Reduce, reuse, recycle

How to cut back on holiday waste

Waste in the United States rises 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

That’s about one million extra tons of garbage per week—or put in other terms, approximately 240 million Easy-Bake Ovens. I’m not trying to be the Grinch who stole Christmas here, but I think we can agree that’s far too many hypothetical Easy-Bake Ovens.

Fortunately for us, trimming back on holiday waste doesn’t have to turn things into a bleak affair of passing out stalks of celery or forgoing an excessive amount of holiday cheer—which seems to be in short supply nowadays. So sit back and pop the festive cookies inside that Easy-Bake Oven and check out a few easy pointers to curb excessive holiday waste.


If every American family wrapped three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This year, opt for newspapers, fabric, decorative towels or tins and jars to wrap holiday gifts.

It’s also important to always reuse ribbons and bows. Stanford University conducted a study concluding if every family reused two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. Talk about the cutest thing ever.


Forget Hallmark cards and help cut back on the estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards, letters and envelopes that are sold in the U.S. every year. Use recycled materials or e-cards, heartfelt texts and phone calls.

As for food, as tempting as it is to buy all the tasty treats, control yourself. Over 34 million tons of food is wasted each year in the U.S., so it’s important to be realistic with how much food will be eaten at holiday dinner parties. If you do end up with massive amounts of leftovers and know most of them will spoil, look into local soup kitchens or food banks that might be able to put it to good use. When in doubt, the freezer is always a good option.


If you don’t opt for the reusable holiday tree, take advantage of Portland’s city services that will recycle your tree for you, and keep in mind when decorating said holiday tree, LED lights always beat out traditional incandescents. If you are upgrading, make sure to donate or properly recycle old lights. Speaking of lights, remember to turn them off periodically to save on energy consumption.

It’s time to get creative in the pursuit of cutting back on holiday waste. Buy less and reuse and repurpose more. Not only will you be helping curb the effects of climate change, but as a bonus, you will save money while keeping said funds away from corporate conglomerates. Talk about a win-win-win.