‘Tis The Season: 5 tips for reducing holiday waste


This holiday season, many plan to spread joy and celebrate the season with traditional gift-giving. Yet, all those amazing gifts can lead to hefty environmental implications. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. households produce 25 percent more waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That’s one million tons of waste — and most of it comes from all that holiday cheer we’ve bought, including food, shopping bags, bows and ribbons, packaging, and wrapping.

Thankfully, a growing number of people are becoming aware of our carbon footprint and want to do something about it. Here are some tips for green gift-giving that may help reduce your waste over the holidays.

Avoid impulse buys

Zero waste holidays start with how we shop. Planning ahead makes it easier to stick to your gift list, buy fewer things and buy only what you truly want/need. In short, a list helps you buy less and buy smart.

From stocking stuffers to “doorbuster” sales, consider making a resolution to stick to your plan and avoid impulse buys. You can even bridge the conversation with your family about a gift exchange instead of gifting something new to everyone. In fact, you don’t even have to gift “new,” which leads us to tip #2.

Consider options beyond “new”  

Re-used and re-gifted gifts make sense for the environment. In fact, re-gifting used to be a widely-held practice and is coming back around as a green option. To avoid the taboo that can be associated with re-gifting, follow this rule of etiquette: only re-gift items if it is something you would have gone to the store to purchase for that person originally. Unopened wines, board games, gourmet foods, lotions, candles, and small household items tend to be well-received gifts.

Re-used is another option: for instance, you might find a like-new book series at a used book store for the price of one new book.

Lastly, you can always make a gift or decoration instead of trying to buy more new items (especially plastic or short-lived items). Giving consumable gifts is a great way to keep short-lived, broken gifts out of the landfill.

Spend money on quality

Believe it or not, many modern products are actually designed to become obsolete within a short amount of time so that we have to replace them. You can contribute to a zero waste culture by intentionally choosing the longest-lasting version of the gift you’d like to give. The longer the item can stay in use, the fewer items we have in the trash stream.

Resist the urge to buy cheaply-made items (such as plastic toys) and consider if the item is made out of durable materials. You can also research product reviews for studies on the product’s durability. For specific gift ideas, websites like buymeonce.com and eartheasy.com are great places to start.

Use eco-friendly gift wrap alternatives

For gift wrap alternatives, first, see what you already have at home. Can you use any bags, ribbons or wrap from last year? Or, consider using grocer brown paper bags (inside out) with a simple piece of twine and evergreen. You can also use sheet music, cookie tins, or children’s artwork.

If you need to buy paper, many major retailers now carry 100 percent recycled paper. Skip paper embellished with glitter and heavy dyes.

Save for 2019

Scoop up all the extra paper, boxes, bags and bows and store them for the next season. You can even use the paper holiday cards you’ve been sent as future gift tags.

If you have ornaments for your tree, use a specially designed box to store them safely. You can also look for fix-it clinics that can help repair any broken items at the end of the season, saving them from the trash cart. With a good stash at home, you might not have to buy new gift accessories or décor for years.

Information provided by Hennepin County.