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How to not Bust the Bin this Season: Your Waste Reduction Tips for the Holidays!

By Liz Skolnick

The holidays are upon us! And often, with times of great joy come great mounds of trash in the form of wrapping paper, disposable packaging and disposable dishware left over from those hearty meals with the relatives. In 2016, the EPA reported that household waste increases by upwards of 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. But have no fear — holiday time doesn’t have to equal tons of trash! We’ve searched high and low for the best waste reduction tips to help make your holidays as “green” as can be. So before you wrap those gifts, plan that meal or make that cross-country trip, check out our tips for minimizing your footprint this season:

  • Try ditching the wrapping paper and ribbon in favor of pretty reusable gift bags. Or go a step further and try out cloth gift wrap like Lilywrap, which offers many cute design options. You could even get creative and use appealing pictures from old magazines and newspaper as DIY wrapping paper. Lastly, if handled carefully tissue paper can easily be reused.

  • Going out to do some holiday shopping? Don’t forget your reusable tote bags! Word to the wise: Take a couple more than you think you’ll actually need.

  • Plastic cutlery creates LOTS of non-degradable trash and isn’t even accepted for recycling in most states. Though there’s a lot of temptation to cut down on clean-up, consider that those disposable items may take hundreds of years to break down in the environment. Ask for help! Have the whole family pitch in to clean up after meals.

  • Got some leftovers to store? Plastic cling-wrap (which is not recycled in many parts of the US) does not have to be your go-to. Check out this link for a list of excellent plastic-free alternatives, including sturdy glassware (e.g. Pyrex), attractive silicone lids that create a seal, and beeswax or other natural food wraps.

  • Consider a truly “green” Christmas tree. As the EPA suggests, opt for “a potted tree that can be replanted, or a red cedar slated for removal during habitat/farm maintenance.” While you’re at it, check your options for energy-saving LED holiday lights (and do remember to keep those out of the recycling bin!).

  • When recycling wrapping paper, plastic and other packaging, check your local recycling and waste guidelines to make sure what you put in the bin is actually recyclable, and that you’re separating correctly.

  • Be sure to keep food-stained or burnt aluminum foil out of the recycling bin. Unfortunately, once it’s got stuck-on residue it’s not recyclable anymore. In some cases, you can eliminate the need for foil in the oven by just using oil directly on your baking trays.

  • Give the gift of experience rather than objects. The EPA suggests making gifts of “event tickets, museum memberships, gift certificates, or even your time and talents.” Gift cards to local restaurants, spas, wine-tastings, or gourmet markets are among the many thoughtful and waste-free ways to show you care.

  • If you’re gifting items, most of all try to ensure it’s something your loved-one will use! You can encourage reuse through gifting attractive canteens or tote bags. Or search in local craft shops or online for gifts that are sustainably sourced or made from recycled materials.

  • Consider using rail travel, subways, buses or other forms of motor coach and public transportation, if possible. Air travel generally has the highest carbon footprint. If you have to drive, think about carpooling.

  • Lastly, here’s a great “how to” guide for disposal from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation:

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