Living holidays household waste selection

Published on November 3rd, 2014 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

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How Our Household Waste Explodes During the Holidays [Infographic]

Looking forward to the upcoming Winter holidays? I’m a Thanksgiving fan myself: nothing like sharing a big special meal with family and friends. Others, no doubt, look forward to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or New Year’s Eve and day. Each of these holidays have special memories and traditions associated with them; unfortunately, an awful lot of those traditions involve the creation of household waste. Whether it’s food wasted from big meals, or wrapping paper from gifts (which is generally not recyclable), increased energy use from lights and powered decorations, or more clutter from gifts we don’t really want, the holidays do a real number on our pocketbooks and the environment.

Jason Powers published this infographic on holiday waste a few years ago, and while some of these numbers likely need an update, I have no doubt that all of these increases in waste still occur (probably at higher rates). Does this mean that we greenies think people should give up holiday fun, or freeze in the dark with the rest of the family? Not at all! Rather, it’s a good time to reflect on the choices we make, and how much joy we get from them. Some alternatives that could also still contribute to plenty of good times include:

  • White elephant gifts, charitable donations, or gift cards;
  • Gift wrapping made from used paper, or old gift bags, or even reusable shopping bags “dressed up” for the holidays;
  • Meal planning focused on the number of guests and portion sizes;
  • Cards made from reused or recycled materials (because e-cards really just aren’t the same);
  • A greater focus on time spent together rather than things given/received.

I’m just getting started… and I can be a total grinch when it comes to Black Friday, extended hours at the mall, and heavy, heavy emphasis on buying as a means of showing love. Time is so valuable these days, and it may be the greatest gift you can give to those people you value most.

Take a look at the facts Jason’s gathered up, and let us know about any updated figures you know about… or how you’ve made your own Winter holidays less wasteful and more joyful.

household waste during the holidays

 

Visual.ly via Inhabitat


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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



  • Wow. That’s a lot of waste, Jeff. I’ll share some of the things we do to reduce consumption, though I know we have more waste each holiday season despite all our efforts to reduce.

    The Container Store carries a small collection of wrapping paper and gift tags made of 100 percent recycled paper. Alas, it usually contains only 30 percent post consumer waste (pcw), but it’s something, and it is fully recyclable as well. No foils or shiny coatings. They also carry a nice selection of cloth ribbons which can be reused again and again if one is careful to preserve them.

    As grandparents who no longer feel the need to decorate a tree, we buy one only when the grandchildren will spend part of the holiday at our house. Then it’s always a certified organic potted tree that we give afterwards to someone who will plant it in their yard. We use tiny LED lights on our tiny trees.

    We buy fewer and fewer gifts each year. Wherever possible, we buy made-in-the-U.S. and Fair Trade gifts. Finding suitable items that meet either of those criteria remains a challenge, despite the extra time we spend hunting for them. We are willing to pay extra and consider it a tithe.

    We have accumulated a rather large selection of rechargeable batteries for our own household, and sometimes gift new chargers and rechargeables when we give a toy or appliance that requires batteries. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll be used. Horse. Water.

    As you suggest, time is what matters most to us these days. In fact, that is the gift we most enjoy receiving. We could do without any other gifts, just to have more quality time with our dearest family and friends.

    In the last few years, we’ve started a new tradition. When my children’s grandmother was alive, she made lefse every year, a favorite Norwegian treat that the whole family looked forward to with relish. We all miss her and the lefse, so my daughters and I make it together and look forward to teaching the grandchildren as they are ready to learn.

    For me, lefse day is my favorite day of the whole year, when our apartment is filled with the little ones racing around, bringing their drawings and paintings to us to see as we roll and flip the lefse, chatting with the moms, and maybe drinking a little organic wine, nibbling on homemade whole wheat sugar cookies that taste SO much better than the pasty white flour ones. It’s a blast.

    Hope that helps someone else who is trying to cut back. I look forward to following the comments on this post, to see what others are doing.

    • Wow – thanks so much for sharing your efforts, Kathryn – that’s pretty impressive! And, yes, special dishes and such make for a great family time… without all the clutter…

  • wazzubmc

    Christmas tree growers would be delighted if they sold 50 million trees a year. According to the most recent USDA Ag census (2012), around 17 million real trees are harvested annually. I agree that one tree going to a landfill is one too many but I question the assertion that 60% of trees go to landfill. I’ve lived in six states (WA, OK, GA, NE, SC, MI) and every community I’ve live in has had a Christmas tree recycling program. Moreover, many landfills prohibit yardwaste, including Christmas trees.

    • Thanks for your insight, Bert… I’m going to double check some of these other numbers now…

  • iamannafrancesca

    Holiday season is fast approaching, so aside from minding holiday plans I think this infographics shows how we should also mind about the after effects of holiday and this in particular are waste the we produce during holiday seasons. Thanks for sharing this! I hope people will be more aware of reducing their own waste by doing even small acts. I found here a waste type guide that might be helpful for organizing your own waste in a bin: http://www.bookabin.com.au/wastetypes.aspx.

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  • Stephany Willy

    Hi, everyone! I think that we have a big problem with the portion size. On holidays we always buy a huge amount of food which we do not eat and most of the time we throw it in the garbage. I think that before we go to the supermarket we should make a list with the exact amount of every product that we want to buy. And if there are some leftovers we can always give them to the guests. I am sure that they will be glad to eat turkey sandwiches. 🙂

    Stephany Willy

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