Fall has flown by and the holiday season is suddenly upon us. As we transition from pumpkins and ghosts to turkeys and trees, it’s important to be mindful of our celebrations. According to Stanford University, 25 percent more trash is thrown away during the Thanksgiving and New Year’s holiday periods than the rest of the year. This amounts to 1 million extra tons per week.
Luckily there are plenty of ways that you can turn your gathering into a more eco-friendly affair. Read through our tips and tricks for reducing your waste this holiday season.
What is the holiday season without decorations? From fall leaves scattered on a Thanksgiving table to lights strung on the tree, decorating is a ritual in many families. There are a few ways you can keep up these traditions without producing as much waste.
When decorating for the holidays, try using natural materials. These include logs, tree branches, leaves, pine cones, cinnamon sticks and fruits such as dried berries and oranges. Using natural materials that can decompose will help keep the plastic decor out of the landfill.
How long does it take common materials to decompose in a landfill?
When you DIY your decor, it’s more meaningful. It’s also easier to be mindful of what materials you are using. Try creating your own snowflakes out of recycled paper or create a wreath out of fallen branches from the trees in your yard. This decor will be one of a kind and much more sustainable.
One decor staple for those who celebrate Christmas is a tree. While a natural tree that you cut and bring into your home might seem sustainable, it has a carbon footprint of 16kg of CO2 if it ends up in a landfill. With the U.S. having an estimated 15 million used Christmas trees a year, that’s 240 million kg of CO2 emitted each year. This is the same as the greenhouse emissions your car emits in two weeks or 578 miles.
To reduce these emissions, there are more sustainable tree alternatives you can try out this year.
Many have chosen to purchase artificial trees for the holidays. These trees are made out of PVC plastic, steel and aluminum. The materials it takes to make one artificial tree are about the same as what’s needed to create an upholstered patio chair.
The carbon emissions for an artificial tree are predicted to be 40kg of CO2. So while the materials might not be good for the environment, if you use it for 12 or more years in a row, the carbon emissions are less than purchasing a real tree.
Rather than buying a tree to decorate for one month out of the year, try planting a tree. By planting a tree in your yard or in a pot in your home, you’ll be reducing carbon emissions. You can still decorate this tree for the holiday, but you’ll also be able to enjoy it year-round.
If you don’t want to celebrate without that fresh tree smell in your living room, be sure you’re buying and disposing of real trees in a sustainable way. When purchasing, get the tree from a tree nursery rather than one that was cut in nature. The trees at nurseries are grown for the purpose of being cut down. Trees in nature are supporting an ecosystem that you don’t want to disrupt.
In addition, it’s important to dispose of the tree properly. The carbon footprint of a tree that is used for firewood or mulch is only 3.5kg of CO2 compared to the 16kg of CO2 if it ends up in a landfill. Being sure that the tree is sustainably being recycled can help reduce carbon emissions.
Ways to recycle your tree:
While twinkling lights can brighten a tree or frame the outside of your home, they utilize more electricity than you may realize. The U.S. uses more electricity during the month of December than some countries use all year. This 6.63 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity used during December is mainly due to incandescent and LED light displays.
As much fun as a light display that lines up with a Christmas carol can be, when the show is played on repeat for five hours a day, it’s contributing to 33 percent of carbon emissions in the U.S. that are associated with electricity generation.
To reduce this, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Whether you are hosting a meal this holiday season or just helping out in the kitchen, there are some ways you can reduce waste. Food Watch reports that every year in the United States, 40 percent of food goes uneaten — that’s $165 billion in wasted food. This leads to 160 billion pounds of food entering the landfills.
What are the holidays without food? This season, be sure you aren’t contributing to the landfill with these tips.
The holiday season brings with it many trips to the grocery store for party food or the mall for presents. Each trip you take is adding to carbon emissions, especially if you don’t have an electric vehicle. This season when you are taking these trips try to plan ahead.
When grocery shopping, buy an extra dessert that won’t go bad too quickly. This way if you are invited to a last-minute event you won’t have to race back to the store.
The National Retail Federation predicts that consumers will spend an average of $1,047.83 this holiday season. These dollars are going towards gifts, non-gifting holiday items and additional holiday promotions.
While giving gifts is part of the holiday’s charm, there are ways to be intentional with your gifting. This year, consider putting your dollars towards experiences rather than material goods that will be forgotten or thrown away by the end of the year.
Some intentional gifts include:
Wrapping paper is usually used once and then thrown away. To avoid this short lifespan, try giving your gifts with wrapping paper alternatives.
Some alternatives include:
When attending holiday events, many people have to travel. If you are going to a party, see if someone in your vicinity wants to carpool. This will reduce emissions as well as clear up traffic on the roads and create space for parking. If a carpool isn’t available, try a different greener option like taking public transportation, walking, biking or choosing the carpool option on a rideshare app.
Between Black Friday and the frenzy of holiday gifts, companies increase their advertising during the holidays. This includes junk mail. Be sure you opt out of junk mail that is going directly in the trash. Do this by managing your junk mail through the Direct Marketing Association. If this doesn’t do the trick, you’ll need to individually reach out to those sending you junk mail like credit card companies or local grocery stores.
As the holidays come to a close, you’ll be looking towards the new year. To keep up with intentionally reducing waste throughout the year, try making a green resolution.
Some green resolutions to try:
The holidays are a time when people gather in homes to celebrate their family and friends. This can easily be done while reducing waste if you are intentional about your celebration and take the time to make choices that are good for the planet.