How to limit your landfill load this holiday season

It may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but the holidays are also one of the most wasteful.

Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, according to the National Environmental Education Foundation, a District-based nonprofit that encourages people to be more environmentally responsible.

Nathan King with the Virginia Tech Office of Sustainability, said there are a lot of little things you can do to help ease the load on landfills this month. Most are easy, and a few let you flex your creative conservation muscles.

Montgomery County, Maryland’s Department of Environmental Protection has a similar message out about recycling.

Here are King’s top tips:

  • Holiday Dining: Plan holiday meals in advance by cooking and storing food in reusable containers, and try to ditch single-use plates, cups and utensils in favor of your regular dishware. Freeze your leftovers to eat later, compost the food scraps and donate any unused food to your local food bank or homeless shelter.
  • Sustainable Stocking Stuffers: This year, consider environmentally-friendly stocking stuffers such as metal straws, beeswax wrap for storing snacks and sandwiches, bamboo toothbrushes and more.
  • LED Holiday Lighting: Switch to energy-efficient LED holiday lights and LED candles. LED lighting strands use around 80 percent less electricity than regular holiday lights. And make sure to plug your lights into indoor and outdoor timers to further save on electricity costs.
  • Gift Giving: Consider giving the gift of experiences, rather than things. That way you can cut down on the wrapping and spend memorable time with friends and family.
  • Sustainable Wrapping: Most traditional holiday wrapping paper cannot be recycled through curbside programs because of dyes and inks. Why not try out some more creative wrapping options like newspaper, fabric scraps, or simple brown craft paper?
  • Rechargeable Batteries: Give the gift of rechargeable batteries with new toys and devices. Each rechargeable battery can be used dozens of times and helps keep batteries and heavy metal out of landfills.
  • Shop Local: Shop locally this holiday season by visiting local merchants, farmers markets, and craft shows.
  • “Treecycling”: Many people aren’t aware you can bring your Christmas tree to a local landscaping or chipping facility so it can be recycled into mulch for trails, paths, and walkways.
  • Send E-cards: Consider sending out e-cards instead of traditional holiday cards. You’ll save on stamps and paper and reduce emissions from transport.

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