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More Holiday Cheer, Less Holiday Waste

2008 November 26

About the author: Felicia Chou is a Communications Specialist in EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. She recently graduated from Syracuse University with a M.S in Media Management.

This is always a crazy time of year. In my family, the holidays are all about large quantities: lots of food, lots of gifts, and lots and lots of relatives. This year, I’m going to simplify one part of the holiday experience (and help the environment at the same time) by reducing the amount of material that gets thrown out after the holidays. There are a lot of things you can do to reduce waste around the holidays – here are a few:

Find the greenest tree. You can save a tree (and reduce greenhouse gas emissions) by buying a potted tree that you can plant after the holidays instead of cutting a tree down. If you do decide to dispose of your tree, look for ways to recycle it instead of sending it to a landfill; your community solid waste department may collect the trees for mulching.

Send personal, paperless greetings. Save paper by creating your own greeting cards from scrap paper – this can be a fun family project or a way to give your cards a personal touch. You can also skip the paper altogether and e-mail an electronic card. If you do plan to buy cards, look for ones containing a high percentage of recycled content.

Reuse wrapping paper. Not every piece of wrapping paper gets ripped to shreds; some can be saved and used again next year, which saves money and trees. You can also “wrap” gifts in reusable gift bags instead of wrapping paper. And if you want to avoid wrapping paper altogether, give gifts that need little or no packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates.

Look for Earth-friendly electronics. Electronics are a popular gift, and some electronics purchases are more environmentally-friendly than others. For example, before you buy a new computer, ask yourself if the performance you’re looking for can be gained by upgrading your current computer, perhaps by upgrading your hard drive or RAM. If you do decide to buy a new computer, make sure you buy one that is Energy Star-qualified, which can save both energy and money. Also, an online tool called EPEAT (exit disclaimer) makes it easy to find the computer with the best environmental attributes. Finally, don’t throw away the electronics that get replaced; there are lots of opportunities to reuse or recycle old electronics.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

20 Responses leave one →
  1. Anne Vazquez permalink
    November 26, 2008

    For greeting cards, you can also buy cards that can be planted to bloom into wildflowers. The seeds are embedded right in the paper. It’s a shame to think of all the paper thrown out once all those holiday cards are done being displayed. I’ve looked around and they can be pricier than the bargains you can find for “regular” cards. If you don’t want to buy the degradeable cards, a good idea for reusing cards is to cut off the front/design part of the card and use it as a decorative and unique gift tag for next year’s presents. My sister in law does this… just tape the card front to the present. I’ve started this and have a bunch left over from last year.

  2. Patti Kelly permalink
    November 26, 2008

    Excellent ideas – Another idea for wrapping paper is to use read newspapers for wrapping and have the kids decorate with some festive cutouts in colored paper or use stamps or even old fashioned potato stamps to decorate the parcels – gives the kids something to do and lets them get their creative juices flowing – of course you would have to do theirs. I do this myself and I am no kid ! so it is a nice green option for anyone as the newsprint can be recycled as usual. You can really get some good graphic design compositions with black/white and brights color combos as well.

  3. goffinet McLaren permalink
    November 26, 2008

    I wish that we could eliminate all plastic bags from all shops, supermarkets and department stores as there is now more than 6 times the amount of plastic to plankton in the waters. And it is coming back to us in the fish that we eat! If everyone would carry a shopping bag like our parents did before the invention of plastic, and boycotted plastic bags, we could make a real difference to the health of the ocean.

  4. Kate Greene permalink
    November 30, 2008

    Great post!

  5. Richard permalink
    December 1, 2008

    People need to learn to put trash in trash cans again. This is not as good as recycling but I see people throwing trash out of their car windows and it looks just like the TV ad with the American Indian gentleman in the 60s and the 70s.

    Maybe we need to replay this ad or develop a new one!

  6. Paula permalink
    December 1, 2008

    Old, out-of-date maps make great wrapping paper! They are often times big enough for those larger gifts.

  7. December 1, 2008

    I use reusable gift boxes and shred wrapping paper in my shredder for decorative fluff. I’ll post pics when I get home.

    http://recycleraccoon.wordpress.com

  8. Svenn permalink
    December 9, 2009

    And when it comes to buying gifts/shipping gifts, it is important to
    avoid the shipping/reshipping of unwanted gift items (unnecessary
    and unwanted transport=CO2 emissions. There is an environment-
    friendly as well as human-friendly new gifting method:
    Buy a gift card with a real gift in mind sm. This is the brilliantgiftidea
    which is launched and explained online.

  9. greeting cards ladera ranch permalink
    August 31, 2010

    Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

  10. Leta Townsend permalink
    September 30, 2010

    As much I love to see alternative ways to “greet” people. There still is nothing better than getting a greeting card of the rack to send a message to a loved one.

  11. alexis diaz permalink
    September 30, 2010

    How I love holiday and this is simply the best thing to do for this coming holiday this is so much fun and environmental friendly, just enough and just right. I really appreciate the creativity. This is such a beneficial post.

  12. Baybie permalink
    November 11, 2010

    This is a great advice!

  13. John permalink
    November 12, 2010

    That was cool, How I love holiday and this is simply the best thing to do for this coming holiday this is so much fun and environmental friendly, just enough and just right. I really appreciate the creativity. This is such a beneficial post greeting cards
    As much I love to see alternative ways to “greet” people. There still is nothing better than getting a greeting card of the rack to send a message to a loved one.

  14. Data Shredding Services permalink
    December 8, 2010

    Bulks of garbage gets collected especially during the holidays becasue of all the gift wrappers and packages given and received. They end up in the trash instead of looking for ways to reuses or shred them to serve otehr purposes and reduce waste.

  15. Domains permalink
    January 21, 2011

    If more people realized how much holiday waste they produce, they would think twice about wrapping paper. I love shiny presents, but sometimes the waste really gets to me.

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  17. April 17, 2012

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