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The holiday season is hands-down my favorite time of year! Christmas music starts to play in stores, trees go up, Starbucks comes out with their holiday menu, and you get an opportunity to be around friends and family. Although the holidays are great for many reasons, they take a major toll on the environment. According to Stanford University, Americans throw away 25% more trash during the holiday season than any other time of year. That 25% adds up to around 1 million extra tons per week.

It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday season with all the events and places to be and not realize the waste left behind. Let this year be the change, and make your holiday season more sustainable with these ten tips:

  1. Thrift/Upcycle Christmas decor

A lot of people buy some amount of new Christmas decor every year. Many go straight to Walmart or Target without checking local thrift stores first. You would be surprised at some of the cute decor you can find from thrifting!

  1. Use reusable bags when holiday shopping

Using reusable bags is important all of the time, but especially around the holidays. Between shopping for family meals at the grocery store to buying gifts, a lot of plastic bags will be used and go to waste if reusable bags aren’t taken into consideration. I always keep a couple reusable bags in my car to have on hand in case I need to get something.

  1. Choose sustainable materials

There are a plethora of options for Christmas decor and Christmas gifts. Instead of choosing the items wrapped in copious amounts of plastic, choose items with minimal packaging or none at all.

  1. Recycle your christmas tree

Having a live Christmas tree is great because it combats the waste produced when making an artificial tree. Although, if live trees aren’t disposed of correctly they can cause environmental problems. Each year, 10 million Christmas trees end up in landfills where they produce the greenhouse gas, methane. You can recycle your Christmas tree by chipping it into mulch, chopping it for firewood, composting it, or finding a local program to recycle it at.

  1. Shop at a local farmers market for holiday meals

Lots of farmers markets still do business around the holiday season. Not only does getting produce locally save resources from shipping it in, but it also supports local businesses and local farmers!

  1. Rethink ways to wrap gifts

Americans alone throw away around 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper a year. The majority of this ends up in landfills as most wrapping paper can’t be properly recycled because it is not pure paper. Using homemade wrapping paper or even wrapping gifts in scarves, bandanas, or reusable bags can be part of the gift as well as its wrapping! 

  1. Ask people what they actually want

It is so easy to suddenly feel the pressure to get someone a gift even though you have no idea what they want. To avoid giving someone a gift they will throw away and wasting your money, ask people specifically what they would want and use. They, and your wallet will be grateful.

  1. Use containers to store leftovers

Ditch the plastic wrap and Ziploc bags and use glass tupperware to store those delicious leftovers!

  1. Don’t be lazy! Wash the dishes!

It may sound easier to have guests use paper plates and disposable silverware, but this creates so much unnecessary waste. Even if you only do the dishes for either cups, silverware, or plates; using any reusable item is better than using none.

  1. Upcycle old gifts

Let’s face it…we all have items lying around the house that we know good and well we will never actually use. Whether it is old clothes with the tags still on them or candles that have never been burned, these make great upcycled gifts. Not only does it save you from having to spend money on new gifts, but it prevents items from ending up in the trash. If you don’t have anyone to give certain gifts to, always recycle them, or otherwise properly dispose of first instead of throwing them in a dumpster.

Caroline Surface

Coastal Carolina '25

Caroline is a sophomore Interactive Journalism Communication major at Coastal Carolina University. She is from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and has two cats and one dog. She was on the yearbook team all throughout high school, which is where she found her passion of telling stories through writing.