It’s the most wasteful time of the year – How can you reduce your waste over the holiday?

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According to the EPA, during the holiday season the average household waste increases by 25% (https://www3.epa.gov/region9/waste/recycling/).  The major increase in waste comes from food, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons.  This increase equates to approximately 25 million extra tons of garbage.

Surely we all notice the excess amounts of “stuff” that accumulates over the holidays but have we ever taken steps to prevent it?  I am as guilty as the next person who gets caught up in the holiday spirit with endless shopping trips, fancy wrapping paper and bulk boxes of expensive Christmas cards. I wanted this year to be different so in an attempt to become more conscious of our Earth’s resources and our environment I went on a research mission for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle my waste this Christmas.  We can all make the extra effort this year and pick one (or some) of the  ideas below to reduce, reuse or recycle more this holiday season.

STEP 1: REDUCE

The first and most important R is to reduce waste whenever and wherever possible. Below are some tips on where and how you can reduce waste this season:

  • Reduce shopping bags by shopping with reusable bags;
  • Reduce packaging by choosing store bought gifts with the least amount of packaging;
  • Make your own gifts (DIY crafts, photos or baked goods);
  • Give a gift certificate, event ticket or a membership to a museum, gym or park;
  • Wrap several gifts together;
  • Do away with the ribbons and bows;
  • Plan your meals in advance so you do not overcook and,
  • Ask your guests to bring a reusable container so they can take home left overs and reduce the amount of leftover turkey or mashed potatoes your family may be stuck eating!

STEP 2: REUSE

Reuse may seem like the most difficult R to abide by this season.  How could you gift a “reuse” item to someone or how could you possibly find a new use  for your Christmas tree or ornaments? I am as skeptical as the next person but I did find some creative tips on reuse during the holidays:

  • Reuse packaging, gift bags or wrapping from previous years;
  • Re-purpose newspapers, magazines, posters, maps or a scarf to wrap gifts. You could also use reusable cloth bags to wrap gifts;
  • Use an artificial Christmas tree or buy a small potted tree that you can plant once the season is over;
  • Save broken Christmas ornaments and used wrapping paper for crafts;
  • Cut up old Christmas cards and use them as name tags on gifts for the next year;
  • Resist the urge to use disposable cutlery and dishes when hosting a festive meal and,
  • Use cloth napkins, dishes and cutlery that can be washed and reused.

STEP 3: RECYCLE

Easily the most widely used and most recognizable R of the threesome. However, “recycle” is at bottom of the list for a reason – it is the last ditch effort before the dreaded disposal!  The options for recycle and the items that can be recycled vary from region to region so below are some ideas on how to incorporate more recycling this holiday season:

  • Whenever possible purchase gifts from recycled materials. This will reduce the amount of resources used to make the gift and continue to create a market for recycled materials;
  • Use materials that are recyclable to wrap and package gifts;
  • Give old toys or clothing a new life by donating to a charitable organization;
  • Compost or mulch your Christmas tree, boughs and wreathes.  These decorative pieces can restore nutrients to soils, prevent moisture loss and limit the growth of weeds in your garden;
  • Make sure your friends and family can recycle when they attend your holiday festivities.  Create easy recycling stations with a garbage, recycling bin and compost bin placed beside each other for easy sorting.

Committing to even one of these changes over your holiday season can help save valuable resources, money and easily make your holiday season more sustainable and environmentally friendly.