[This article was originally published here in November 2016 and has been revised and expanded.]
The holidays are here and soon we'll be handing out gifts! But did you know that by spreading joy to those around us, we're also creating tons of waste?
All that wrapping paper, packaging material, disposable decorations, food waste, and other holiday trash adds up to quite a bit of rubbish, debris, and junk. So, what do you do with it all?
Out with the Old and In with the New - Unfortunately
Well, maybe not so unfortunate to receive new things for the holidays perhaps. But getting rid of all the old stuff that the new things are replacing? Well, that's where it becomes unfortunate.
The average American produces 5 pounds of trash per day, or 35 pounds each week. During the holidays, that rises to 6.25 pounds per person per day, or 43.75 pounds each week, according to one source. That's an additional 600 pounds of trash per person, on average, which adds up to more than 18 million extra pounds of waste each year.
The average American will spend around $800 on gifts during the holiday season. Think about how much wrapping paper it would take to wrap up $800 worth of presents. To put it in perspective, half of all the paper Americans buy is used to wrap gifts. With all of that wasted paper, it’s a miracle that there are still enough Christmas trees to go around.
As one blog article noted,
It's estimated that some families spend 60% more of their incomes and generate 30% more household waste over the holiday season. Woah! Trash cans full of holiday food waste, ribbons and bows, packaging, shopping bags, and wrapping paper contribute an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills.
So what can you do to help reduce holiday waste? It’s a lot simpler than you think.
Don't Be the Grinch That Threw Away Christmas
Sure, many of the materials we go through each holiday season have to be disposed of somehow, but there are actually many "green" ways to approach cleaning up and trash removal for the holidays.
For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers these tips for a greener holiday season:
- Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Doing so will not only save energy, but will also help your lights last longer.
- Think "green" while shopping. Try to buy items with minimal packaging and/or made with recycled content. Check product labels to determine an item's recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials.
- Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money.
- Thousands of paper and plastic shopping bags end up in landfills every year. Reduce the number of bags thrown out by bringing reusable cloth bags for holiday gift shopping. Tell store clerks you don't need a bag for small or oversized purchases.
- Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or newspapers. Also remember to save or recycle used wrapping paper.
Most people already know to do simply things like putting their Christmas lights on timers to cut down on energy waste, but there are plenty many more ways to have a green Christmas this year.
For example, using recycled fabric for gift wrapping. Wrapping with single-use paper, bows, and strings has a significant and negative impact on our environment after the holiday season. Bows and strings are not recyclable, and neither is foil wrapping paper. But fabric material can be reused or recycled.
Make use of old magazines by creating homemade bows from magazine cut outs. Simply choose the colors, size, and intricacy of the bow to matching it to the style of gift wrap. In addition to being a reused and reusable product, the cost is absolutely nothing but your time.
Other waste that can be approached from a green perspective includes kitchen waste and packaging. As one article points out,
For many families, big dinners are a part of their Christmas tradition. Try to avoid using paper or Styrofoam plates and plastic cutlery.
When it comes to gifts, packaging can be a struggle. Many manufacturers do not create packaging that is easy to recycle. To make things more complicated, even if there is a little recycling symbol with a number in it, that doesn’t always indicate that the item is recyclable. Please look for the following numbers when recycling plastic packaging this Christmas: 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6.
Oddly enough, the ways we celebrate and how we dispose of our holiday waste makes a difference for the planet we all live on.
You Need Not Be a Grinch to Be Green!
One of the most encouraging things about 'being green' during the holidays - and throughout the year - is that everyone's contribution makes a difference.
Think about this way: if the total sum of waste generated by Americans adds up to 268 million tons per year - and it does! - that means each and every one of us contributes to that total. By the same logic, if each and everyone of us can decrease our individual contribution of waste, the total sum will decrease, as well.
If we all managed to dispose of just 20 percent less waste, for example, we would collectively help to keep almost 30 million tons of waste out of our landfills each year!
So, what does reducing holiday waste look like? Here's a nifty graphic that illustrates some of the key facts and statistics around best practices:
Seven Ways You Can Help Reduce Holiday Waste
While not everyone will get to see a white Christmas this year (Sorry, Los Angeles!) we can all have a "green" Christmas. Here are seven great ways to make that happen this year:
- Use less: Did you know that if every family used just two feet of ribbon to decorate their gifts, we could save 38,000 miles of ribbon? That’s enough to tie a bow around the whole planet!
- Wrap creatively: Wrapping paper and gift bags aren’t the only way to wrap presents. Try using a different material that you already have around your house. Newspaper, sheet music, and old maps are fun choices and are much more unique than commercial wrapping paper. You could also use scarves, t-shirts, or other fabric to wrap gifts. That way, the wrapping could be a gift as well!
- Buy a potted tree: Every year, nearly 33 million live trees are sold across North America. Considering how much paper that we waste, saving a tree is the least that we can do. Buy a potted tree this year instead of cutting one down. This way, after the holidays are over and it’s time to take down the decorations, you can plant the tree in your own backyard.
- Re-gift: Around 35% of Americans have an unopened or unused gift collecting dust somewhere. Instead of taking up valuable space or throwing it away, find it a new home. If you don’t know of anyone who would like the gift, take it to a donation center. During the holidays, there are plenty of organizations collecting gifts for those who are less fortunate.
- Gift sustainably: There are a number of small steps that you can take to make your gift a little bit more environmentally friendly. For example, if you’re giving a battery-powered gift, consider gifting a reusable battery charger along with it! If you’re giving someone something made from paper, like a journal, try to find one that’s made from recycled paper. Buying a handmade gift from a local shop or online store, or even making a gift yourself, can also help reduce waste, as these products are not mass-produced.
- Go digital: About 2.6 billion cards are given to people every year. That amounts to just about 50,000 cubic yards of paper -- enough to fill a football field 10 stories high! And no matter how sentimental they may be, they usually end up stashed away in a box or thrown away. Instead of paying for overpriced, wasteful cardstock, send an electronic greeting card for free!
- Donate your leftovers: Holiday meals are usually big ordeals, and it’s always better to have too much than too little, but most of the time the leftovers are too much to handle. Instead of wasting perfectly good food, consider bringing your leftovers to a local homeless shelter. There are plenty of people who go hungry during the holidays, and your donation could make a world of difference to someone in need.
Whether your actions are big or small, if we all work together and follow this advice, you could ring in the New Year much more sustainably.
Be Holiday Green with Trash and Junk Removal with Junk King
Whether you are cleaning up your home after the Christmas festivities, or preparing for the upcoming New Year's celebration, we can provide you with the tools you need to get rid of unwanted junk. And, best of all, our professional and friendly crew can do the heavy lifting and hauling for you.
Or if you prefer and depending on where you live, you can even load your own trash, debris, and household junk yourself by renting one of our user-friendly MINI Dumpsters.
Either way, we have the best and greenest solutions for you.
After you book an appointment with us, our expert and insured trash and junk removal team will call 15 to 30 minutes before we show up at your home. And once they arrive at your home they'll give you a free estimate based on how much room your junk and trash items take up in our truck.
Then you just point and we’ll haul your holiday trash into our junk removal trucks - and we'll do it all without any hidden fees!
So, ready to get your holiday waste removed and recycled? It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3.
Just make an appointment by booking online above or by calling 1.888.888.JUNK (5865).