10 Tips for Reducing Waste During the Holiday Season

The holiday season in the United States is a time of celebration, but also of excessive waste generation. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2020, Americans produced an astonishing 25% more trash during the holiday season compared to any other time of the year. This excessive waste not only contributes to environmental degradation but also undermines the principles of a sustainable and circular economy. 

In recent years, the idea of a circular economy has gained traction, emphasizing the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling materials to minimize waste and promote sustainability. The Devens Forward Climate Action & Resilience Plan emphasizes Devens’ commitment to designing wasteful practices out of our systems and infrastructure.  

This holiday season, let's take inspiration from the tenets of the circular economy and the Devens Forward Plan. Here are ten tips for residents and businesses to minimize waste and maximize efficiencies during the holidays while fostering a sustainable and circular economy: 

  1. Eco-friendly Wrapping: Use reusable wrapping materials like scrap paper, cloth, scarves, or decorative boxes. If you do use traditional wrapping paper, make sure it's recyclable and avoid types with excessive glitter and foil, as these are not recyclable. 

  2. Reduce Packaging Waste: Minimize excess packaging and use eco-friendly materials. Consider using recycled or biodegradable packaging, and encourage customers to recycle or reuse packaging. Reducing packaging waste not only benefits the environment but also lowers shipping costs. 

  3. Green Shipping and Delivery Options: If your business relies on shipping products, consider offering carbon-neutral shipping options or using electric or hybrid delivery vehicles. Minimize shipping distances by stocking inventory strategically, and encourage customers to choose consolidated shipping to reduce emissions. 

  4. Give Experiences, Not Things: Instead of buying physical gifts, consider gifting experiences like tickets to a concert, a cooking class, or a spa day. This not only reduces the consumption of material goods but also creates lasting memories. 

  5. Opt for Local and Sustainable Gifts: Support local businesses and artisans by choosing gifts made from sustainable materials. This not only reduces carbon emissions from shipping but also contributes to the local economy. 

  6. Sustainable Decorations: When decorating, opt for eco-friendly items like LED lights, which consume less energy, and high-quality reusable decorations that can be stored and used for many holiday seasons. 

  7. Reduce Food Waste: Plan your meals carefully to minimize food waste. Use leftovers creatively, and consider composting organic waste. The Devens Forward Plan advocates for local food systems to reduce food miles and promote sustainability. 

  8. DIY Gifts: Get creative and make your own gifts or decorations. Handmade items often have a lower environmental impact and can be more meaningful. 

  9. Rent or Share: For items you'll use only occasionally, like a fancy dress, costume, serving cutlery or special cooking equipment, consider renting or borrowing from co-workers, friends or family. This reduces the demand for new products. 

  10. Get Involved in Community Sustainability Initiatives: Support local charities or environmental organizations like Clear Path for Veterans, Loaves and Fishes,  or the Devens Eco-Efficiency Center, by donating a percentage of holiday sales or by organizing eco-friendly events.

As we celebrate the holiday season, let's remember that our consumption choices have a direct impact on the environment and our community. By incorporating more circular and sustainable practices into our festivities, we can reduce waste and move Devens closer to our climate goals.