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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Harvard chapter.

The holidays are a special time of the year to wind back and celebrate with friends and family alike. As over-the-top as the holidays can be, they don’t have to be wasteful in order to be enjoyable and fulfilling. Here are a few simple ways you can help the Earth this holiday season. Think green and let the good times roll!

1. Use reusable dinnerware 

While avoiding loads upon loads of dishwashing is tempting, relying on disposable dishware adds up to a devastating cost to the environment. Throwaway dishes and cutlery are often made from melamine plastic, which is very difficult to recycle because it is reinforced with chemicals. Melamine plastic cannot be reformed with heat and is generally sorted out as hazardous waste. And bits and pieces of the plastic (microplastics) often also end up in the oceans, contributing to pollution and ecosystem endangerment. 

Similarly, paper napkins and plates are also often treated with chemicals to help them withstand liquids, which prevents proper degradation after use. Throughout the short life cycle of paper dinnerware, these items not only exacerbate problems like deforestation but also the increase of CO2 and methane emissions in waste processing. 

2. Use water responsibly 

Cooking, washing dishes, and washing hands can easily lead to an excess amount of water usage. Take an extra few seconds to make sure that the tap’s only running when actually needed.

3. Purchase local and organic

Organic food is grown without the use of pesticides, which are chemicals that can pollute surrounding water sources and land. Organic farming practices thus help to reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, and increase soil fertility. 

Likewise, local food requires fewer fossil fuels and packaging for transportation; thus, purchasing locally is a powerful way to reduce the carbon footprint of your food as well as support local farmers and businesses. 

4. Eat less meat

Although turkey is a staple of many holiday dinners, the meat industry is one of the nation’s greatest sources of methane gas and a major contributor to climate change and natural resource depletion. If possible, try to limit the amount of meat being served and load up more on other delicious dishes such as mashed potatoes, squash, green beans, and more! 

5. Keep leftovers

Before the prep even begins, try to not overbuy by knowing the portion sizes you’ll need. If you end up with leftovers, there are so many creative ways to transform excess food into satisfying meals for the days to follow. Think of anything from turkey sandwiches to casseroles!

6. Save the scraps

According to the US Department of Agriculture, 30-40 percent of food goes to waste annually. When organic matter decomposes, methane gas is released and contributes to global warming. The best approach to reducing food waste is to first not to create it. Waste can be avoided by making sure that you are properly cooking, eating, and storing food to the best of your abilities. Inedible food can also be recycled into other products such as animal feed and compost, which is a great way to dispose of leftovers all throughout the year so that the food goes back into the environment instead of ending up in landfills. You can even use the resulting compost to create nutrient-rich dirt and grow your own garden of fruits and vegetables. 

7. Donate

If excess food is unavoidable, donate to hunger-relief organizations and food pantries so that they can help feed people in need. Although certain organizations do not accept leftovers, donating any extra unopened non-perishables like boxed stuffing, canned goods, dry macaroni, etc. would be incredibly helpful to help support others during this time of the year. 

harvard contributor