With all the merriment and cheer the holiday season brings, it can also bring a massive influx of waste—25% more waste in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Whether you’re working, learning or sending your children to the classroom, there are plenty of efforts you can make to reduce the amount of waste heading to the landfill this season.
Each of the last two years, the Center for Green Schools has published ways you can reduce your waste through gift-giving guides. This year, we’re focusing on what you can do to bring the cheer and decorate without being wasteful.
Here are our favorite ideas:
Use old graded papers, posters or bulletin board paper as wrapping paper.
Traditional wrapping paper can’t be recycled and adds huge amounts of waste to the landfill. What better way to relive the learning progress made throughout the first half of the school year than to use old school papers or classroom posters to wrap your gifts? Just make sure that the papers you’re using belong to the student to whom you’re gifting!
Ask students to bring their favorite decor from home.
If you’re planning on decorating your classroom or school for this year’s holiday season, rather than buying new decorations, consider asking students to bring their own homemade, sustainable ones. Involving students will give them a chance to show off their own traditions and feel included. You could even turn it into a fun end-of-the-year activity for students to present their favorite holiday decor.
Use recycled materials to create handmade decorations.
Rather than buying new decorations that might end up in the waste bin later, try taking materials out of the recycling and waste bins to make your own. Items like plastic beverage bottles, aluminum cans and cardboard tubes from paper towels and wrapping paper make great canvases for ornaments, dreidels or other holiday items. You can even connect the activity to learning by searching for waste-themed lessons on Learning Lab.
Use the most sustainable materials possible.
If you do choose to buy holiday decorations, research the most sustainable materials before you purchase. Small choices—like choosing paper instead of plastic decorations, using sustainable beeswax for menorah candles, and buying a real and sustainably managed Christmas tree—lead to big impact reductions on the environment.