Ways to Cut Down on Holiday Trash

    23 December 2021

    The holiday season is a time for celebrating with friends and family. It is often called the "giving season" because during the holidays people give gifts and have celebrations. They also decorate their homes.

    Unfortunately, this can all lead to a lot of waste.

    And some parts of the holidays create a lot of waste -- for example, holiday cards, decorations, the tree, entertaining, and gift wrap. (Gift wrap is the special paper used for wrapping gifts.)

    U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden chose a tree with purple ornaments and natural orchids to decorate the Green Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., November 29, 2021. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
    U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden chose a tree with purple ornaments and natural orchids to decorate the Green Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., November 29, 2021. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

    However, there are ways to reduce the amount of waste you create. Experts recently gave some ideas to the Associated Press.

    One of those experts is Liz Vaccariello. She is the editor in chief of Real Simple, a home and lifestyle magazine and website.

    Vaccariello says this year is a great year to think about using products that can be recycled when celebrating the holidays. She said, "It is a great way to feel good as you enter the giving season."

    Another expert is Melissa Ozawa. She is an editor at Martha Stewart Living and suggests thinking carefully about what you buy.

    Ozawa says that now more than ever we should be asking ourselves: Do I really want this? Will I use it? And how will it affect the planet?

    Gift wrap

    The concerns about paper waste has caused many people to look at other choices for wrapping a present.

    You can use reusable bags for gifts. Vaccariello recommends keeping gift bags and other decorations that you receive. You can reuse them the next time you give a gift.

    You can buy from companies that make environmentally-friendly gift wrap. Some companies make recyclable wrapping paper and do not use materials that are not recyclable.

    You can also wrap gifts in old maps, pages from magazines, and art paper. The person receiving the gift could use the wrapping for something else.

    Ozawa says she likes the Japanese tradition of furoshiki. This is where gifts are wrapped in cloth. The pretty and strong wrapping cloths can be used for other things, instead of just thrown away.

    You could also wrap a gift in a colorful scarf or tablecloth. This makes the wrapping cloth part of the gift itself.

    Instead of decorating a gift with something plastic, you can use something natural such as pine cones, rosemary, or other evergreen.

    Holiday cards

    For many people, sending holiday cards is a tradition. However, now many people use digital, or electronic cards.

    Vaccariello says that people are much more accepting of electronic holiday cards. "There are so many digital options now," she adds, "and people get just as much joy out of it."

    Those who want to send traditional cards might choose ones printed on recyclable paper.


    For decorating the home, experts again say think of reusing and recycling.

    Natural greenery can be used to make a room beautiful and smell nice! One expert suggests using old holiday cards as decorations.

    If you use holidays lights and they are old, experts suggest using newer energy-saving types of lights.

    The tree

    If people want a Christmas tree, the question is often fake or real?

    "The greener choice would be buying a real Christmas tree from a local farm," says Ozawa. "The trees are grown for the purpose of being cut, and new ones are typically replanted every year. So," she says, "the cycle continues."

    She explains that buying local means that it did not use much fuel to get to you.

    Ozawa adds that in the United States many cities and towns pick up trees after the holidays and process them into a useable product, like small wood pieces for the garden. This means the tree is not adding to a landfill. "And," she says, "you can't beat the smell of a fresh-cut tree."

    However, if you do buy a fake tree, she says plan to use it for many years. And she says to consider the materials it is made from. Ozawa suggests asking, "Is it made with recycled materials? Or can it be recycled?"


    When having a celebration avoid single-use plastics. Use more environmentally-friendly options, like regular plates and cups. If single-use seems unavoidable, choose ones that are made from things like bamboo or sugar cane, says Vaccariello.

    And, she adds, donate your unused food to an organization that helps those in need.

    I'm Anna Matteo.

    Katherine Roth reported this story for the Associated Press. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    decorate – v. to make (something) more attractive usually by putting something on it

    recycle – v. to make something new from (something that has been used before)

    : to send (used newspapers, bottles, cans, etc.) to a place where they are made into something new

    scarf – n. a broad band of cloth worn about the shoulders, around the neck, or over the head

    option – n. an act of choosing

    fake – adj. not true, real,

    cycle – n. a set of regular and repeated actions that are done by a machine as part of a longer process

    compostable – n. decayed organic material (as of leaves and grass) used to improve soil especially for growing crops