Americans generate way too much trash, but fully a quarter of it comes between Thanksgiving and New Years. In a period of just over a month, we buy more, give more, ship more, and eat more than we ordinarily do in three months. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Here’s the good news: it only takes a little time and thought for individual households to reduce their own trash. It takes barely more to make new habits that will continue for the rest of the year.
There are hundreds of millions of households in the US. Just think of what a dramatic difference it would make if even a quarter of us take waste reduction more seriously this year! Lets make sustainability so commonplace that it becomes the new social norm.
- Save shipping boxes, bubble wrap, even packing peanuts. You can easily cut the tape on boxes to fold them so they won’t take up a lot of room. Then the next time you need to ship something, you don’t have to buy a box and packing material. All you need is more tape to put the box back together.
- If you don’t have packing material left over from packages you have received, crumple pages from newspapers. The recipient can recycle newspaper, but probably not packing peanuts or anything else you could buy. If the recipient isn’t someone who automatically recycles, you can always ask.
- If you have an artificial tree, keep using it. If you need to buy a tree, consider a live potted tree that you can keep in the house year round.
- For cut trees, it is better to buy one from a tree farm than cut one in the wild. Some municipalities collect used trees as part of their recycling program and turn them into mulch. If that is not an option for you, can you buy or rent a chipper? If your municipality just landfills cut trees, they are not a sustainable choice for you.
- Try to make cleaning up after a celebration a social opportunity. Avoid disposable pans, table service, tablecloths, and napkins. Probably no one really likes washing dishes or doing laundry, but many hands make light work—and seriously reduce trash.
- The best amount of food to make is when you don’t run out of anything, but don’t have a mound of leftovers, either. So plan carefully. Freeze leftovers that you won’t want to eat over the next few days. Send leftovers home with guests. Do whatever it takes to keep from throwing food out.
- By the way, did you know that a turkey carcass that has been picked totally clean can make wonderful broth? Freeze it in one or two cup containers. It will be better broth than you can buy at the store and almost free!
- Does anyone still take holiday pictures on film? Dispense with disposable cameras!
- When you shop, be mindful of the amount of packaging you take home with your gifts. Basically, packaging equals trash that you have to pay for. Buy as little trash as possible.
- Look for products with recycled content. The more recycled products people buy, the more will become available—and also the more variety and higher quality.
- Especially look for recycled content in wrapping paper, cards, and other items likely to be discarded.
- Do you need to wrap gifts in wrapping paper? You can get various sizes of gift bags and use them over and over. You don’t need to hide the contents by wrapping them in tissue, either. How about a clean handkerchief, cloth napkin, dish towel, of some other inexpensive item that will double as an extra gift? You can also use printed boxes. If you don’t stick a tag to the top, you can reuse them. Any number of other alternatives to wrapping paper just require a dash of imagination and creativity.
As for Christmas lights, you have already recycled your old energy hogging lights and replaced them with LEDs, haven’t you?