The Unwanted Holiday Gift: Waste

The smell of turkey roasting in the oven waiting to be carved at the dinner table fills the house.
Children anxiously await shredding the wrapping paper to see if their wish list was fulfilled.
Trash inches closer and closer to the trash can rim until someone changes it out for the third or
fourth time that week. Though the holiday season is known for bringing bountiful merriment, it
also brings a bountiful amount of extra waste.

Studies show that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, Americans generate 25% more
waste than at any other time of the year, equating to approximately one million tons of extra
waste every week. With online shopping behaviors that skyrocketed in part by COVID-19, the
amount of waste will surely continue to rise. So what sustainable practices can be adopted
during this season?

If you’re an aspiring green thumb, the holiday season could be an opportune moment to start
composting, which helps keep organic waste like kitchen scraps from crowding the can. For
those new to composting, there are some simple rules of thumb on what to or not to compost.
Meats and dairy products are not great for composting because they create unpleasant odors
during the breakdown process. Compost doesn’t smell good in the first place, but meat and
dairy products will make you want to run for the hills. Onions and citrus fruit are too acidic.
Noncoated paper, vegetables, some fruit, grains, pieces of bread and eggshells are always
great for composting. Free compost guides are easy to find online. Compost container options
range from multi-chamber rotating bins to countertop machines that can turn waste into soil in
four hours.

Another way to cut waste during holiday shopping – and year-round – is to keep reusable
grocery totes in your trunk! We’re all guilty of getting to the checkout line, watching our items be
bagged up and instantly thinking, “Oh, I had some grocery totes at the house I should have
brought with me.” When you park, make sure to grab your bags from your trunk before going
into the store. Once you get to the checkout lane, proactively place the totes in the area where
your items will be bagged and request that the cashier use those versus plastic bags. If you do
forget to bring your bags and leave the store with plastic bags, you can either use those plastic
bags as bathroom trash can liners or most grocery stores now have recycling containers at the
front of the store to collect your old plastic bags.

Doing dishes during the holidays is a cumbersome job nobody wants to have. Holiday parties
and dining can lead to mountains of discarded plastic, paper, foam and foil items. But using a
little forethought can help you cut waste. When using foil pans, if they are still in good condition
after use, save money by washing them and using them again later. If feasible, opt for cloth
napkins that can be washed. Though it's tempting, don't take the easy, wasteful route of plastic
forks and paper plates. Use washable items instead.
Other waste reduction options include:

● Store gift bags and boxes that are in good shape in a bin to use next year. It can save
you money on expensive bags and boxes next year and keep them out of landfills.
● Don’t have space in the fridge for leftovers or know your family won’t eat all of them?
Donate extra food to places like a shelter or first responder station.
● If you use a live Christmas tree, find an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission drop-off
site when the holidays are over. As part of its Habitat for the Holidays program, Game
and Fish uses the donated trees to create more fish habitats in Arkansas’ many lakes.

This holiday season is the perfect time to consider how you can reduce waste and give the gift
that keeps on giving: a more sustainable future. It’s not too late to think about how you can
implement eco-friendly practices during your holiday activities.

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