‘Tis the season for more cheer and more trash. How to make the season more sustainable

It’s the time of year when we eat more and buy more, and it all adds up to more waste. A few conscious steps could help you decrease your carbon footprint while celebrating.

Stephanie Miller, with the group Zero Waste in DC, said Americans generate 5 million extra tons of waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, which causes a major hit to greenhouse emissions and landfills.

A few steps to help decrease that number include changing the way we give gifts. This year, Miller’s family is taking part in Secret Santa, exchanging only one gift. “That’s one place to start,” she said.

When considering what to wrap that gift in, Miller said it’s important to keep in mind that not all paper and gifts are recyclable. “The metallic, the glitter — that stuff is not recyclable,” she said. Miller recommends solid colors without sheen, or using brown craft paper and making your own decorations.

Miller said artificial Christmas trees help reduce waste, because they are reusable — but if you are buying a real one, making an effort to find a potted one could make a difference. “If you can’t find that solution, the next best thing is to make sure when you’re done with your tree that it gets composted,” she said.

LED light bulbs not only last longer, but also use 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Above all, Miller said, it’s important to remember what the holidays are all about. “If we can focus on that a little bit more and a little bit less on the gifts, then we end up saving time and money and energy that might better be placed on the celebrations we want to have with our families.”

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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