidays. Consider how much you need, get creative with leftovers and share extras. 

Planning saves money and also helps the planet. For example, if you’re preparing a holiday feast, calculate portions based on the number of your guests and serve dishes family-style to allow everyone to take what they like.

Create a meal plan incorporating leftovers into future meals like turning roasted vegetables into a frittata or using turkey scraps for a hearty soup.

Choose seasonal and local ingredients for a fresh and sustainable twist. Don’t be afraid to try new recipes that use up ingredients efficiently.

Use Reusable Tableware and Cutlery

Choose reusable plates and cutlery to cut down on plastic waste. Durable options like bamboo or stainless steel can be used for many celebrations, making them a good investment. 

Consider setting up a designated area for guests to return used items for easy cleaning and reuse. It’s a simple way to make your holiday gatherings more eco-friendly. 

Encourage Reusable Containers

Ask guests to bring their own containers for leftovers. Consider giving reusable containers as gifts, encouraging a long-lasting commitment to reducing waste even after the holidays are done.

Get creative with container decorations or labels for a fun and personalized touch. You could even host a leftover recipe exchange, inspiring everyone to share creative ways to enjoy holiday leftovers. 

Sustainable Shopping

When you shop online, it creates 4.8 times more packaging waste compared to buying in stores. However, the positive news is that in 2022, over 93% of all cardboard boxes and almost 68% of paper used were successfully recycled.

Sustainable shopping is simple—making mindful choices that support your community and lessen your environmental impact. Here are three ways for you to shop sustainably: 

  • Support local and eco-friendly businesses: When picking out holiday gifts and supplies, go for items from local and eco-friendly businesses. This helps your local community and ensures your purchases are kinder to the environment. Look for things with eco-friendly labels or made from sustainable materials. Check out local markets for unique, handmade gifts with a story.
  • Bring your own reusable bags: Remember to bring your own reusable bags when you go holiday shopping. It’s an easy way to cut down on single-use plastic bags. Keep those reusable bags handy in your car or backpack, so you’re always prepared. And don’t forget reusable produce bags for your fruits and veggies to keep the plastic waste to a minimum.
  • Consider second-hand or upcycled items: Find the joy in discovering unique treasures by looking for second-hand or upcycled items. Thrift stores, vintage stores or online platforms for second-hand goods are full of hidden gems for gifts and decorations. Choosing pre-loved items adds character to your holiday finds. It helps create a circular economy by giving old things a fresh start. Get creative and repurpose items for a sustainable and personal touch to your holiday celebrations.

Recycling and Community Initiatives

Share info on how to recycle right in your community. Understand what goes where—paper, plastic, glass—and make it easy for everyone to be a recycling pro. 

Before tossing things:

  1. Think about giving them a second life.
  2. Donate clothes, furniture or toys to local charities.
  3. Get creative—that old dresser might make a perfect DIY project. 

Reducing waste starts with finding new homes for the things you no longer need. It also keeps usable items out of landfills. 

Connect with local charities to see what they need. Your used items might be just what someone else wants or needs. 

Get involved in local events focused on cutting down waste. Whether it’s a cleanup day or a recycling drive, participating positively impacts.

How to Reduce Holiday Waste During the Holidays

So, how to reduce holiday waste during the holidays? Small actions make a big difference. 

Carry the spirit of reducing waste into the New Year, making eco-friendly choices a year-round tradition. Cheers to celebrations that are both merry and green.

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