Top 5 Ways to Reduce Waste During the Holidays

(Editor's note: Thanks to Heather Gowland from the City of Lethbridge, Waste & Recycling Services for these unique ideas on how to reduce our waste this holiday season! The OWC encourages you to try some of these out and then tell us about it!) 

Top 5 Ways to Reduce Waste During the Holidays

Did you know that household waste generation increases by approximately 25% around the Christmas season? But don’t let that fact spoil your eggnog - you can be a waste-wise and still enjoy the traditions of the holiday season! Here are the top 5 ways to reduce waste during the holidays:

#1 The Trail of the Tree
Real vs. fake  – the debate is ongoing.  No matter which type of tree you use, there are still ways to make it greener. If you use a fake tree be sure to repair it when you can and reuse it as long as possible. If you love a real tree, recycle it by chipping it into mulch through a collection program or site. Or if you don’t mind going outside of tradition, dress up the houseplants.
How about trimming the tree? If you like to change the decorations you use often, consider these ideas to lessen your footprint: DIY decorations made from components of used or broken decorations, compostable decorations (ex. Popcorn strings). If you’re replacing your decorations because they’ve grown worn over the years, consider repairing them first.
Origami birds made out of old calendar prints and dehydrated orange slices are both beautiful and eco-friendly ornaments.

#2 Green Gifting
The best things in life are free! Visit to watch some videos with ideas on how to create memories, not garbage.

#3 Wrapping Wizardry
Most gift wrap, bows, ribbons, tissue and adornments are NOT RECYCLABLE – typically they are used once, viewed once, and then tossed. Do a quick internet search for “green gift wrap ideas” and you will find a plethora of ways in which to wrap a present with all the glam and none of the garbage. My favorite idea is to use fresh sprigs of berries or bushes to add a festive touch to the wrapping job - instead of tossing it in the garbage, it gets tossed right back into the yard!
Reusable fabric bags, newsprint and paper are all good options to alternative wrapping. Image from

#4 Food Fixings
Food is fantastic and should never go to waste! From composting to soup cooking, there are things you can do to make sure more gets eaten. Here’s one idea: let people serve themselves (including kids). They will likely take only as much as they feel like eating. This way, less of it ends up as plate scrapings and more of it as yummy leftovers for later days. Also, freezing is a great way to deal with too many leftovers – if something is not suitable for re-heating nicely, consider if the de-thawed version would be a good addition to a soup. If you need motivation, check out this new film
Your cooking efforts are too good to waste.

#5 Quality Hosting
Many people dropping by, dinners and celebrations can be overwhelming when it comes to the little things like dishes and preparing snacks. But being a host can also mean making sure everyone is included and gets a little bit of quality time with someone else. Instead of using disposable dishes, how about disengaged dishwashers? Here’s what happened in my house growing up: All the teenagers were sent to the kitchen to wash the dishes – we got to know each other, kept busy and felt useful. Sometimes a group of people would gather around a cutting board, cut veggies for snacks and put them on a plate – instead of buying a pre-made plastic tray. Sound nostalgic? 

Have a holiday full of love, laughter and memories to come!

Be Safe. Be Merry. Be Green.

Heather Gowland, BSc.
Waste & Recycling Coordinator
City of Lethbridge, Waste & Recycling Services

This holiday season, be a #greenangel and Create Memories, Not Garbage. Watch the vidoes that are full of 'green' gifting ideas by clicking here.