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Making the holidays greener — and cheaper — by reducing trash, toxins and waste

Christmas decorations sit on top of rubbish in a bin waiting to be collected outside a home. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Christmas decorations sit on top of rubbish in a bin waiting to be collected outside a home. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The holiday season has begun. Think parties. Decorations, families — and lots of trash.

Americans toss out about 25% more garbage during the holidays. That includes food waste, wrapping paper, shopping bags, and more. In fact, a study on Stanford University's website notes that the 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high.

The good news is that a few changes can reduce your eco-footprint — and you don't have to do them all to make a difference.

Here & Now's Robin Young talks to Dawn Gifford, author of "Sustainability Starts at Home" who also runs the Small Footprint Family website.

Tips to have a greener holiday

  • Use recyclable or reusable wrapping paper. Newspaper, decorated craft paper, an old map or a fabric item like a scarf can make the perfect gift wrapping.
  • If you buy wrapping paper, make sure it doesn't have metallic, foil or glitter. If you can crumple it and it holds its shape, it's likely recyclable.
  • Use LED lights for your decorating to conserve energy and cut down on costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • When purchasing string lights, look for a tag that says they're RoHS compliant. That means they'll contain the least amount of heavy metals which can become toxic over time.
  • Make sure any artificial trees are well-dusted and vacuumed around regularly so their PVC materials don't shed heavy metal dust. Try to keep your tree as long as possible to avoid waste.
  • When purchasing a live tree, look for an organic or potted one so you can avoid toxic fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Give handmade (like knitting, woodworking or baking) or experiential gifts (like concert tickets or a museum membership) to cut down on waste.
  • Offset your travel emissions by donating to organizations that plant trees.

Karyn Miller-Medzon produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd MundtGrace Griffin adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on November 28, 2022.

Robin Young Twitter Co-Host, Here & Now
Robin Young brings more than 25 years of broadcast experience to her role as host of Here & Now.


Karyn Miller-Medzon Twitter Senior Producer, Here & Now
Karyn Miller-Medzon is a senior producer for Here & Now.



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