Waste around the holidays — and how to minimize it

by Sara Mack, Marketing Manager

It’s no secret that food waste, and waste in general, increases quite a bit during the holiday season. In a commonly cited statistic originally gathered from the Use Less Stuff (ULS) Report over 20 years ago, Americans produce 25% more waste between Thanksgiving and New Years Day than they do at any other point during the year. Although a 25% increase is shocking enough, this article from The Environmental Magazine on holiday waste says it’s likely that this number has ballooned even further in the years since the original study. 

Statistics aside, it’s not difficult to see where this increase in waste comes from. Even with a decrease in travel and holiday parties due to COVID-19, the holidays tend to bring an influx of trendy novelty gifts, decorations, statement clothing pieces, and single use wrapping paper — much of which is used for only one season before finding a final resting place in the landfill. 

Even though pressure to consume reaches its peak during this time of year, if you’re a frequent visitor of our blog, chances are you’re passionate about the environment and waste reduction. This means you’re likely to be interested in reducing your waste around the holidays!  The good news is, you have many ways to practice sustainability and waste reduction during the holiday season. 

In terms of food waste, you’re already on the right track if you’re signed up with Compost Crew.

Even so, long-time composters can still find new ways to decrease food waste. One option: begin a meal plan, no matter how formal or informal.  Ideally, meal planning should start before you go to the grocery store. This type of advance thinking helps to determine which recipes you will want to try during the period in between shopping trips so that you can buy exactly what you need, and skip purchasing an excess of perishable items that might spoil before you use them. Meal planning can even involve deciding who in your household gets to eat which leftovers! No matter how detailed your plan is, the more you track what’s in your fridge and pantry that need to be used up, the less you’ll contribute to that holiday waste statistic. 

The holidays can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to their environmental impact. Even so, it’s important to take a step back and appreciate the positive changes we can make together. Everything from re-using brown paper packing materials as wrapping paper to going on a family trash collection walk to simply meal prepping your holiday meal can help to foster a festive spirit while also minimizing environmental impact and providing opportunities to spend time with family — no matter what it is you’re celebrating this year.