What does the week after Christmas look like on your street? Curbs piled high with cardboard boxes, crumpled wrapping paper, and thrown out food? Hopefully, there are at least a few recycling bins in your neighborhood, too. Let’s face it: there’s a lot of garbage at the holidays. According to Use Less Stuff (ULS), Americans toss out 25-percent more trash during the holidays than during any other time of year. It breaks my heart to think of all the food that gets tossed out when there are so many families that go hungry. How can you reduce waste this holiday seaon?
So what do you do with all that extra paper and cardboard and food? Don’t get lazy on me and throw it all in the trash! When the bellies are full, the last drop of wine has been poured, and all the gifts are open, that’s when it’s time to go to work on repurposing or disposing of these things responsibly.
Let's discuss how to reduce waste this holiday season.
First, let’s talk turkey. Or ham. Or whatever it is your family eats for the big holiday meal. Rather than let the leftovers go to waste, try some of these suggestions:
- If turkey was the main course this year, use what’s left over to make a broth or soup. You can even use the bits and pieces of meat that might be left over from the bird.
- Freeze any meat that you can’t eat within a few days.
- That whole soup idea we talked about in the first point applies to leftover mashed potatoes, carrots, and other random veggies as well. Add some water or nut milk to your vegetables, a few spices, and voila! This creamy soup will taste good on a cold winter day. Throw any leftover soup in the freezer. I hate to keep repeating myself, but the freezer really is your friend.
- If you’re like me, you’ve got holiday treats covering every surface. Stick them in the freezer so they don’t go to waste, and you’ll stave off a few extra holiday pounds in the process. Freeze, freeze, freeze it all!
- If the freezer is full or you really aren’t going to eat that food you have left over, offer it to a friend or neighbor. I’m sure someone will be happy to take that food off your hands. Know any college students?
- Your last alternative would be to compost as much as you can to divert all that waste from a landfill. This will keep from adding to the pile and creating more air-polluting methane gas.
Now that we’ve covered what to do with all that leftover food, there’s still the matter of all the envelopes, wrapping paper, boxes, gift bags, and bows piling up around your house.
- Consider keeping the gift bags to reuse next year, or even for a different occasion. So what if Uncle Charlie gets his birthday present in a Santa gift bag! It’s Christmas in July!
- Any envelopes that were not written on can be put away and used for another time. Christmas cards can be used for next year too. If you’ve got the fold-over type, cut them at the fold and recycle the side that was written on. The picture side with the blank back can be used as a Christmas postcard next year.
- If you’ve got random scraps of paper, tin cans, or wine corks, they can be gathered up and stashed for future crafts for kids or adults.
- There are dozens upon dozens of uses for glass jars and plastic containers. I reuse all my glass jars for food storage instead of buying glassware. On a side note, when it comes to plastic, just remember it’s not a good idea to reheat your food in containers made of plastic because chemicals can be leached out into the food while it’s cooking. Stick to storage only for the plastic containers.
- If you’ve got a growing wine cork collection, you can ship those off to ReCork or CorkClub. CorkClub donates up to two-cents to Forest and Ocean Conservation for each natural wine cork they receive. Synthetic corks get recycled.
- Regifting is really okay. If you get a gift you’re not going to use, don’t throw it away. Chances are, someone you know could use it. And if not, you can always donate it.
- Your Christmas tree can also be recycled. Many cities offer recycling programs. If you aren’t sure whether or not your city does, Let Me Google That For You. If there isn’t a program where you live, you can always compost your tree.
- Sign up for TerraCycle to get rid of all your candy wrappers and snack bags. They’ll turn your junk into really cool purses, bags, pencil cases, and more.
Christmas creativity doesn’t have to stop after you’ve finally finished decorating and buying the best gift ever. There are a lot of unique and fun ways to dispose of the many types of leftovers. And if you think about all the materials that are wasted each year during the holidays, you may want to put the effort in beforehand and create less waste from the start.