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7 Ways to Be Less Wasteful This Holiday Season

Piles of food, piles of presents, piles of holiday guests—it all adds up to piles of waste. And while the wrappings and boxes might temporarily make great playthings for your cats, what do you do with it all in the excess? And how do you make sure there is less of it to begin with?

They look so pretty under the tree, but what do you do with the trash after they're unwrapped?
Photo credit: Shutterstock

1. Be creative in wrapping your presents. Recycle materials you already have on hand to make gift wrapping. Wrap gifts in newspaper and decorate it. Or wrap gifts in another, reusable gift. For instance, wrap those cute salt and pepper shakers in some pretty dish towels. Instead of a bow, find a little trinket or toy the recipient can keep and reuse.

2. Once you've got the wrapping and ribbons on hand, save them all. They can fuel craft projects at your local school or for a girl scout troop all year long. Do the same with the Christmas cards, something scout troops have been doing for decades. They were recycling pioneers!

3. Give "virtual" gifts instead of things. Promise your grandparents a dinner at their favorite restaurant; give your science-loving niece a membership at the natural history museum. Movie passes and books of restaurant discount coupons are great gifts too. Think about what your recipient likes to do and contribute to the cost of doing it.

4. Be sure to keep recycling. It's easy to become overwhelmed with and say "the heck with it," and just throw everything together. Don't! And make it easy for your guests to do so too. Don't leave them wondering where to dump the leftovers and trash. Sure, your family knows, but visitors won't. Label everything.

5. Make your last-minute shopping trips more efficient. Make a list of things you need to do and make one final trip instead of going back and forth. Not only will this conserve gas, but it will save your time and your sanity. And be sure to take reusable totes. You don't want to contribute to the mass of one-use plastic bags you probably have stuffed in a drawer somewhere.

6. To reduce your environmental footprint shop local for food. Go to farmers markets, many of which now run year round. Not only are you supporting your local economy, but you are cutting down the climate impact of long-distance shipping of food. And you can make sure you're buying from farmers/food producers who use sustainable practices instead of consuming foods coming from climate-damaging factory farms.

7. Be careful with the quantity of food you prepare. Everyone worries there won't be enough, but what about when (as is more typical) there's too much? Plan the menu so that you're not left with heaps of highly perishable food, but rather things that can be recycled for future meals. Or look around to find a group that does regular community meals. Many of us think about volunteering to feed the hungry and homeless on the holidays, but they eat all the time, and many organizations provide meals week in and week out. Help them out, and maybe you'll find yourself coming back to volunteer even when it's not Thanksgiving or Christmas.

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