With the holiday season in full swing, it’s that time of year when we often find ourselves buying and consuming more heavily than we want or need. There are dinners to host, presents to buy, and a house to decorate. This year, instead of turning a blind eye to all the waste that’s often produced, make a pledge to be an eco-conscious shopper and tweak your holiday habits with these tips for reducing your household’s waste and the impact on the environment during this holiday season.
Be creative with gift wrap
Wrapping paper often gets thrown away after one use, so try getting creative with reusing gift wrapping this year. As an alternative to wrapping paper, use colorful magazine pages, posters or pages from comic books and the Sunday paper. To avoid paper altogether, consider giving your gifts in reusable decorative tins or baskets. Your loved ones will appreciate the extra gift! Conmsiuse cloth ribbons or biodegradable twine in place of plastic bows to add a little flair to your packages. If you receive gifts in wrapping paper, try to carefully remove the paper so that you can use it again next year.
Serve holiday meals and treats on your real dishes
When hosting a holiday dinner with multiple guests, disposable plates and silverware can be tempting to use. Despite the convenience, all that plastic or paper is going straight into our landfills. Make an effort to use your everyday dishware, or kick it up a notch and bring out the china — your guests gathering will instantly feel a whole lot more special. If you must use the disposable kind, try shopping for brands made from recycled material. Disposable options made from recycled paper or bamboo won’t break the bank, but buying reusable and sustainable products will always be a better investment.
Reuse Greeting Cards
Receiving holiday greetings in the mail, is one of the best highlights of the season, but then we’re left with what to do with all of those cards each year. Most of the time, your loved one will only write on the inside right half, so the front of the card can be cut and used as a postcard. Simply cut the card straight down the middle, write a note on the back and put a stamp in the top corner. You can also use the ‘new’ card as a name tag on top of packages instead of using those wasteful stickers. You’ll reduce paper waste and give someone a smile in the process.
Holiday lights are beautiful and cheery, but there’s no sense in leaving outside lights running all night long. To save energy, turn off lights before going to sleep, and unplug any inflatable yard decor. While you’re at it, there’s no need to leave the Christmas tree lights on, either.
When hosting company, turn the heat down by a few degrees, the body heat from others will gradually warm the space, and you’ll avoid anyone getting too warm. To reduce your energy consumption and save money, lower your heat settings or turn off the heating unit altogether while you’re traveling out of town to visit family.
Make one trip
After the holidays, you may find yourself with several gifts that need to be returned or exchanged. Gather them together and make one trip into town, rather than multiple trips that waste fuel. Consider asking friends or neighbors if they want to make an event of it – you can carpool and grab a meal together afterwards. You’ll lessen the impact of holiday traffic, use less fuel and likely have more fun.
Put leftovers to use
Portion control can be difficult for all of us during the holiday season. When preparing meals for large groups, the fear of not having enough food for everyone can cause us to overcook, leaving leftovers that end up wasted. When cleaning up after dinner, try saving your extra vegetables, beans or rice by freezing them to use in soups later on. Leftover turkey, ham or chicken can be shredded up and added to salads or casseroles in the following weeks.
If you have unused canned goods after a big meal, research local food banks and ask how to make a donation. Many homeless and veterans’ shelters will also accept non-perishable donations.
Give eco-conscious gifts
Consider giving gifts that reduce landfill waste and send a positive environmental message. Homemade gifts like baked breads, cookies and jams are thoughtful, practical and will be used quickly after the holidays. Restaurant gift cards, movie or concert tickets are also great gifts that don’t create much waste, if any at all.
If none of these options will do, consider giving a gift card or a membership to a gym or spa service. Reusable items like coffee tumblers, durable food storage bins and rechargeable batteries are also gifts that lessen the impact of holiday waste.
Market studies show that during the holiday season, household waste increases by over 25 percent. To offset such great waste, try mixing up your holiday routine using these tips for a greener, less wasteful season. Remember, keep it simple, and even small changes do make a big difference.