Guest post: Make your holiday celebration more sustainable!

Editor's note: This post is by Kerrin O'Brien, executive director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition, an MEC member group.

The festivity of the holiday season is upon us. No doubt you've already begun to stock up on goodies for the various gatherings and the more subdued and cozy time you'll have at home. It's likely you're still shopping.

You probably have a sense of it already, but did you know that in general we throw away 25 percent more trash during the holidays? It's really not that surprising when you consider the entertaining, gift giving and travel.

It's not my intention to make you feel guilty about any of it. The holidays are an important reminder of our humanity and connection to others. I do think, however, that it's important to think about the waste that will come from all this. Many of us aren't in that habit, and much of that waste is likely to be with us for a long time.

You can help change that. Consider being the person at your holiday gathering who organizes the piles for recycling, suggests a new gift-giving strategy now that the kids have grown up, or organizes a joint donation to a worthy charity. There are truly a variety of ways to reduce your environmental impact without lessening the fun!

Here are some holiday waste reduction reminders:

  • Practice sustainable habits when serving your holiday feast. Buy only what you need, buy food with minimal packaging, compost any food scraps, and serve food on reusable dishes.
  • Buy local. Consider the environmental impact of shipping goods.
  • Give a consumable gift and support local artisans. Local cheese, spirits and other goodies can be shared too.
  • Give an experience. Instead of giving a material gift, give an experience such as concert tickets, cooking classes, fitness classes, sports events, or a museum membership.
  • Re-gift or host a white elephant gift exchange. There's no shame in putting something to good use.
  • Don't forget to bring reusable bags on holiday shopping excursions, and when wrapping gifts use newspaper, old maps or reusable textiles.
  • When purchasing gifts, give some thought to what will happen to that item when it is used up. Can it be recycled? Can it be reused?
  • Want a unique gift idea? Give a gift that will be around for years. Give the gift of a tree. By planting a tree for your neighbor, friend or relative, you will be showing how much you care for them and for our environment.
  • Celebrating Christmas? Don't forget to recycle your tree! Many cities offer curbside Christmas tree recycling. Check with your city or town's sanitation department to see if this is available to you.
  • Make a resolution to recycle and compost more. Start building your recycling pile with used newspapers, magazines and junk mail, and make an effort to recycle harder-to-recycle items such as batteries and old electronics.
Thanks for making your celebration more sustainable. Happy Holidays to you and yours!


Photo courtesy ohsohappytogether via Flickr



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