During the holiday season, food and gifts contribute to a high increase in household waste. According to the Ohio EPA, Americans throw out 25% more trash and 33% more food than any other time of the year. That amounts to 25 million extra tons of garbage that goes into landfills, creating more greenhouse gases such as methane, which is ultimately released into the atmosphere.
While this year’s holiday season may look a little different and perhaps include only your immediate household members, we encourage you to keep holiday waste to a minimum, to create a sustainable habit for years to come. Here are some tips to reduce waste over the holidays by making a few changes to our annual routines:
The best strategy to reduce food waste during the holidays is to create a dinner menu, keeping in mind the number of guests that will be at the dinner table. This will allow you to take inventory of what you already have at home and buy only what you need.
Leftovers are inevitable, so get creative with reusing them the next day. Here are some ideas.
Hungry eyes can encourage us to put more on our plates than our tummies can handle. In that case, make sure to compost anything that may end up in the trash. This includes food scraps that accumulate during the cooking process as well, such as peels and any cut off trimmings. You can do your own composting or compost through a local program.
While we all love getting and giving gifts, they unfortunately come at an environmental cost due to shipping and packaging. Here are some alternative ideas you could opt for to cut down on waste this holiday season:
Give experiences. It's nice to mix it up sometimes and give the gift of new experiences over physical gifts.
- Cooking class: Have a cherished family recipe? Experience cooking it together whether in person or virtually. Makes for a great bonding experience.
- Outdoor winter fun: Plan a day outside to either hike, go sledding or tobogganing.
- Language lessons: Our lives have slowed down a bit with the pandemic, which means more time to ourselves to tackle a new project or cross off a bucket list item. If learning a new language is on their list, get them a subscription to try it out.
- Virtual painting or music lessons are another out-of-the-box idea.
- Subscription services to book reading apps like Audible or Blinkist also go a long way.
Shop local – support small businesses. The pandemic has exacerbated the need to support local businesses now more than ever. Don’t forget to bring your own reusable bag for carrying your purchases. Some sustainable wrapping ideas include using recycled or reused wrapping paper, brown paper bags, cloth scarves or any other creative material.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
If you’re just not sure what they’d like, consider buying gift cards to local businesses. Check to see if they have e-gift cards available to reduce waste.
Buy Nothing. DIY gifts show just how much creativity, time and effort went into the gift, making it that much more appreciated.
- Get artsy and create your own gift certificates by hand. You can use good ol' cardboard and any craft materials you already have at home. Just write in the gift they will receive with the certificate. You can get as creative as you’d like, or download a free template online and print at home. Here are a few ideas:
- task or chore
- adventure around the city
- cook dinner for a week
- Write a poem, draw/paint an artwork and frame it.
- Create a family recipe book and include all of their favorite dishes.
- Plants are a big hit these days. Take the suckers from your plants and replant them into new containers.
- Donate to a charity in their name.