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Keeping the Holidays Classy, Not Trashy

The holidays can be a magical time: the bright lights, the colored & graphic wrapping paper with pretty bows, buying/receiving presents for/from loved ones, over-indulging in meals, sweets, and treats. While these aspects bring joy and comradery amongst friends and family, they often lead to an increase of waste generated during the peak holiday months (November through December). A study of 2,000 Americans (USA) showed a 43% increase of waste during the winter holiday season. ( That is quite trashy!


                A few simple changes during the holidays  can greatly reduce  the amount of waste created during this time. Below are just a few examples to reduce your carbon footprint this year and in the years to come.

1.  Waste-less Wrapping 

High gloss wrapping and tissue paper is one of the biggest waste items during the holiday season. Try something new. As a young child who was unable to maneuver wrapping paper well enough to wrap gifts, I would grab my mom’s towels and blankets and haphazardly wrap any Christmas presents for my family, leaving a pile of towels for her to fold back up after the day was over.  To this day, I still go to my parent’s house the night before Christmas, raid their cabinets for their towels and wrap my family’s presents, although now I fold them after the day is over.  Of course, your gift wrapping doesn’t need to be as messy as mine, there are lots of options to ditch the wrapping paper and still have aesthetically pleasing presents:

  • Use old paper grocery bags – decorate with twine, hemp string, or with branches and leaves from outside.

  •  Use a cloth reusable grocery bag – give the additional gift of sustainability by wrapping a present in a reusable grocery bag!

  • Use scarves, towels, or upcycled fabric – turn the wrapping paper into a gift! Purchase a scarf or towel and use it as the wrapping paper for a bonus gift!

  • Newspaper - maybe there’s a particularly funny comic or article in the newsletter that would serve well as a wrapping paper. Get creative with it; big into crosswords or sudoku? Save up your finished sheets throughout the year and use those.

As your high gloss paper runs out, give one of the ideas above a try. Start to make new wrapping habits.

2.    Low-to-No Waste Gifts

If we’re being truthful, most of us don’t need more stuff – we have an abundance of stuff. Consider donating a gift of an experience instead. Some examples are:

  • Concert or event tickets

  • State park passes

  • An Air BnB or hotel stay

  • Take someone out for coffee or dinner

  • Offer your friends a service as a gift: shovel their driveway for them, babysit their kids.  Think about what might make their lives a bit easier and how you could help them.

3.    Food Preservation               

Food waste is also a top contributor to the added waste during the holiday times.  The worst thing about food waste is that it’s entirely preventable.  Here are a few tips to make the most of all that delicious holiday food:

  • Only buy what you need – plan out what you will be making and what you already have at home.  This will help eliminate overbuying. 

  • Save those leftovers – either package them up and send your guests away with a meal for the next day or look for a way to repurpose holiday meals with recipes online.  Consider making a broth with leftover turkey bones!

  • Compost the rest – composting leftovers is a great way to divert food waste from

These are just a few of the options to keep your holidays low waste.  Let us know in the comments of any additional low waste ideas you have.

For more Low Waste Holiday tips, visit

Written by Michelle Nieuwenhuis

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