How to Have A Sustainable Holiday

The holidays are here and many of us around campus have begun to prepare. Whether it be through buying decorations, making holiday treats or buying gifts for your friends and families, it is without a doubt the most wonderful time of the year. While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of the holidays, this season is one of much waste. According to Stanford University, in America alone, individuals accumulate over twenty-five million extra tons of garbage during this season. While this may seem like an overwhelming statistic, there are small changes to your holiday routine that can help reduce your carbon footprint this year.

According to PopSci, an estimated 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper end up in landfills every year. While you may think some are recyclable, most are not. Wrapping paper with glossy coatings, glitter and bows are usually not recyclable, says. So, here are a few tips and tricks to lighten the load on landfills this holiday season. Utilize magazine pages, brown grocery bags, fabric scraps, old maps and canvas tote bags, says If you are dead-set on using traditional wrapping paper, look for those made from recycled paper — usually labeled with “100 percent recycled materials.” America alone produces thirty-eight thousand miles of ribbon-waste each year, says the National Environmental Education Foundation. Instead of buying a new roll from the store, look inside your toolbox for some twine, or anything else. Not only will looking in your own house save you a shopping trip, but it will also save gas, money, etc.

String lights are a holiday essential, but they do rack up the amount of light pollution in the atmosphere — up to fifty-percent of an increase in light pollution throughout the holiday months, according to One way to increase the sustainability of holiday lights is to purchase LED lights, which use about seventy-five percent less energy than other types, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Buying lights with a built-in timer will help too — that way when you are trying to sleep or go on vacation, you and your neighbors will not be stuck up all night long. In the event that you must get rid of holiday lights, make sure to recycle them properly. Instead of just placing them in your trash can, take them to your local hardware store, or ship them to sites like HolidayLEDs, which will gladly take them off of your hands.

According to Tea Town, about two and a half billion holiday cards get sent out each winter, largely contributing to the twenty-five percent increase in trash between New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving. However, there are several options for you to reduce this waste weight and still be festive this holiday season. One simple fix is to send out an electronic card to friends and family this year. The World Wildlife Fund’s holiday card program gives you a space to send out free electronic holiday cards with a personalized message. If you do choose to send out paper cards, opt for some that are post-consumer recycled, or send postcards without envelopes to save some paper. Just like with wrapping paper, avoiding cards with glossy and glittery finishes is helpful, as those cannot be recycled.

Holiday meals are delicious, but sometimes they can be wasteful. Americans throw away twenty-five percent of the food they buy, and that number only rises throughout the holiday season, according to Earth Hero. In addition to this, many people who have their holiday meals at home opt for plastic utensils and place settings. One way to make your holiday meal more sustainable is to buy the reusable or eco-friendly alternatives to plastic utensils easily found at your local supermarket. In addition to this, give your friends and family an extra gift by sending them home with some leftovers! That way you will throw out less (if any) of the food you make and you will certainly make your guests happier too.

Although it may seem hard to be sustainable during the season of gift-giving, it can be quite simple. While you do not have to utilize all of these suggestions, just one small change in your holiday habits may make a bigger impact on the environment than you think.