Nov 30 - Greening the Holidays!

10 tips for how to truly be a Californian Against Waste this holiday season:

Did you know that from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, household waste increases by more than 25%? Added food waste, disposable tree trimmings, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons all add up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills, or 5 million extra tons by the time the holidays are over, according to the US EPA.

1) Live more, buy less:

2) If you must buy gifts, think quality over quantity:  

  • Support your local economy by buying from local merchants, craft shows or antique/thrift stores.
  • Look for items made from recycled, repurposed and/or sustainable materials, and avoid heavily packaged gifts.  
  • If you plan to purchase electronics this holiday season, try looking for the most energy efficient models, which are generally designated with Energy Star labels from the U.S. EPA.  Properly dispose of old electronics by donating or recycling them. 
  • Or get creative and upcycle or make home-made gifts.
  • Donate unwanted gifts to charity.

3) Don’t buy gift wrap, get creative! Did you know that gift wrap contributes to about 4 million tons of waste annually in the U.S. (Source: Use Less Stuff)

  • Gift bare or wrap presents in scarves or other reusable items, or old newspaper, paper bags, posters, maps or magazines.  
  • Save any gift wrap, boxes or ribbons you receive to reuse next year.  If everyone reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. (Source: CalRecycle)

4) Instead of buying holidays cards:

  • Try making your own, reusing the front of old cards, or  sending e-cards, or make phone calls.  If we each sent one less card, we'd save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. (Source: Use Less Stuff)
  • If you must buy cards, choose ones made from post-consumer recycled content and printed with non-toxic inks.

5) Don’t ship gifts if you can avoid it.  But if you must, choose ground shipping from the postal service since they will already be delivering mail to your destination.

6) When shopping for meals:

  • Buy in bulk, skip the produce bags, and bring your own bags! California uses between 13 and 20 billion single-use plastic bags every year, but only 5 percent are recycled. 
  • Serve food with washable utensils, plates, and glasses, rather than disposable items.  

7) Don’t waste food. Three times as much food is wasted during the holiday season than during the rest of the year. Plan meals wisely, compost food scraps, and either freeze your leftovers or ask your guests to bring their own Tupperware to take them home in.

8) Try to consolidate shopping trips and carpool to holiday celebrations. If everyone reduced holiday gasoline consumption by one gallon (about twenty miles), we'd reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons. (Source: Use Less Stuff)

  • If driving long distances, be sure to check the air in your tires to achieve optimal gas mileage while traveling. 
  • If flying, consider offsetting the carbon emissions of your flight (at or similar website.)

9) For holiday decorations:

  • Fake trees must be used for 20 years to be greener than a real tree.  On the other hand, millions of real trees are grown, cut, and used just a few weeks before the majority end up in landfills where they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.  To prevent this, you can buy a potted tree with a rootball, ideally a species native to your area, and plant it after the holidays.  Or decorate an indoor plant instead.
  • Take a trip to your local antique shop or thrift store to find great pre-loved decorations. 
  • Choose durable ornaments instead of cheap plastic or thin glass ones.  Make your own ornaments, centerpieces, etc. from items collected in your backyard.
  • For lights, use what you already have or buy used ones and replace burnt out bulbs.  If you must buy new, LED lights use 90% less energy.  Conserve energy by only leaving holiday lights turned on for small periods of time, perhaps with the help of self-timers. As an alternative, make your own using popcorn and cranberries.  
  • Instead of traditional paraffin wax candles, use beeswax or soy candles. Made from renewable source, these candles do not emit unsafe aromatic hydrocarbons and produce less soot than paraffin candles.  Freezing candles before use makes them last longer.

10) The holidays are a time for giving: