Written by Anna Berardi
Ah, the holidays – family, food, festivities – and yes, stuff. While we’re busy being merry, the accumulation of waste can be overwhelming. Want to have a joyful and meaningful season that reflects your lifestyle and values? Consider 10 ways to make your holidays lighter on the Earth (and on your wallet- double score!):
1. Upcycle your trash.
Plastic party cups and egg cartons make excellent storage vessels for small decorations. Reuse spaghetti jars to share mom’s sought-after hot cocoa mix, tin cans become a rustic vase. Need inspiration? Search Pinterest for an upcycling epiphany.
2. Give an experience, instead of gifts.
A pass to a National Park or CSA membership leaves a lighter footprint on our planet and the memories last longer. Here are a few more ideas to get you started.
3. Give it away.
Did you know that you can help local families and children by giving away your junk? It’s true. Local social service charities near you need used holiday decorations and toys for needy families. Some may even have innovative recycling programs that help them stay viable. For example, The Mustard Seed of Orlando accepts non-working Christmas lights and electrical appliances, and recycles old mattresses. Take time out from the holiday festivities to research local charities that help find new uses for your old belongings. Earth911.com is a good place to start.
4. Re-use wrapping materials.
I have paper holiday gift bags from 2000 — a huge collection, in fact! Stigma, schmigma, there’s no shame in re-using these each year.
5. Give gift wrap a second life.
Save the tissue paper from gifts as additional padding for future shipping or when the holiday fragiles go back in the attic.
6. Find teachable moments.
Get children in on the act that something can have more than one use during the holiday season. Children are excellent at seeing “treasure” in the trash. Bottle caps, wine corks and leaves are a natural-born artist’s dream come true. BONUS: Make a point to tell them that they are reducing waste and what that means — you are instilling sustainability and artistic inspiration for future generations. That’s a holiday gift for all mankind, right there!
7. Consider the packaging.
Are you trying to decide between two similar items for a purchase? Pick the item with less packaging. I try to remember that the stuff I throw in the trash likely will go on beyond my lifetime in a dump somewhere — so I make purchasing decisions accordingly when I can.
8. Master the minimalist mailbox.
Clear the clutter to kick off the New Year. Check out services like Catalog Choice to eliminate that junk mail pile for good.
9. Grab a reusable shopping bag.
You already bring your own bags to the grocery store; bring them along on your trip to the mall. Reusable bags can last for years and helps lower the number of sea turtles and other marine animals that are harmed or killed by plastic in our oceans.
10. Recycle your batteries.
Battery sales are on the rise during the holiday season and most will end up in landfills. A great stocking stuffer for the electronic gifts under the tree is a set of rechargeable batteries.
What are your tips for reducing waste during the holidays? Share them with us!
Anna Berardi is a digital manager for The Nature Conservancy’s Florida and Georgia state chapters.
[Image: Christmas waste. Image source: Tom Page/Flickr via a Creative Commons license]