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How to Green Your Holiday Season!

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

By Madison Beucler | Originally Published November 29, 2022

We are now at the start of the holiday season, so why not learn about a few easy ways to make your festivities “more green.”? From meals, to decor and gifts, learn how to host a sustainable holiday through these simple measures!

The holiday season is responsible for over 25 million tons of garbage in the United States alone, 25% higher than average during the period from Thanksgiving to New Years. But what makes up this garbage? Food waste accounts for nearly 35% of all holiday wastes and is a notable problem year after year. Some simple ways to combat this waste is to simply account for every guest and anticipate leftovers! If the amount of leftover food is too high, you can donate to a local hunger relief organization, compost, or have a feast on leftovers! Another staggering statistic is the amount of wrapping paper thrown out each year. America alone is responsible for 2.3 million pounds of gift paper ending up in landfills at the end of the holiday season. You may be asking: What other alternatives do I have? 100%-recycled wrapping paper is a simple method many households opt for, as well as simply reusing gift paper from previous years or gifts. Wrapping paper can also be recycled, as long as it is not covered in foil, glitter or felt and can be reused to make DIY-decor. Junior psychology and elementary education major Angela Gallagher makes her own DIY decor for the holidays in the form of snowflakes.

“My family and I make paper snowflakes out of gift paper that we reuse or recycle after the season,” Gallagher said.

Paper napkin holders can add a beautiful, elegant touch to holiday meals, and ornaments made out of wrapping paper tubes or faux paper candles are all fun DIY’s to add to your list!

The major contributor to holiday waste is the Christmas classic: the Christmas tree. Christmas trees are a staple of the holiday season and are often discarded directly after Christmas ends. Luckily, there are many ways to avoid throwing out your tree after one use. One way to dispose of your tree is to check local zoos and sanctuaries that utilize discarded trees to provide animal enrichment. Zoos such as the Cape May Zoo in Cape May County, New Jersey, accept trees following the Christmas season to use in their enclosures. Another method of recycling your tree is checking for local organizations that accept trees for other reasons. Island Beach State Park (IBSP) in Ocean County, New Jersey, is a great example of this. In previous years, IBSP has accepted trees to rebuild dunes on their beaches, and they will be doing this again this year! While plastic Christmas trees would cut back on waste as they can be reused, they also provide thousands of tons of carbon emissions pumped into the atmosphere annually. Using real trees actually helps support forests, as well as local tree farmers. You can easily avoid this carbon-contributor by buying a locally grown Christmas tree!

Another great green-tradition is hosting a vegan or locally-grown holiday feast. Instead of the typical ham or turkey served at holiday meals, why not try tofurkey, a meatless option? By buying local, organic foods, you can significantly cut back your emissions and carbon footprint. Organic produce and meats are also much better for your overall health. On the subject, Gallagher said, “My family has a tradition of making pizza from scratch every year for our holiday meal, and we buy the tomatoes from our local farmers market to make the sauce.”

The meat and dairy industry produce incredible amounts of methane, with only a single cow producing anywhere from 150 to 265 pounds of methane a year. Rather than getting your protein from a cow, why not try beans or mushrooms, an equally plentiful alternative. Try new foods this holiday season and explore the wonderful world of vegan or organic cooking!

To learn more about green holiday traditions, make sure to check out our December Newsletter coming out on our website!

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