A present for the earth? How to cut holiday waste

While the holiday season is a time of giving and thoughtfulness, it can also be a time of excess and waste.

Americans throw away 25 per cent more trash than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s — about a million extra tons of garbage each week, according to the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit group devoted to helping people to be more environmentally responsible.

There are plenty of ways to celebrate the spirit of the holidays while giving a gift to the earth (and maybe your wallet) as well.

For starters, go with reusable gift wrap, and recycle wrapping paper and ribbon. “Gift wrap is top on the list of wasteful holiday traditions. An easy hack is to wrap gifts in unused maps, comics for kids or, for larger gifts, printed pillowcases. You probably have these things around your house already,” says Rachel Sylvester, lifestyle editor for Real Simple.

“Save every bit of gift wrap and ribbon that comes your way, and try using fresh greenery instead of store-bought bows,” she adds.

Every year, Americans discard an estimated 38,000 miles of ribbon, enough to wrap around the planet with some left over to tie a bow, according to NEEF.

Sylvester says it’s easy to save on gift tags by writing the names of recipients directly on the gift, or colour-coding gifts by recipient. Let your friends and family know you’re opting out of single-use wrapping paper and gift tags this year.

Host gifts can also be more eco-friendly. For holiday dinners and parties, Sylvester recommends reusable drawstring pouches when bringing wine and other presents, and carrying homemade baked goods in mason jars or decorative, reusable boxes.

“They make great host gifts, do away with waste, and save money all at the same time,” she says.

For greeting cards, “I would suggest going paperless for holiday cards, which generally get trashed after the holidays anyway,” says Sylvester. “Your friends and family might rather have a card they can keep on their hard drive for the long haul instead of on their fridge for a week.”

There’s a huge array of companies offering elegant electronic cards, among them PaperlessPost.com , AmericanGreetings.com, GreenEnvelope.com or JacquieLawson.com.

For decorations, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends opting for a living tree that can be planted outdoors or eventually mulched, and using energy-saving LED holiday lights. LEDs use around 75 per cent less energy than incandescent bulbs, and last longer, too, the EPA says.

Remember to reduce food waste and avoid single-use plastics. “When hosting parties and holiday meals, use real or compostable table settings instead of plastics. And if you’re short on table settings, try a service like TableandTeaspoon.com, which delivers table settings in advance and then invites you to return the dirty dishes afterward,” Sylvester says.

Have recyclable to-go containers handy for guests to take leftovers home, and familiarize yourself with local compost centres ahead of time, so food waste doesn’t end up in the landfill.

For gifts, think outside the store: homemade crafts or foods, or experiences instead of stuff. Give coupons for things like cooking a dinner or babysitting, Sylvester suggests. For example, look to knitting, sewing, baking or creating art as gifts.

“Homemade is king,” Sylvester explains. “It’s fun to shop, but the gifts that will mean the most are those that come from the heart. Cookies in mason jars are going to be way more memorable than something you pick up on the internet.”

Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home, suggests homemade candles, soap or paper as other gift ideas. Museum memberships, magazine subscriptions or gift certificates to restaurants or concert halls all make great gifts, she says.

And when you do buy concrete things, opt for durable, energy-efficient, recyclable, or things made of natural products, and consider gifts from thrift shops or things that encourage people to use less stuff, like reusable containers, suggests Johnson.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Don and Gloria Moore, of Red Deer, are set to celebrate their 70th anniversary later this month. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer couple to celebrate 70th anniversary

Red Deer couple Don and Gloria Moore are set to celebrate their… Continue reading

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
UPDATE: Central Alberta cafe owner arrested after anti-restriction protest

The owner of a central Alberta cafe, which was the site of… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, but rising, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada's vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel's approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images
Parks Canada captive caribou breeding proposal gets OK from scientific review panel

JASPER, Alta. — A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing… Continue reading

The smouldering remains of houses in Slave Lake, Alta., are seen in a May 16, 2011, file photo. The wildfire that is devastating large swaths of the northern Alberta city of Fort McMurray comes just five years after another blaze destroyed 400 buildings and left 2,000 people homeless in Slave Lake, Alberta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ian Jackson
Ten years later: Five things to know about the Slave Lake wildfire

A wildfire burned about one-third of Slave Lake in northern Alberta in… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid races to 100 points this NHL season

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid sprinted to a 100-point NHL season and… Continue reading

A Foodora courier is pictured as they pick up an order for delivery from a restaurant in Toronto, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Two-year EI review needed to buy time for needed tech upgrades, Qualtrough says

OTTAWA — Canada’s employment minister says a budgetary pledge for funding to… Continue reading

A person wears a face mask as they walk through McGill University during light snowfall in Montreal, Sunday, December 20, 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Some universities say no to proof of vaccination requirement

A COVID-19 vaccine likely won’t be a requirement to return to the… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, participate in a virtual discussion with seniors from Residence Memphremagog in Magog, Que., from Ottawa on Monday, May 3, 2021. Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats are on the move in advance of a potential election this year, recruiting candidates, training volunteers and grappling with how to kiss babies and press the flesh in a virtual, pandemic-restricted world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Grappling with how to press the virtual flesh, parties gear up for election showdown

OTTAWA — The three main national parties are firing up their election… Continue reading

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, is setting off a social media reaction with his calls to stop non essential shopping, such as "buying sandals at Costco", with this photo of his worn sandals, which he published to social media on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dr. Robert Strang, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Nova Scotia’s top doctor sparks meme with caution on non-essential shopping

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top doctor has launched a social media meme… Continue reading

Most Read