With holiday cheer comes sparkling lights, plates piled high, and, unfortunately, overflowing garbage cans. Nationwide, more than 1 million tons of additional waste are tossed out each week from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. “Historically, the holidays are the biggest trash weeks of the year in the U.S.,” says Robert Reed, spokesperson for Recology in San Francisco. “We [typically] see about a 17 percent increase in the total tons of recycling, composting, and landfill trash we collect in San Francisco.”
But you can still revel and rejoice while reducing waste. These tips will help you celebrate more sustainably for years to come.
Modernize your season’s greetings.
We can all use extra joy and love this winter. Consider sending a photo e-card or a homemade video instead of a printed card. (Smilebox and Paperless Post offer customizable options.) If every household bought one less card this year, the U.S would save enough paper to print approximately 48 million copies of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
If you still want to mail a few special notes, choose cards made with recycled paper and avoid any that include glossy photos, foil details, plastic, or glitter. “Wrapping paper and holiday cards made from mixed materials are difficult or impossible to recycle.” Reed says. “There is no way to separate metal or glitter from paper.”
Check the packaging before you order.
Bubble wrap, packing peanuts, plastic mailers—online shopping can create heaps of waste destined for the landfill. Before you add anything to your cart, check to see if the retailer shares its packaging or shipment materials. When you can, opt for companies that use materials you can recycle or compost in your area, such as a cardboard box with crumpled paper for cushioning.
If there’s a spot to leave special instructions or a note for your order, Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommends asking for recyclable or plastic-free packaging.
Smart Tip: Skip shipping entirely with curbside pickup when available.