6 Tips for a Low-Waste Holiday Season

Create memories, not waste this holiday season!

Check out these 6 tips for a low-waste holiday season.

According to the EPA, American household waste increases by more than 25 percent between November and the New Year – contributing an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. As you might know, the Knott Landfill here in Deschutes County is projected to be full by 2029, so here are a few tips to reduce, reuse and recycle right this holiday season and beyond to keep “stuff” out of the landfill. 

Are you an auditory learner? Listen to us discuss this topic on an episode of The Point, the original show aired on KPOV 88.9 FM, Central Oregon’s Community Radio on 12/16/21.

 

Reduce is where you can make the biggest impact!

 

Tip #1 Buy and cook only what you need (avoid food waste)

Why does wasted food matter? For starters, did you know that 40% of the food that is grown to be eaten in the world ends up getting wasted? Yet in Deschutes County, 1 in 8 people is food insecure, meaning they don’t always know where their next meal will come from?The average household throws away ¼ of what they buy and wasted food accounts for 8% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Wasting food has social, financial, and environmental implications, so let’s tackle this big ticket item.

To help you buy and cook only what you need for holiday events and meals, try the Guestimator, a dinner party calculator that estimates how much food you need to keep you guests happy and full. For more resources on reducing food waste, take the Rethink Food Waste Challenge.  

Tip #2 Give the gift of experience or shop local

 

Central Oregon is the perfect place to give the gift of experience! 

Examples of passes, tickets, and gift cards:

  • Parks and other outdoor spaces
  • Equipment rentals for activities
  • Brewery, distillery, or winery tasting 
  • Concerts and other shows
  • Museums, climbing gyms, swimming facilities

Other gifts of experience

  • Online classes to an activity the recipient enjoys
  • DIY scavenger hunt featuring local art and nature
  • Donate to an organization that aligns with the recipient’s values

If you are buying physical stuff, shop local to avoid the environmental and financial costs of excess packaging and transportation across long distances. Better yet, choose to shop small, sustainable businesses! 

Reuse is an opportunity to get creative

 

Tip #3 Opt for alternatives to gift wrap

Here are some materials to reused and reusable materials to consider:

A little inspiration from our friend, Nora, featuring a map from ReStore and reused ribbon and gift tag.
  • Fabric as gift wrap
  • Outdated road and forest maps as gift wrap
  • Baskets or boxes (bonus points if you can thrift them!)
  • Jute or other reusable bags
  • Save gift wrap from the previous year to reuse
  • Dried flowers/greens and other natural materials to decorate brown paper bags
  • Create your own natural dye stampers to use on brown paper bags
  • Cut last year’s holiday cards into gift tags

Tip #4 Thrift, trade, or upcycle decorations

This one is pretty self explanatory, so here’s an extra tip –  Donate decorations that are still in good shape back to the thrift store and add finding unique treasures to your annual decorating activity. This is especially great if you don’t have a lot of space to store seasonal decorations.

Learn to recycle right (especially while you travel) since solid waste infrastructure is different in different communities. Remember, recycling is a last resort, after we have attempted to reduce and reuse as best as possible. 

Tip #5 Be aware of complicated materials

Here are a few complicated materials and what you can do about them:

  • Mixed material or layered cardboard which includes tetrapaks, cartons, coffee cups, and pretty much anything that looks like cardboard that holds liquids or frozen foods need to be placed in the landfill bin. 
      • These mixed materials and layers are not easily separated back out into their original materials very well so they are not recyclable. 
      • Alternatively, other cardboard and corrugated cardboard can be placed in the commingled or cardboard only recycling bins. 
  • Tissue paper and gift wrap with foil need to be placed in the landfill bin. 
    • Tissue paper does not hold up well in recycling. 
    • Gift wrap with foil is another mixed material that is not easily separated back out into their original materials very well so they are not recyclable. 
    • Alternatively, fully paper gift wrap can be placed in the commingled or cardboard only recycling bins. 

Tip #6 Compost food waste

If you attempted to reduce food waste, and still ended up with some food waste, compost it! 

Here’s what’s accepted in the yard waste service bin across the county:

  • Within the city limits of Bend: All food waste (including fruits, vegetables, cooked food, meats, adn cheeses) can be placed in your curbside yard waste service bin
  • Within the city limits of Redmond: All food waste (including fruits, vegetables, cooked food, meats, adn cheeses) can be placed in your curbside yard waste service bin
  • Within the city limits of Sisters: All raw vegetative waste (uncooked fruits and vegetables) can be placed in your curbside yard waste service bin

Also, check out this blog post on Composting when you don’t have a yard or a public service.