It’s the most wasteful time of the year

‘Tis the season to bring joy to the world, spread peace on Earth and a myriad of other mantras embracing holiday cheer. But, tainting the merriment, is the fact that the holiday season is extraordinarily bad for the environment. During the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years, Americans produce more garbage, food-waste and CO2 emissions than any time of year. The holiday season is upon us; spread holiday cheer by adopting slight changes to your traditions to celebrate more sustainably.

To better understand how to make the holidays more sustainable, the sources of holiday waste can be broken into three categories: gifts, food and decorations. The first pinnacle of holiday waste is gifts, which embrace the “spirit of giving” by giving a lot of waste. According to, about 8,000 tons of wrapping paper are thrown out during the holidays each year, equating to roughly 50,000 trees and 1.6 percent of the total waste entering landfills annually.

To easily decrease waste, consider wrapping gifts with newspapers, reusable gift bags and tissue paper or decorate store bags to hide the logo. It is estimated that if every family used reusable materials for 3 gifts, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields, according to Better yet, consider splurging for baskets, tins or reusable bags to ensure the recipient has nothing to throw out. But at the very least, avoid glitters and recycle your wrapping paper, as each ton of recycled wrapping paper can save the energy equivalent to 185 gallons of gasoline, according to

Furthermore, consider buying local or handmade gifts to reduce factory carbon emission or give a few months of a streaming service, gym membership or an experience rather than a tchotchke they won’t use. When purchasing online and shipping gifts, choose land rather than air transport, and resist Amazon’s option to ship orders separately to decrease fuel usage.

Accompanying all the delectable goodies the holidays promise is the second component to holiday waste, food. It was estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that food waste increases by 25 percent during the holiday season. To help decrease the millions of pounds of food thrown out, plan meals ahead or consider having a box of produce deemed “unsellable” in grocery stores due to cosmetic imperfections shipped to your door with services like Imperfect Foods. You can also contact your local bakery to purchase day-old items like pastries and bagels.

Finally, the decorations essential to the holiday magic, are, yet again, not so great for the environment. According to, the 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold per year could fill a football field 10 stories high (before they fill landfills that is), and if every American sent one less card, it could save 50,000 cubic square yards of paper. To reduce energy, purchase LED lights, which are 90 percent more efficient according to, and only turn them on when you can enjoy them.

These suggestions don’t require radical holiday tradition transformations, but rather can be adopted when practical to make the holidays more sustainable. The holidays are about joining together to spread love. Let’s all do our part to love the Earth a little more.