Less Waste, More Joy

 A Guide to Reducing Waste Around the Holidays

It’s estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, more than 1 million tons of additional waste is generated EACH WEEK nationwide. And that doesn’t even take into account all the waste and resources used upstream, around the world, to create all the new stuff people buy this time of year. Now is the time prevent and reduce waste, and all it takes is some thoughtful planning. Whether you’re planning for a shared meal or a family gift exchange, take a few extra steps this year so that you’re not contributing to the problem.

Now is a good time to prepare for Christmas morning, or whenever you plan to exchange gifts. Hopefully you’ve chosen gifts well-suited for the recipient, bought them an experience, or made them something yourself. But regardless, here’s a handy guide to dealing with the inevitable waste.

For starters: Don’t just prep one big, black bag! If everything ends up in one garbage bag, it’s guaranteed to be headed for the landfill. Instead, set up a station before you begin a gift exchange, using containers to separate what can be reused next holiday, what can be recycled, and finally what goes into the trash.


Prep a reusable gift bag, a basket, or some other kind of container to collect your reusables.

• Fabric ribbons, long twine, and decorative material
• Reusable containers like metal tins, cloth wrapping, and boxes
• Gift tags, as long as they still look good
• Gift bags
• Tissue paper that’s in good shape
• Wrapping paper that you really like


Prep a cardboard box, paper shopping bags, or another container that can be easily associated with recycling. (PS – plastic bags are not recycled in your curbside mixed recycling, so it is important that you don’t put your recyclable wrapping paper in one!)

  • Wrapping paper (except the foil kind)
  • Paperboard packaging (think cereal box). If it has plastic on one side, pull off the plastic and toss, then recycle the cardboard.
  • Cardboard boxes, flattened
  • Paper holiday cards
  • Ripped paper gift bags


The only use for your one garbage bag!

• Tissue paper you can’t reuse
• Foil wrapping paper
• Plastic ribbon
• All plastic packaging on toys, electronics, etc
• Photo printed holiday cards

There are many other actions you can take to help curb your personal impact this time of year. Get more holiday tips and ideas to Reduce Waste Over the Holidays.

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