More Holiday Cheer, Less Holiday Waste

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.