by: Kristen Colburn

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, Americans throw away 25% more trash than any other time of year. That’s 1 million extra tons of garbage each week! [1] And that waste doesn’t just come from the old toys we purge from our kids’ bedrooms to make room for the new ones they’ll receive, or from the leftover party food that nobody wants to touch again, or even from the packing peanuts and cardboard boxes we receive from our online shopping. It also comes from the wrapping paper and ribbon we use to wrap gifts, from the Christmas cards we insist on sending to everyone we know, and from the disposable decorations we use once and throw away when the season ends.

Did you know that every family could save 38,000 miles of ribbon if they reused two feet of holiday ribbon each year? Or that by wrapping just 3 presents in re-used materials, the amount of paper saved would be enough to cover 45,000 football fields? Even more surprising, Americans send roughly 1.3 billion holiday cards every year — the same amount of CO2 emissions as charging 22 billion smartphones or 22,000 homes’ energy use for one year. [2]

The winter holiday season brings more waste to landfills, harm to the environment, and even more debt to the average American family. If you’d like to reduce your carbon footprint and have a less wasteful holiday season, here are some tips that can help:

Gift Wrappingxmas wrap

  • Consider wrapping gifts with colorful magazine pages, old maps, recycled paper grocery bags, or even kids’ drawings or paintings.
  • Gift bags or baskets are a great alternative as they can be saved and reused each year.
  • Place your gifts inside of an item that can be reused by the recipient, such as a planter, laundry basket, or reusable cloth grocery bag.
  • If you’d prefer to purchase wrapping paper, look for rolls made with recycled paper, which uses 38% less CO2 than paper made from new trees [3].
  • Carefully unwrap gifts you receive and save the paper to use next year.

Holiday Cardshappy holidays

  • Send an e-card by using a website such as com or is another great alternative that also gives you the option to include a virtual gift card, further reducing unnecessary waste.
  • Make a phone call to wish someone a happy holiday.
  • Create your own holiday cards using recycled or re-purposed materials. There are some great ideas here.
  • If you’d prefer to send a card, consider purchasing eco-friendly cards. offers tons of cards for different occasions, and with each order the company plants a tree. is another great option as each card is printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper with solar and wind power, and 25% of each purchase goes to a charity of your choice.


  • Decorate with real plants, such as branches, berries, fresh fruit, or decor
  • Avoid plastic products that cost money and wind up in the trash at the end of the year.
  • Use popcorn and cranberries on the tree instead of tinsel and garland.
  • Switch to LED holiday lights, which are 90% more efficient than traditional lights. [4] Consider participating in the Christmas Lights Recycling Program which takes your old lights, recycles them, and uses the proceeds to purchase books, games, and toys for Toys for Tots!
  • Make edible ornaments using peanut butter, pinecones, seed bells, etc. to hang around your yard and feed the wildlife.



[1] Stanford University. (n.d.). Frequently asked questions: Holiday waste prevention. Retrieved from:

[2] Fuller, K. (2021, November 4). Is our greeting card obsession harming the planet? Retrieved from:

[3] Deleco. (2022, March 16). The environmental benefits of recycled wrapping paper. Retrieved from:

[4] (n.d.). Lighting choices to save you money. Retrieved from: