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Less Waste, More Joy 

A guide to reducing waste around the holiday

Stuff You Can Reuse
Stuff You Can Recycle
Stuff You Have to Trash

It's estimated that between each Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, more than 1 million tons of additional waste is generated EACH WEEK nationwide. And that doesn't even take into account all the waste and resources used upstream, around the world, to create all the new stuff people buy this time of year.

To prevent and reduce waste, all it takes is some thoughtful planning. Whether you're planning for a shared meal or a family gift exchange, take a few extra steps this year so that you're not contributing to the problem.

Now is a good time to prepare for Christmas morning, or whenever you plan to exchange gifts. Ideally, you've chosen gifts well-suited for the recipient, you've bought them an experience, or you've made them something yourself. But regardless, here's a handy guide to dealing with the inevitable waste.

For starters: Don't just prep one big black bag! If everything ends up in one garbage bag, it's guaranteed to be headed for the landfill. Instead, set up a station before you begin a gift exchange, using containers to separate what can be reused next holiday, what can be recycled and what goes into the trash.

  • Prep a reusable gift bag or some kind of container and add these things to it:
  • Fabric ribbons, long twine and decorative material
  • Reusable containers like metal tins, cloth wrapping and boxes
  • Gift tags, as long as they still look good
  • Gift bags
  • Tissue paper that's in good shape
  • Wrapping paper you really like
  • Prep a cardboard box or some paper shopping bags, and add these things to it:
  • Wrapping paper (except the foil kind)
  • Paperboard packaging (think cereal box). If it has plastic on one side, pull off the plastic and toss, then recycle the cardboard
  • Cardboard boxes, flattened
  • Paper holiday cards
  • Ripped paper gift bags
  • The only use for your one garbage bag would be these things:
  • Tissue paper you can't reuse
  • Foil wrapping paper
  • Plastic ribbon
  • All plastic packaging on toys, electronics, etc.
  • Photo printed holiday cards

There are many other actions you can take to help curb your personal impact this time of year.

Read more holiday tips and ideas from The Rethink Waste Project, a program of The Environmental Center, at rethinkwasteproject.org.

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