It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are a time to celebrate, enjoy delicious meals, and relish in the company of friends and family. However, it is also when we generate the most trash and other waste materials which can end up on our roads and in our storm drains. This time of year, it is even more important to be mindful of how much waste you generate because our storm drain systems and waterways do not get a break during the holidays!

Here are some tips for a sustainable and eco-friendly holiday season:

1. Avoid single-use artificial trees.

Artificial trees contain petroleum products (PVC) and are non-biodegradable. They carry a carbon footprint of around 40 kg and contribute to plastic pollution. If you prefer an artificial tree, make sure that it is of good quality that will last for years. Or, why not use a potted tree? You can even try a different species of tree or plant that is more common in your region (and possibly less expensive!).

2. When it is time to purchase new holiday lights switch to LED.

Holiday lights and displays can be a marvel to look at but waste a significant amount of energy. Research has found that lighting consumes enough energy to run 14 million refrigerators! Switching to LED lights, which lowers the use of electricity and can last 25 times longer than traditional lighting. Don’t forget to turn off the lights and outdoor decorations at bedtime, or better yet, put them on a timer!

3. Find alternatives to gift wrapping.

Most holiday wrapping papers are not recyclable. Instead, get creative and make your own wrapping substitutes from materials such as magazines, old shopping bags, and other paper products you can find around the house or workplace (Earth Easy)! If not, choose wrapping paper made of recycled content.

4. Freeze dinner leftovers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that over 70 billion pounds of food are wasted each year with the heaviest losses during the holiday season. To reduce food waste, consider freezing leftovers. Not only will it save you money but it can be enjoyed for weeks. Make sure to wrap your food well and freeze it in manageable amounts.

5. Recycle your holiday tree.

Instead of throwing your tree away this year, opt for recycling. When you recycle your tree, it can be repurposed into mulch or wood chips instead of ending up in the landfill. Learn how to recycle or dispose of your tree here.

We wish you a wonderful and safe holiday season! Thank you for taking the time to think of environmentally friendly ways to celebrate and for keeping waste to a minimum. No matter the season, it is always important to prevent litter from ending up on our roads or in our storm drains and waterways.

Sources: Stanford, Acciona, Mr. Electric, Eartheasy, Brightly