“Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot”—An Eco Holiday Guide

The halls of our supermarkets are filling fast with holiday wonders. Clever visual merchandisers are luring us in, tempting us with irresistible displays. I love all the seasonal items. I love all the events and festivities. It is truly a wonderful time of year, but sadly, also the most wasteful one.

According to a Stanford University article, “Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about one million extra tons per week!”

There are many ways we can cut down our waste without compromising holiday cheer. Here are some ideas for you to try this year following the ultimate eco motto.

Remember the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle)? Well, there are two more R’s now (refuse and rot). Here’s the holiday takeaway on each of the R’s:

REFUSE

Refuse sounds like a harsh word, but think of it as opting for better alternatives.

This holiday season we can refuse to use wrapping paper, for example, and opt for more sustainable ways to make our presents look pretty. Brown paper packages tied up with strings… anyone? They look so Pinterest-worthy. The Japanese wrapping technique “Furoshiki” is also a beautiful alternative and generates less waste.

Making homemade gifts is a beautiful tradition. Not only are you gifting more sustainably, but you are adding that personal, unique touch that everyone appreciates. Bath bombs, bath salts, cookies, crocheted scarfs and hats, coasters, portraits… these are just some ideas I’ve seen that I’m sure would make great gifts.

REDUCE

We have an excess of food waste this time of year. Consider donating, freezing, or turning leftovers into other recipes instead of throwing them away. For example, next day turkey “tortas” is one of my mother’s traditions.

How many times have we received gifts that we don’t need or like? Becoming better at gifting can also be a smart way to reduce our spending. Reducing the number of gifts can be a good strategy to have a bigger budget for one or two presents. Think of gifts that have a longer life span or are made with long-lasting materials.

Every gift that we buy has a carbon footprint, which is the sum of resources used to produce and deliver that item. By shopping locally, most of the time you are eliminating the shipment carbon footprint which makes for a more eco-friendly shopping alternative. Think about reducing the carbon footprint of the gifts you are buying. Look for companies that have certifications such as “B corporations” or “Leaping Bunny Certified.” A list of eco certifications can be found here: Sustainable Certifications Guide.

REUSE

Consider reusing your “ugly Christmas sweater” from last year or trading it with someone.

If you love vintage looks, @lamar.vintage has a curated selection of second-hand apparel for women in San Antonio that has amazing finds. Your holiday outfit can be both original and good for the planet!

Most of us reuse our holiday decorations again and again, but if you ever get tired of them, there are always creative ways to tweak them to make them seem like brand new items. For example, you can add or change the ornaments in your garland, or you can spray paint anything to give it a different look!

If you have a broken ornament, consider fixing it before throwing it away.

Using real silverware and plates at your gatherings is a great way to cut down on waste. Not only will your party look elegant, but it will save a lot of plates from going into landfills.

Rental services can also be an option that can save you from all the cleaning. The next best thing you can do is to opt for paper plates that will degrade faster than plastic or Styrofoam plates that take hundreds of years to decompose.

When you are giving presents, consider gifting them in something like a tote bag that can be reused multiple times.

RECYCLE

Proper recycling is one of the easiest ways to get started on an eco-friendly lifestyle. I bet that many of our front porches are going to be filled with delivery boxes in the next few months. Try recycling as much of the materials as possible. Cardboard, glass, and plastic can all be easily recycled if disposed of correctly. Clean and dry is what you should be aiming for when disposing of these materials, and most of us have a service that comes right to our doorstep to take it away!

ROT

Composting is something that should be done all year long with the organic waste we generate in our homes. But during the holidays, there are two very large items that contribute to a lot of greenhouse gas emissions when disposed of incorrectly: pumpkins and Christmas trees.

Pumpkins

Have you ever wondered what happens to the thousands of pumpkins at pumpkin patches and on front porches? I found out that “of the nearly two billion pounds of pumpkins grown in the United States in 2014, an estimated 1.3 billion pounds were simply trashed instead of eaten or composted,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Also take into consideration the water and resources used to grow these crops.

So, if you are not using your pumpkins to make pies, avoid throwing them in the trash, as they produce methane. Instead, compost them. If you would like a hassle-free and environmentally friendly option, try the Compost Queens services here in San Antonio.

Christmas trees

Even though a live tree is a more eco-friendly option than a manmade one (except when you use it for at least nine years), it is still important to dispose of it correctly, otherwise the waste generated by Christmas trees becomes an environmental problem.

Lucky for us San Antonians, Texas Disposal Systems offers Christmas tree disposal services each year, and the City of San Antonio‘s Solid Waste Management Department offers several locations to dispose of your tree for recycling into mulch. You can find more information on their websites.

Also, here is a great article comparing real vs. fake trees and their environmental impact:

Real vs. Fake Christmas Trees: Which is Better for The Environment?

 

After you have properly disposed of your Christmas tree, you can wrap up the holiday season and joyfully proclaim that you made it through your best eco holiday season yet!

I know holidays can be very stressful and sometimes we think about convenience first and foremost, especially as mothers. However, I truly believe that there must be a change in our consumption habits, to ultimately leave a better world for the people we love the most: our children.

Holidays are amazing. Families come together to celebrate traditions and create wonderful memories. I can’t think of a better time to teach new generations about better environmental practices and to make a tangible impact on our community.

One gift, one reusable plate, or one composted pumpkin at a time!

 

Resources:

https://www.sciencealert.com/an-astonishing-number-of-pumpkins-are-wasted-for-halloween-each-year

https://lbre.stanford.edu/pssistanford-recycling/frequently-asked-questions/frequently-asked-questions-holiday-waste-prevention

 

"Hi! I'm Mariana. I am a petite size Mexican from a city called Guadalajara. Almost eight years ago I arrived to San Antonio pregnant with my little girl. This city has seen my family grow to the party of six we are now. I love being involved in my community and my children's schools have been a great platform for me to contribute. I love all things eco-friendly almost as much as I love tacos al pastor. As a communication studies major, I am drawn to literature, film, and social studies. I love dancing. Before having kids, dancing was a big part of my life. Now my husband and I get to host dancing parties in my kitchen with our four little ones. Of all the places we could have ended up living in, San Antonio, with all the Mexican influence and the friendliness of Texans, seems like the perfect fit for our family. "

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