The holiday season is here! And with it comes presents and trees and stars and menorahs and piles and piles and piles of trash.
According to Stanford Recycling, families throw away a million extra tons of trash per week between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. NBC News reported that nationally, $282 million dollars of turkeys end up in the trash every year, along with about 25-30 million Christmas trees. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, it takes 15 years for a Christmas tree to reach full height. That’s 15 years of water, compost, labor and energy tossed out after only a month.
When all the tinsel and ribbons are discarded they go to a landfill, where they undergo bacterial decomposition and produce “landfill gas,” a mixture of greenhouse gases including methane, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. These fun fumes fly up and around our little planet, rotting our ozone layer and polluting our holiday air.
So if you feel like avoiding all this in favor of a sustainable holiday season, here are five tips for keeping your holiday trash-free.
1. Use green decorations.
You can find evergreen wreaths at your local grocery store or Christmas tree farm, and brighten up the winter with dried orange slices. To do this, cut an orange into thin slices and put them into an oven at 170 degrees, flipping them every 30 minutes. After three hours, take out your golden slices and make a chain or hang them on strings as ornaments.
2. Buy in bulk.
Not only is this less expensive, it’s better for the environment. In 2018, The Guardian reported that every American waste one pound of food per day. When you buy food in bulk, you are not only significantly reducing the amount of packaging going into landfills, you are minimizing Transport Pollution because you use your car fewer times to purchase a larger amount of goods. Even if you order your bulk goods to be delivered, larger packages mean the delivery truck can be packed more efficiently.
So take a field trip to Costco for the winter and stock up on all the necessities, but go light on the stuff that needs to be refrigerated — power outage season isn’t over yet.
3. Skip the bubble wrap.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the wrapping of packages is the biggest cause of holiday waste. Replace plastic items like bubble wrap with newspaper and tissue paper, and use paper tape instead of plastic. Reuse as much as you can; Stanford Recycling reports that if every family used just two less feet of ribbon, the remaining 38,000 miles would be enough to tie a bow around the entire planet.
4. Give sustainable gifts.
Look at more vintage items: Bake something as a gift, draw, or write something. Try something that’s easily doesn’t need a lot of wrapping, like peppermint bark or cookies. Gift experiences, like hikes or museum visits. If you are in the process of making a wishlist, find some charities that you support and ask your family to donate to them as a gift to you.
5. Offset your emissions.
If you and your family are flying somewhere for the holidays, you might consider supporting carbon offsets, which fund initiatives for sustainable energy projects, including limiting greenhouse gas emissions. These donations are surprisingly inexpensive. Websites like Sustainable Travel International and Green Mountain Energy will guide you through the process.
Now that you know the fastest green swaps, it’s time to put them to work. The season of giving is full of opportunities to give back to our earth- it just takes a little work to find them. Once you start doing these things, you’ll find more and more ways to stay green as you go! So keep in mind as you start shopping for presents to give a gift back to the planet, too.