Image of a candle in a lace-wrapped holder with ivy on the table. Other candles are in the distance, blurred. Image by Stefan Nyffenegger from Pixabay

Check Off These Zero Waste Holiday Tips 

Sustainable Tips Make for a Jolly Holiday! 

Friends and families are making their lists and checking them twice, prepping for the celebrations to come. Although joyous for many, it is unfortunately the unhappiest time of the year for our planet, as waste and consumption skyrocket. 

According to a study by Stanford, Americans throw away 25% more trash during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year. This comes out to about 25 million tons of garbage, or 1 million extra tons of disposal per week! That’s roughly the weight of 12,500 cargo ships! With a bit of thoughtfulness, we can avoid this astronomical amount of waste.

Quick Facts on Holiday Waste 

  • If every family reused roughly two feet of holiday ribbon, the resulting 38,000 miles of ribbon could tie a bow around the entire planet! 
  • If every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, this could save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields! 
  • In the U.S., roughly 2.65 billion Christmas cards are sold each year, filling a football field ten stories high. By sending one less card, we could save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.
  • 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper per year end up in landfills, as most are non-recyclable. 
  • Returns from gifts and other purchases account for 5 billion pounds of landfill waste and 15 million tons of carbon emissions per year! In January 2021, people returned an estimated 8.75 million packages, many of them ending up in the landfill rather than resold.
  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that in the United States, over 130 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten per year in stores and by consumers. This equals over 1,200 calories for every person per day that is wasted. Or, it’s one-third of edible food that could meet the minimum caloric needs of every person in the country. This figure is exacerbated during the holidays, rising roughly by 25%. 
  • Top Zero Waste Holiday Tips

    1. Prioritize spending quality time with family and friends over gift sharing. Play interactive games, dance, sing, make arts and crafts, or cook together! 
    2. If your holiday celebrations include gift exchanges, try to rethink your gift ideas. Gift ideas can be second hand books, toys, clothes. Surprise a family member or friend with a gift card to their favorite restaurant, tickets to the theatre, or music concert. Weekend getaways camping, fishing, wine tasting, hiking –the possibilities are endless! 
    3. Consider a Secret Santa gift exchange where you are only purchasing one gift, and consider making a group rule that gifts should be a second hand item or an experience. 
    4. Reuse gift wrapping, bows, and ribbons each year or use paper bags and newspapers to wrap presents. Make sure the paper is recyclable! 
    5. DIY your decorations at home with family and friends!
    6. Lower food waste by planning your food purchases using food waste tools such as, Save the Food Guestimator. Purchase ugly produce from retailers, freeze leftovers or give away to family and friends. Upcycle your food scraps and meat bones to make broth for soup, and if available, compost your food scraps in your compost cart or backyard compost bin!


    As we learn more about how our habits affect the planet, we must shift our consumption patterns to celebrate not only our family and friends, but the earth as well. Let us embrace the new year as sustainable change agents. From Race to Zero Waste, we wish you, our supporters and friends, a wonderful holiday and a happy New Year! 


    This article was written by Outreach Coordinator, Daniella Menendez. 

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