Crowding landfills with waste is a terrible problem that only gets worse during the holidays. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), household waste increases by 25 percent in the U.S. between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In fact, food waste, plastic shopping bags, wrapping paper, gift bags, packaging, and bows account for an extra 1 million tons of waste each week during the busy gift-giving season.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help protect the planet by reducing holiday waste. Just follow these simple suggestions.
Use Wrapping Paper and Gift Bag Alternatives
Covering your gifts with anything you don’t throw away is an easy waste-cutting action. Instead of wrapping presents in traditional paper and bags, consider reducing waste with some creative alternatives. Reusable cloth bags, storage totes, decorative tins, and boxes are two great options. You can also “wrap” a gift in a scarf, some fabric scraps, a decorative pillowcase, a holiday towel, recyclable packing paper, or even a t-shirt.
BYOB to the Store
Bringing your own reusable bags to the store when you shop reduces the number of plastic bags being used in the holiday season. Reusable grocery bags can hold lots of items from clothing to toys to home décor. If you need a larger bag for larger items, stores like TJ Maxx sell big reusable bags for just 99 cents. Plus, at this time of year, they are usually holiday-themed, which means they can easily double as a festive gift bag.
Opt-Out of Holiday Catalog Lists
Some people enjoy browsing through a holiday catalog to get gift ideas. Once the season ends, however, the glossy booklets get tossed in the trash. A simple way to solve this wasteful problem is to opt-out of the company’s mailing list. Just call the toll-free number on the catalog and tell a customer service rep to remove your name and address from the list. You can look for gifts, find sales, and even get coupons on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Consolidate Orders and Recycle Shipping Boxes
Shopping online is convenient because a digital store never closes! To help reduce shipping waste, consolidate your orders so that the items fit in as few boxes as possible. After the shipments arrive, break down the boxes and add them to your weekly recycling bin. If the box is padded with peanuts or packing paper, you can donate those to your local post office. Or, you can save them to use the next time you have to pack and ship something yourself.
Give an Experience, Family Treasure, or a Charitable Donation
Instead of going bargain-hunting for a bunch of presents to pile under the tree, think outside of the retail holiday box and give a creative gift.
For example, offer to clean your best friend’s house, cook dinner for two, write and perform a song for someone special, buy tickets to a concert or play, gift a museum membership, or go on a weekend trip.
Family treasures also make meaningful gifts. Pass pieces of your grandma’s china down to your child, share one of your favorite books or CDs from your collection with a friend or give a loved one an album or scrapbook filled with family photos and details about important events.
Finally, helping the needy is important during the holidays and throughout the year. Instead of trading gifts with loved ones, sponsor a local family, donate money or time to your favorite charity, and look for ways to do random acts of kindness for family, friends, and strangers. In this way, you can make a positive difference in the world around you and this giving this kind of gift is priceless.