Frequently Asked Questions: Holiday Waste Prevention

Q: How much extra waste is created during the winter holiday season?
Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week!

If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.

Statistics found at Visit this website and use the checklist to reduce your waste this holiday season.

Q: How can I reduce waste during the winter holiday season?
While the winter holiday season brings good cheer for most people, it also brings a lot more solid waste to the landfill, harm to the environment and additional debt to the average American family. Here are some environmentally-smart tips for a less wasteful -- perhaps less stressful -- holiday this year:

Wrapping paper is often used once and thrown away. Try using colorful pages torn from magazines to wrap small gifts, and old maps or the Sunday comics for larger boxes. Avoid using paper entirely by using reusable decorative tins, baskets or boxes. If you do buy wrapping paper, look for ones made of recycledpaper. Reusable cloth ribbons can be used in place of plastic bows. Finally, unwrap gifts carefully and save wrappings for reuse next year.

If you buy gifts, look for durable and re-usable items and resist the latest "fad" at the mall. Think of how many pet rocks, mood rings, and cabbage patch dolls ended up in the landfill!

Look for gifts with an environmental message: a nature book, a refillable thermos bottle, a canvas tote bag, a battery recharger or items made from recycled materials. Choose solar powered instead of battery powered roducts. Or better yet, ones that require no power at all.

Other environmentally-smart gifts include homemade ones: homebaked cookies, bread or jams, a plant or tree. Ones that don't create any waste at all: concert or movie tickets, dinner at a restaurant, or an IOU to help rake leaves or repair a leaky faucet. Ones that get "used up": candles, soap, or seeds for next year's garden.

You are probably receiving piles of mail order catalogs at this time of year. Call the company's 800 number and ask that you be removed from their mailing list. Fortunately, magazines and catalogs can be recycled with your mixed paper.

Lastly, if you send holiday cards, look for ones made of recycled paper. Avoid cards with glossy, shiny or gold foil coatings since these cannot be recycled. Save the cards that you get in the mail, cut off the front pictures, and reuse as "postcards" next year. This saves on postage too. Or, send ''electronic cards'' or make a phone call instead!

Visit for more ideas.

Q: How can I reduce waste and buy great gifts this holiday season?
We will generate an additional 7 million pounds of waste between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. To reduce waste, give gifts of time and gifts that are sure to be used. Here are some suggestions.

Baby-sitting, taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, cleaning the house, or cleaning the car.

Museums, parks, beaches, hikes, full moon walks, or winter picnics.

Hand Made Gifts
Fill a basket with baked goods, assemble a collection of favorite family recipes, make a holiday bouquet from fresh greens, holly, etc. and tie with bow, make Christmas ornaments from family photos, or video tape family members telling favorite family stories/memories.

Movie, concert or sports tickets.

Gift Certificates
Restaurants, record stores, book stores, video rental stores, department stores, or grocery stores.

Health spas, swim clubs, museums, zoos, or amusement parks.

Magazines, newspapers, book clubs, or flower of the month club.

Financial Accounts
Savings accounts, mutual fund shares, or stocks or bonds.

Gifts for Children
"Dress Up Box" filled with costume jewelry, scarves, hats, aprons, and ties, cooking equipment and a recipe with ingredients, blank journal or diary, blank scrapbook with scissors and tape, flower seeds and pots, or tool box and supplies to build a simple bird house.

Gifts to the Environment
Send e-greetings to family and friends who are on-line, buy a living Christmas tree and replant after the holidays, buy live plants, gardening tools, bird seed, battery charger with rechargeable batteries, bus/light rail/train passes, bicycles or walking shoes.

For more tips on having an Environmentally Friendly Holiday call the Santa Clara County Recycling Hotline at 1-800-533-8414, or find them on the Web at
Visit for more ideas.

Q: How can I protect the planet this holiday season?
Gift Ideas -
· Keep an eye open for products made from recycled materials.
· Gift certificates to a favorite store or tickets to a concert, theater production or sporting event.
· An annual pass to State Parks.

Entertaining -
· When planning holiday festivities, make it easy for your guests to recycle at gatherings.
· Use plates, glasses and cutlery that can be washed and re-used.

Public Transit -
· Let someone else do the driving on holiday shopping trips- Try a bus, train or subway. Check with local public transit for special holiday routes and hours.

The Giving Tree -
· When it comes to trees, you have plenty of beautiful options. With live trees you can have a tree to enjoy year-round. Ask your local nursery which trees grow best in your area. Artificial trees are cost effective and they can be reused year after year. Cut trees are beautiful. But remember, they take up valuable landfill space, so be sure to have yours composted.

Wrap It Up -
· For gift wrapping, you can start your own recycling program.
· Use old posters, comics, colorful shopping bags, even old maps.
· When you receive gifts, be sure to save the ribbons and bows.

Conserve Energy -
· Turn off holiday lights when you go to bed.
· String popcorn and cranberries, instead of lights.
· Close your chimney flue when your fire is extinguished.

Amidst all of the celebration and gift-giving, we can all look for ways to reduce waste, recycle and save energy. Thanks to the DOC/DIV for the article. Visit for more ideas.

Q: What are some Green Resolution that I can consider this year?
Here are seven ways to reduce your impact on the Earth:
1. Recycle. If you aren’t in the habit— start today, and encourage others to do the same. Recycling not only saves natural resources, but also saves energy!

2. Remember the other important “RA”- Reduce and Reuse. Help to lessen the amount of waste by buying items that use little or no packaging, or “buying in bulk” which reduces unnecessary and excessive packaging; and, find ways to use items over and over again (e.g. refilling your empty water bottles).

3. Buy recycled-content products. Remember to “look for it, ask for it.” Resolve to “buy green” by purchasing at least one recycled-content product on a regular basis, such as paper towels or computer paper, that is made with post consumer content.

4. Free your home from toxins. Don’t flush paints, solvents or chemicals down the toilet. Toilet bowl deodorizers, cleaning solutions with lye and many spot removers contain harmful solvents. Baking soda and vinegar substitute as great all-purpose cleaners. A wide variety of non-toxic cleaners, such as Seventh Generation, can be found at stores like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s. Cut down on pesticides and fertilizers in your garden and limit what you wash into rivers, bays and oceans.

5. Spare the Air. Resolve to minimize using your car whenever possible. Use public transportation, carpool or bicycle once or twice a week for more exercise and cleaner air.

6. Learn to Compost. Convert yard clippings and vegetable peelings into nature’s fertilizer. Your garden will love you for it. Many cities and counties offer composting workshops and free or discounted compost bins.

7. See the Great Outdoors. Whether city, county, regional or state - visit California’s world-class parks. Park volunteer or docent opportunities and special programs geared to kids represent ways to contribute to your community and enjoy nature at the same time.

Thanks to the CA Dept. of Conservation/Division of Recycling for their Green Holiday Guide from which this article is taken.