Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to find a way to decrease your disposable waste this holiday season.
Did you know that the months of November and December get the prize for the most trash of the year? And not just by a few tons, but 25% more, to the tune of a million extra tons per week! (source)
There’s got to be a better way.
Anything at all that we can do to reuse once, twice, or a dozen times before throwing away a disposable is a big help. Just think: using the same napkin twice or tearing one in half for two meals results in HALF as many napkins thrown in the trash on your account. A 50% improvement is worth noting in any book, and so simple!
This December, choose at least one way to make the holiday a greener one as your gift to the Earth. Here are some ideas:
If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. (source)
Perhaps you already have a stash in the basement of ribbons and bows. Perhaps you’re like my dad, who painstakingly peels off each piece of tape and folds the wrapping paper instead of tearing gleefully into each package…even though my mom tells him she doesn’t want to store the paper. When you grow up in a family of 9, some habits die hard. Many Americans used to save and reuse wrapping paper religiously. Perhaps some of those habits shouldn’t have died off at all.
Our grandparents’ generation were as “green” as many crunchy tree-huggers today without even realizing they were being “environmentally conscious.” They were just being frugal and not wasteful. Let’s practice that spirit this year, especially as so many are struggling with finances in our current economy.
Isn’t she worth saving the Earth for? Awww…
Try saving and reusing:
- wrapping paper
- tissue paper
- ribbons and bows
- gift boxes
- mailing boxes (some post offices will accept your boxes to help ship items for seniors or servicemen, if you can’t use them all)
- packing materials used for padding when mailing, especially styrofoam peanuts
- No space to store this stuff? Check out loosefillpackaging.com for a site near you that will reuse or recycle styrofoam peanuts.
- gift bags (these have to have done some good for the disposable world as most people reuse instead of throwing away)
- decorations – don’t buy the disposable kind, but those that last and can be used for years
How much wrapping paper was purchased and tossed in this photo?
I save all the fronts of my Christmas cards, because there are some great crafts that utilize the images on Christmas cards. Last year we cut stars out of 4 cards, glued two pair back to back, then stapled those together at the center vertically. You can then fold each in half outward and get a beautiful star of Bethlehem style ornament. It made a great gift from my son to his grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Another idea for a Christmas card decoration is to make circles and string them together as a garland or vertical hanging decoration, with or without other colors as mats behind. Don’t forget the classic chain-link garland possibility!
Wrapping Paper Alternatives:
How many alternate ideas can you think of for wrapping boxes other than wrapping paper? Here are a few:
- road maps
- calendar pages
- Sunday comics
- newspaper ads
- cloth, preferably something old
- old baby blankets
- gigantor packing paper with children’s handmade drawings on it
Using traditional wrapping paper no matter what? Try running the used stuff through your shredder to make pretty packing material if you mail a lot of gifts, or for stuffing in a gift bag.
Boxes and Containers:
Not sure what to package gift X in for Aunt so-and-so this year? Try these ideas for a greener holiday:
- Pringles style chip cans store cookies fabulously, especially for mailing (ask a neighbor if you don’t stock chips in your house)
- Use cracker or cereal boxes
- Have a box that is too printed up for the U.S. mail? Open it all the way and put it back together inside out. Ta da! A clean, brown surface for the postal service to admire. 🙂
- Send Christmas picture postcards (saves half the paper of a card plus the envelope, plus the photo inside a regular card).
- Added Bonus: We’ll save $ on the postage, too! We ordered postcards from Vistaprint for FREE with a $4.99 photo upload fee. (You have to search for “free postcards vistaprint” to find the deal. You can even get a $15 rebate on shipping by signing up for a program, then canceling before the 30-day trial period ends.) We print a short note on the back directing folks to our family website. It’s a lot less expensive and less material resources than our old method of card + photo + 1-page update!
- Put family updates in an email or on a website/blog instead of copying them on paper.
- Send e-cards instead of mailed cards.
- Give fewer gifts, period.
- Try a gift of charity instead of a wrapped gift.
As much fun as it is to tear into gift wrap on Christmas morning, “my” Santa never wrapped anything, and it was just as much fun to run in and see STUFF under the tree that wasn’t there the night before! We used to practice our self-control by always going to the stockings first and avoiding the temptation to even look at what was under the tree. It was all part of the tradition, and that’s what really matters when it comes to Santa. If you have young children, it’s not too late to start a “Santa doesn’t wrap” tradition.
Added Bonus: You’ll also avoid the “up-too-late-wrapping-presents” Christmas Day fatigue!
- Real Christmas trees
- cardboard and plastic packaging – it takes a little extra time to sort it out, but it’s got to be worth it, especially if you have kids. Those toy packages use up so many resources!
- Christmas cards and envelopes
Just don’t give in to the temptation to skip the recycling just because it’s a big family event and more of a hassle to keep recycling organized. When it’s a big event and creating a lot of waste, that’s the perfect time to be strict about recycling!
See all the Decreasing Disposables in December series here.
- Repurposing Kitchen Containers (free toy storage ideas!)
- Decrease Holiday Disposables (in case you didn’t guess, here’s the major culprit in that awful statistic from the beginning of the article)
- Use the Real Thing (napkins, hankies, towels, etc.)
- Cleaning up Without Throwing Out
Some other ideas for reducing holiday waste:
Need More Baby Steps?
Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.
That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and made a printable checklist so you can track your progress.
Sign up to get the checklist and weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.