Everyone knows the holidays are the time seldom-seen relatives gather to recycle old arguments, grievances, and feuds. But what about, you know, actual recycling?
From Thanksgiving to New Year, Americans produce an average of 25% more waste than any other time of the year. That’s a lot of trash — from discarded decorations and holiday cards to crumpled heaps of wrapping paper. So, coincidence or not, the timing is perfect for America Recycles Day, happening November 15. Don’t think advocating for sustainable living practices works? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes the current recycling rate in the country is 32% — compared to seven percent in 1960. Moreover, it estimates some 681,000 American jobs are connected to recycling-related industries. With all this in mind, read on for ways you can cut down on waste ahead of all those memorable holiday get-togethers.
Why is recycling important?
Recycling is all about limiting waste and conserving natural resources. For example, a single ton of recycled paper saves approximately 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, and 4,100 kilowatt-hours of electricity. In addition, recycling often requires less energy compared to producing items from raw materials. Case in point: recycled aluminum requires a staggering 95% less energy than virgin aluminum.
Recycling also has the power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, recycling paper instead of producing it from new materials results in a 74% decrease in emissions. By diverting waste from landfills, we can curtail methane and CO2 emissions, helping alleviate strain on waste disposal sites.
Why is recycling during the holidays particularly important? Stats show this period produces an additional one million tons of waste every week. However, there are simple steps to reduce that number. Did you know it takes the equivalent of 25-30 million trees to produce enough wrapping paper for the country? If everyone just used recycled gift wrap or embraced reusable wrapping ideas, imagine the difference it would make.
Holiday recycling tips to know
From how to wrap gifts to what to do with your Christmas tree after December 25, consider these easy recycling tips to help you celebrate the next few festive weeks in eco-conscious style.
Practice recycling at home
Recycling is one of the easiest and most accessible ways to reduce waste during the holidays. Start by familiarizing yourself with your local recycling program. Understand what materials are accepted since requirements vary from state to state, county to county, and learn how to properly sort and clean recyclables before sending them off.
From there, you can make recycling part of your daily routine. Depending on how your state or county recycles, you can have separate bins for paper products, glass, aluminum, and plastic to make the sorting process easier. Then, either put them outside on recycling day or drop them off at a recycling pick-up point in your community.
Having it all figured out before the rush of holidays, you’ll be able to lower your waste and prevent unnecessary items from clogging up landfills.
Reduce, reuse, repurpose
Adopting the mantra of “reduce, reuse, repurpose” is crucial to minimizing waste. Who says that a holiday gift has to be fresh off the assembly line? Let’s normalize thrifted, pre-owned, and secondhand gift-giving. By seeking out secondhand items, whether they’re piling up in your garage or filling the racks at your local thrift store, you can cut down your environmental impact by simply gifting something that isn’t brand new.
According to a 2021 survey, 58% would feel positive about unwrapping a pre-owned gift, and 46% said they would happily give one. Gifting used or pre-owned items is becoming more popular, which means a more sustainable 2023 holiday season.
Make more zero-waste choices
Striving for a zero-waste lifestyle means keeping the amount of waste you generate to as close to zero as possible. Start by making conscious choices, such as using reusable shopping bags, water bottles, and food containers.
Another way to go zero-waste is by composting organic waste like food scraps and yard trimmings. With Thanksgiving and festive dinner nights, food scraps and leftovers can pile up. Take care of them sustainably by putting them into compost instead of trash can, reducing the release of harmful methane.
Recycle your Christmas tree
If you’re buying a natural Christmas tree for the holidays, be sure to dispose of it properly. Fortunately, Christmas tree recycling is easy. After Christmas has come and gone, most communities will have various Christmas tree disposal points. Simply, drop your tree off, and then they’ll be hauled off for recycling. Alternatively, buy a potted Christmas tree and plant it after the holiday season. It can be exciting to watch a tree you’ve planted grow year after year.
Wrap and bag presents more sustainably
Who says you can’t use that pretty paper bag they gave you at checkout? It can be the perfect gift bag. So, practice reusing by gifting items without creating extra waste. You can still dress up the bag with natural elements like dried oranges and pine or a reusable bow for extra holiday flair. Alternatively, choose recycled wrapping paper and bags, or make the wrapping part of the present — for example, wrap the present with a cute, thrifted scarf.
Embrace an eco-friendly clean-up
Just as you can detox your household from chemicals in your cabinet, you can choose products that create less waste. SaltyLama’s laundry detergent sheets come in biodegradable and compostable packaging. Think of all the loads of laundry done every year — and the plastic jugs that, once emptied, end up in landfills and in our oceans. A simple change can make a significant difference. Best of all, the plant-based formula is hypoallergenic and just as effective as getting out tough dirt as traditional detergent.
As the holiday season approaches, let these tips guide you toward a more mindful, eco-friendly, and joyful way of living. America Recycles Day may happen once a year, but every day, and every small action, counts — especially with the festive spirit in the air.