Tips for a Less Wasteful Holiday Season
The holiday season is a time for spreading warmth and joy, and, unfortunately, for producing a lot more waste. According to BBC News, the amount of trash produced by households usually goes up by about a third during the holidays.
Here are some tips to make your holiday less trashy and more eco-friendly.
Wrapping Paper Isn’t Necessarily Just Paper
Many varieties of wrapping paper contain metallic components like glitter, aluminum or plastic, which are not recyclable. To avoid your wrapping materials becoming automatically destined for the trash, select paper that is recycled or recyclable, or use paper from around the house, like paper bags, newspaper, leftover wrapping paper from holidays past or even those maps from the time before GPS.
Using alternative wrapping materials like a piece of pretty fabric, a scarf or a reusable tote bag is a way to avoid wrapping paper altogether and make the wrapping part of the gift.
A trick to tell if your wrapping paper is recyclable is to crumple it up. If it stays in a ball, it’s probably able to be recycled. If it immediately uncrumples itself, it likely has plastic in it and needs to be saved to be used again (and again).
Before putting your used wrapping paper in the recycling bin (that is, if you’ve decided not to save it to wrap future holiday gifts) be sure to remove everything that’s not recyclable, including ribbons, gift tags and tape.
For those who are fortunate enough to be able to make food a central part of their holiday celebration, it’s important to make sure it doesn’t go to waste.
According to Feed America, each year 108 billion pounds of food is wasted in the U.S. That’s $408 billion worth of food, or 130 billion meals. In fact, America wastes almost 40 percent of all of its food!
In order to stop some of this rampant food waste, we can start with our holiday leftovers.
The first way to make sure you don’t waste food during the holidays is to cut back on how much you buy. Leftovers are great, but being realistic about how much you and your loved ones are actually going to consume both at group meals and for that next day lunch or midnight snack can help avoid overpacking the fridge and finding a plate with turkey and cranberry sauce a month later, destined for the garbage.
To maximize the life of your leftovers, refrigerate uneaten food as soon as possible. It may be tempting to leave the holiday table after a meal right away to watch the game or It’s a Wonderful Life, but waiting till dusk to put away leftovers may mean they won’t last as long.
Don’t forget to freeze any leftovers you don’t intend to eat in the few days after everyone has left and you still have enough food for a dozen people. One year, a week before Thanksgiving, my dad said he’d just finished the turkey from the year before, so leftover turkey is definitely freezable.
When eating holiday leftovers, you don’t have to make the same plate you made at your family celebration or stick to the traditional turkey sandwich. There are many creative ways to reuse your leftovers to give them a new life and spice things up. Search for a recipe containing the main ingredients and try something new.
There are many ways to go about fulfilling the desire for the traditional holiday centerpiece that you decorate in your main living space. For one thing, it doesn’t have to be a tree, and it doesn’t have to be cut down. House plants can make lovely centerpieces and can be decorated with small LED lights and handmade decorations, or go Victorian and make some cranberry or popcorn garlands using compostable string.
You can get a tree in a pot and plant it outside after Christmas, but don’t keep it indoors for too long. Mother Earth News recommends not keeping a tree inside longer than five to seven days and placing it in a cool area away from heat sources. Make sure the roots are moist but not too wet and decorate with ornaments that won’t stress the branches too much, like dried flowers or seed pods to keep things light and natural.
Around 17 million living trees that have been cut down to be used as Christmas trees are sold annually, most of which end up being thrown away, according to Everyday Recycler.
If you do opt for a cut tree, curbside recycling is often available, but be sure to remove all decorations before putting the tree outside. Trees can often be shredded and then composted or recycled and made into wood chips.
Artificial trees aren’t recyclable but can be reused year after year or donated, so there’s no need to throw them away.
Having a fun and festive holiday doesn’t have to mean a lot of extra waste. The more mindful we are of what we use and how we use it, the happier the holiday — especially for the planet!
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