Keeping the Holidays Green—and Less Wasteful

Dec. 12, 2016

This time of year, everyone loves greenery—so why not be a little green? The season of giving is a great time to give a thought to reducing waste and consuming less energy. 

Gift-wrapping, tree trimming and decking the halls are all part of the joy of the season, but unfortunately, can produce more than their share of extra waste. Trash collectors in New Jersey pick up about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than during the rest of the year.  

“The amount of materials (paper, bottles, cans) that we recycle has not been increasing over the last ten years, but the amount of waste that is sent to incinerators and landfills has been increasing steadily,” the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) notes in a press release, Trimming Our Holiday Waste-line

So what can you do to cut down on the disposables, not to mention all that seasonal clutter?

Gift-wrapping alternatives

The Inhabitat website recommends eco-friendly alternatives to gift wrapping, including wrapping with fabric (elevated to an art form in Japan), clay flower pots, old calendars or posters, and that old standby, newspaper. Of course, gift bags are a great option, and don’t forget to re-use old paper, ribbons and bows when possible. 

Smart ways to 'precycle'

Consider cancelling all those print holiday catalogs you no longer need; Catalog Choice offers a way to unsubscribe from mailing lists. Seek out retailers that carry products made from recycled materials, and even consider an artsy “tree” made from reused materials and and found objects. Ideas can be found on the website of the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC). 

The EPA recommends reducing your impact by giving gifts that require little or no packaging, using energy-efficient lighting (replace incandescent lights with LEDs) and taking public transportation for those holiday jaunts into the city. 

A merrier tree

Consider buying a Christmas tree in a rootball that can be planted after the holidays. If you do buy a cut tree, look for ways to compost it (programs exist in many areas) rather than having it go out with the regular trash.

Partying green

Cooking for guests this year? Composting food scraps is one of the best ways to cut down on the amount you throw away (and is great for gardens). When you host a holiday party, make sure everyone knows where to put their recyclable cans and bottles.

Gifts that keep giving

Give experiences rather than things to those friends or family members who already have everything. Whether gift certificates, tickets, memberships or donations to a favorite charity, these thoughtful gifts bring joy without all the extra baggage. 

Thanks to Steve Rinaldi, Chair, New Jersey WasteWise Business Network at the NJDEP, for recommending these resources.

Get more holiday waste reduction tips from the NJDEP here and here