HomeReduce & ReuseReducing holiday waste

If you’re striving to make the holidays more meaningful and less wasteful this year, you’ll find some inspiration here.

Living room on Christmas morning, strewn with wrapping paper and gifts.
Photo by It’s Twinsanity

Gift ideas

Give an experience. Studies have shown that experiences—as opposed to physical objects—generate greater satisfaction over a longer period of time.

Wrap gifts in reusable bags, tin boxes, the Sunday comics, or brightly colored cloth that can be used as napkins afterwards. If you do use new wrapping paper, make sure it’s made from recycled paper. Remember, metallic or plastic “paper” can’t be recycled, nor can ribbons and bows.

Think durable when selecting gifts. The longer an item lasts, the less often you will have to buy a new one. A simple fact that helps reduce the amount of waste that is generated.

Give the gift of less clutter by helping loved ones declare their independence from junk mail. There are many websites that help facilitate the removal of your name from mailing lists, thereby helping to eliminate 80-95% of the daily junk mail that ends up in your mailbox. For more information on how to sign up your friends, your family, or yourself, visit Junk Mail on our A-Z list.

Decorations & lights

Know any kids? Invite them over for a decoration-making session. Put a collection of artful odds and ends from your junk drawer, some glue, and glitter on a table and see what inventive ornaments emerge!

Choose ornaments that will last more than one season.

Make ornaments from natural, edible items and set it out for the winter wildlife after the tree comes down. A string of popcorn and cranberries makes a perfect gift for the birds! Consider leaving the tinsel off of your Christmas tree. Tinsel is very difficult to remove and will make your tree unacceptable for recycling. See details on our Christmas Trees page.

Recycle old lights and choose ultra low-energy LED lights as replacements. Recycle your old light strings (at no charge) in the scrap metal bin at any CSWD Drop-Off Center (remove large bulbs; small “twinkle” lights can stay on the string). Or, you can mail them to HolidayLEDs.com for recycling, and get a 15% off coupon for new lights.


It’s easy to make your holiday parties zero-waste events! See our Event Waste Reduction page for suggestions, ready-made signs, and other resources. Here are some other easy tips:

Reduce and Reuse: When grocery shopping for your holiday party skip the paper or plastic. Instead, use your own reusable shopping bags for groceries. Plus, many local stores offer a discount if you bring your own bag.

Also, special occasions deserve a little extra effort. Avoid using disposable cups and plates when entertaining guests. Whether you choose fine china, durable plastic, or something in between, your guests will notice and appreciate your efforts. And you’ll be amazed at how much less trash there is at the end of the party.

Recycle: The key to getting people to recycle is communication. Let people know you’re going for zero waste by talking it up to guests and attaching signs to recycling receptacles. See our Event Waste Reduction page for downloadable/printable signs.

Compost: You don’t need a backyard composting system to make it happen. All CSWD Drop-Off Centers accept food scraps for composting. See the Drop-Off Composting page for details.

It also helps if you can make signs that list what is acceptable. If you’re using uncoated paper plates (such as Chinet brand), you can compost them–napkins and other food-soiled paper, too! See the Green Mountain Compost website for details on what is acceptable.