WONDERFUL, BUT WASTEFUL
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it turns out that the most wonderful time of the year is also the most wasteful time of the year: Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Years holiday period. That extra waste amounts to one million additional tons per week.
By the conclusion of Thanksgiving weekend, about 200 million pounds of turkey are thrown away. More than 150 million pounds of potatoes, green beans, and other vegetable sides are purchased but never eaten (and there’s no way all those untouched veggies came from the kids’ table). Bread baskets with about 14 million pounds of leftover dinner rolls will be dumped straight into the trash.
Photo courtesy of The Optimist Daily
And then it's December, and with the gingerbread houses, Christmas cards and gifts under the tree comes $11 billion worth of packaging material, little of which will be recycled. With that, about 15 million used Christmas trees. And 38,000 miles of ribbon, which is enough to wrap around the planet, with more than enough left over for a big bow on top.
Photo courtesy of Julian Dutton
If these numbers seem of impossible magnitude, it’s because they are. But if there’s one thing that’s worth repeating, it’s that change comes in waves, and big change often starts small. This year, resolve to take a closer look at the waste you create while preparing for the holidays, and use these easy tips to create less of it. Not only will you become a more conscious consumer, but you’ll save money, go easier on the earth, and maybe even inspire others to become less wasteful human beings as well.
Photo courtesy of Monika Stawowy
FIRST, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT YOUR HOLIDAY PARTY PLANS
Don’t get us wrong, we're all about decking the halls. And planning a holiday party can be quite the ordeal: between figuring out who to invite, what to cook, and which ugly sweater to wear, there’s enough to think about without worrying about all the trash your jingle bell ball is going to create. That’s what we’re here for. With a little extra planning, you can make things easier (and cheaper) on yourself and feel good about reducing your party’s environmental impact.
Tip #1: Break out the 3 R’s
Reduce: Coordinate with your guests before grocery shopping. Borrow kitchen items you need but don’t have. Don’t buy food you don’t need; cut recipes in half if need be. Reuse: Yes, tossing all your paper plates and plastic forks at the end of the night is convenient, but you may as well throw your party in the landfill. Use what you have in your kitchen—real plates, fabric napkins, metal cutlery—and grab a few friends to help wash dishes at the end of the night. Recycle: If you are really against washing dishes, look for the next best option: compostable plates and napkins. Make sure you have a receptacle for composting, and while you're at it, make your recycle bin readily available and let guests know that they'd better use it.
Tip #2: Plan a Seasonal Menu
Start thinking about your menu a few weeks in advance. Look up which ingredients are in season, and visit farmers' markets to assemble your recipes with local foods whenever possible. By opting for fresh fruit and produce, and going to bulk bins for nuts and chocolates, you can get pretty close to zero-waste grocery shopping.
Photo courtesy of Chelsea Francis
Tip #3: Work with Mother Nature for Decor
Avoid the plastic decorations from the party store or the dollar aisle, no matter how cute they are. With a little creativity, you can use what you find outside for Instagram-worthy decorations. Flowers, cedar branches, herbs, twigs, produce. When your party is over, they can be composted or eaten.
Tip #4: Send Digital Invitations
This may be the easiest way to cut down on trash this season. Send email or text invites instead of printing them on paper and mailing them out. Sure, it’s fun to receive mail from time to time, but have you seen how cute those e-vites are getting?
Tip #5: Serve Batch Cocktails or Beer in Growlers
Take advantage of the craft beer craze and buy beer from a local brewery in growlers. By avoiding beer bottles and cans, you can reduce a ton of the garbage that guests generate. Another option is batch cocktails: we recommend the festive Christmas Punch or (love it or hate it) make-it-yourself Eggnog.
Photo courtesy of Brooke Lark
'TIS THE SEASON...TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH
If you haven’t yet read our recycling blog, we’ll break it down for you: many commonly-recycled items cannot actually be processed in our current recycling facilities. When something that doesn’t belong makes it to your blue bin, it wreaks havoc in the machinery at the recycling center and can cause loads of recyclables to be sent to the landfill. So even if you think you’ve got this recycling thing figured out, please review these quick rules:
Styrofoam is not recyclable.
Anything smaller than three inches in both height and diameter cannot be processed at most recycling centers. Toss it.
Never put plastic bags in the bin. They have to go to a special facility, but you can often drop them off at a grocery store.
If it's recyclable but there's food in it (yogurt containers, pasta jars, etc) take the extra minute to wash it before placing it in the bin. Otherwise, it will contaminate everything else.
Break down your cardboard boxes before putting them in the bin.
DO NOT THROW AWAY unwanted clothes, books, kitchen items, gifts, or decorations. Bring them to a thrift store so that someone else can get a second life out of them.
Photo courtesy of Freestocks.org
GIFT WITH PURPOSE
If you were to look at the most popular toys in the last few years, you’d find that most of them are made of plastic, wrapped in plastic, and then covered in shiny paper and bows. Our plastic consumption goes into overdrive during the holidays, but it doesn’t need to be that way. The main offenders, besides those toys, are disposable wrapping paper, cheap decorations, cookie packaging, fake trees, white elephant exchanges, holiday cards. Finding sustainable switches for each of these can make a huge difference in how much waste you generate this year.
Our favorite suggestion is to buy experiences instead of objects (like concert tickets, a National Parks pass, a cooking class), or useful items, like a travel mug or a bicycle. Another sustainable option for gifting is to look for secondhand gifts. And when it comes to stocking stuffers, rethink the plastic trinkets—we like to throw in local soap from a holiday market, or bulk nuts, chocolates, bamboo toothbrushes, reusable utensil kits. Lastly, do away with the conventional gift wrap and use an alternative that’s much easier on the earth. Paper grocery bags, bandanas, duffle bags, newsprint, or compostable wrapping paper like Wrappily.
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING: EVERYDAY REUSABLES
When it comes to material objects (if you’ve exhausted all your “experience” ideas), the best gift is one that they’ll use again and again and again. Bonus points if it’s something that facilitates creating less waste in the first place. Enter: EveryDay Reusables
We created EveryDay Reusables™ because we saw a lack of convenient, sustainable alternatives to disposable items often used without a second thought—plastic items we collect by the thousands from beaches, riverbanks and parks. Since their debut, they’ve been topping our bestsellers list nearly every month. They are conveniently packaged, sustainably made, and incredibly giftable utensil kits, water bottles, reusable straws and more. And they look really great peeking out of a Christmas stocking.