Holiday Waste Reduction

More Joy, Less Waste

American household waste increases more than 23% during the holiday season – but we can change that. Check out some tips below for reducing waste this holiday season and beyond.

Green your gifts. Look for gifts you can buy locally, are gently used, have minimal packaging and are made to last. Better yet, give the gift of a local experience like event tickets, a class or membership.   

Wrap with reused materials. Get creative with recycled and reused gift wrap. 

  • Fabrics are a great way to wrap and re-wrap presents each year.  Pick up some fabric at your favorite thrift store or estate sale, wrap your gifts, save the fabric for next year and ditch wrapping paper for good. For ideas on how to wrap using fabrics, check out the Japanese art of furoshiki, which uses a few simple folds and a knot.    
  • Put paper bags to use as gift wrap. Add a design or drawing for an extra touch and recycle the paper bags later.   
  • Save newspapers, old maps, calendars and magazine pages for gift wrap with some character and recycle afterwards.  
  • Skip plastic bows and ribbon and choose natural decorations like small twigs and pinecones to top your gift. Save fabric ribbons or twine to use again.   

Rethink your holiday cards. The type of paper a holiday card is printed on will determine if you can recycle it. For example, cards on photography paper or embellished with things like foil, glitter, or bows should not go in your recycle cart, while cards printed on plain paper can. Eliminate the recycling guess work for your loved ones and reduce waste entirely with an e-card instead.   

Entertain with reusables. Many resources go into creating disposable tableware that’s only used once. Skip the paper plates, plastic utensils and napkins by opting for reusable dinnerware. 

Borrow from nature. It’s tempting to buy new holiday decorations, but beautiful holiday décor can be found right outside. Try branches, leaves and twigs to add some cheer. Some tree lots even save trimmed branches and will let you take them for free. Trimmings can be used in all sorts of ways, including wrapping them around a metal hanger or wire to make a wreath.   

Stop junk mail before it starts. Catalogs and unsolicited mail really start to add up during the holidays.  Prevent this waste in the future by calling the 1-800 number listed on catalogs and ask to be removed from their mailing list. Learn how to stop junk mail before it starts. 

Choose glass. When you stock up on holiday baking ingredients, buy them in glass rather than plastic.  For example, look for vanilla, fluff, vegetable oil and sprinkles in glass bottles and jars.  

Shop with waste prevention and recycling in mind.  Follow our Zero Waste Grocery checklist for purchasing your holiday food staples in bulk or without packaging. If that’s not possible, look for packaging that can be recycled, such as cartons, steel cans and empty aluminum pie tins. Familiarize yourself with Denver’s recycling guidelines prior to shopping to know what can be recycled in your purple cart. And always bring your own reusable bags when you shop to reduce waste and avoid Denver’s fee on disposable bags

Try the Guestimator tool. Planning meals for large groups can be difficult and costly. Use this Guestimator tool to avoid too much food waste. 

Store food correctly. Don’t let those delicious holiday meal leftovers go bad before they’re eaten. Read up on proper and preferred food storage tips.  

Compost your food waste and napkins. The Denver Composts accepts food, leftovers, bones, dairy, vegetable scraps, paper napkins and paper towels, keeping these items out of the landfill and turning them into a useful soil amendment known as compost. Not a Denver Composts customer? Sign up today.  

Recycle right. Most holiday food packaging - such empty bottles, cans, cartons, and tubs - are recyclable. Plastic bags, wrapping paper, glittery cards, photo paper, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, old toys and tissue paper ARE NOT. These should be avoided, reused or placed in the trash. The holidays can also bring more recyclables to manage. Save room in your recycle cart by breaking down and flattening boxes. 

Participate in Seasonal Programs offered by Denver Recycles. Bring unwanted holiday lights to the Cherry Creek Recycle Drop Off as part of Recycle Your Holiday Lights, and participate in Treecycle after the holidays! 

Commit to make less holiday waste. Take our Holiday Pledge to commit to reducing your waste this holiday season.