The holiday season is a time for families to gather and express their love and appreciation for one another. Exchanging gifts has become a big part of the holiday season, and while such a tradition is well-intentioned, gift-giving annually produces substantial amounts of waste.
Food plays a big role at many holiday celebrations, and uneaten food contributes heavily to the excess waste during the holiday season. Time magazine reports that an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food, or about one-third of global production, is lost or wasted each year. The United States alone wastes 34 million tons of food annually, and a considerable amount of that waste is produced during the holiday season.
Food is not the only thing wasted during the holiday season. Everything from packaging to gift wrap to the number of gifts purchased can contribute to excess holiday waste.
As big a problem as holiday waste has become, there are several simple ways to reducing holiday waste.
- Make a list and stick to it. Retailers are very good at upselling and getting people to purchase items they do not need during the holiday season. Stick to a shopping list for food or other supplies for the holiday season and beyond. Do not be tempted to buy more than is necessary.
- Scale back the menu. If you typically have lots of leftovers after the holiday, you’re likely overestimating just how much people will eat. Learn from past experience and cook less this year. If you have a lot of leftovers, send guests home with their own plates instead of letting them pile up in the refrigerator and spoiling. And keep in mind that leftover food can always be donated to nearby food banks and homeless shelters.
- Reuse whatever you can. Diligently collect and store holiday wrappings and trimmings that are in good condition and put them to use again and again. Gift bags and boxes are easily reused. Once materials have passed their prime, attempt to repurpose and recycle them before discarding them.
- Compost food scraps. Eggshells, coffee grounds and vegetable peels can be put to use in the garden when composted.
- Give an experience rather than “stuff.” When gifting, think about giving experiences rather than traditional gifts. Experiences may include trips to a museum or tickets to a concert or a play. Such gifts will make for memorable experiences and, because experiences are not packaged, will help cut back on holiday waste.
- Make your own gift tags and wrapping. When wrapping gifts, use comics, maps, old calendars, and items that you would otherwise discard. You even can decorate newsprint with rubber stamps or drawings from the children.
- Purchase a rooted tree. Look for a tree that has the root intact so it can be planted afterward.
- Decorate with items from around the house. Costume jewelry and other trinkets can adorn the limbs of Christmas trees. Look throughout the house to see what you might have that can serve as replacements for heavily packaged, store-bought decorations.
Reducing waste during the holiday season can be accomplished without affecting the festive atmosphere synonymous with this time of year.