The holidays typically feature large dinners, lots of gift giving and memories that last a lifetime. But along with those memories, there is usually a fair degree of waste left over as well.
The average American produces 30 more pounds of trash during the holidays, with the biggest culprit being wrapping paper.
Clark County Green Neighbors has plenty of resources to help people handle the waste in a sustainable manner.
“When resources end up in the landfill unnecessarily, that is wasted money, time and energy that could have been saved or utilized by others,” Clark County Environmental Programs Technician Shannon Hunter said. “Reducing waste this holiday season not only benefits the community and environment but also your wallet. It is a win-win-win, so folks should care and take action.”
Green Neighbors is an effort by Clark County Public Health that provides resources to the public about waste reduction, recycling, composting and other sustainable practices.
“It’s much more common for people to use single-use plates and utensils,” Hunter said about the holiday season. “You also have to consider that people are traveling more too, which is more emissions via car and plane travel.”
Hunter said in order to reduce waste people should avoid single-use utensils and plates and they should plan ahead to ensure they don’t prepare too much food. People should also make an effort to eat leftovers or turn them into compost.
“It’s a very comprehensive list on our website and sometimes it’s tricky providing tips because we don’t want to overwhelm people,” Hunter said. “We really encourage habit stacking which is incorporating one tip and once that is part of your life, adding another one.”
Hunter said the website, save thefood.com, is a great tool to utilize when planning how much food a person will need for Thanksgiving or Christmas meals. It will help curate a menu so people don’t over purchase food and allows them to save money along the way.
Leftovers that are perfectly edible but get thrown away are known as food waste. They add to landfills and garbage systems in the country. Each year 108 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States.
Leftovers that reach the end of their edible life can be used in composting. If people have a backyard space they can have a composter which can help improve the soil around their residence.
Clark County also has a program where compost recyclers can be purchased at a subsidized rate. If residents also attend a composting workshop they can get a free worm bin as well. More information on that can be found online at clarkcountycomposts.org.
“We just wrapped up our fall workshop series but this spring we will have another workshop series for our worm bins,” Hunter said.
When it comes to Christmas, a big addition to waste and clutter occurs because of gift-giving. Hunter said a good alternative is to find gifting experiences like cooking classes, museum tickets, national park passes and concerts. This means the person is less likely to get a gift they don’t like, which they could toss into the trash.
Gifting food is also a good alternative. People can propagate plants they currently own and give them to friends in revamped containers.
“People can also donate to a cause that the person cares about and do it by donating in their name,” Hunter said. “You can also get someone a Spotify and gym membership.”
When it comes to gift wrapping, Hunter said wrapping things in newspapers can reduce the use of resources and save money. Saving wrapping paper from previous years or using tote bags also helps. People could also participate in Furoshiki wrapping, which are decorative fabrics that are used to wrap and carry gifts. A video on this style of Japanese wrapping can be found online at bit.ly/3VpAZP0.
A gift scarf or baby blanket can also be used to wrap a gift.
If a person wants to avoid being involved in the harvesting of 33 to 36 million Christmas trees each year, people can either decorate a house plant or use a fake tree as a more sustainable option. Some places even let people rent a potted tree and return it after the holidays so it is later planted elsewhere.
Donating excess clothes and food can be a big help to the community as well. Clark County Green Neighbors has created a donation map of places people can drop off and pick up items.
“We’d like to encourage folks to donate and give away things instead of throwing them in the trash,” Hunter said. “The buy nothing groups on Facebook are good, as is Facebook Marketplace. It’s better to do that than making it go to a landfill.”
The donation map, a tool for recycling, an extensive list of holiday waste reduction ideas and more information about food waste can be found online at clarkgreenneighbors.org.