‘The most wasteful time of the year’: How to reduce waste during the holiday season

The holiday season can also be one of the most wasteful seasons. (Melanie White | Collegian Media Group)

The holiday season is in full swing and winter festivities are well underway. Between holiday shopping, gift exchanges and festive parties, the environment isn’t the first thing on our minds. While the holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year,” it isn’t wonderful for the environment.

You can follow simple steps to reduce your carbon footprint during the holiday season.

Recycling is one of the easiest steps you can take to reduce waste.

“People don’t realize that all the wrapping paper and cardboard boxes they use during the holidays can be recycled,” Bill Spiegel, Kansas State’s recycling supervisor, said.

Students and faculty are encouraged to use the KSU Recycling Center, an on-campus facility with the mission to educate students about the benefits of recycling in an effort to reduce reusable or renewable wastes from entering landfills when disposing of recyclable goods and materials.

In place of traditional, incandescent holiday lights, try using LED lights as a more energy-efficient alternative. Spiegel said old, non-working Christmas lights can also be recycled for metal.

Shopping for gifts can also be made friendlier for the environment. Gerry Snyder, instructional technologist in the Office of Mediated Education and faculty advisor for Students for Environmental Action, advises shoppers to use reusable bags when shopping to avoid wasting more plastic.

There are still ways to remain conscious of the environment while shopping online, too.

“Christmas generates more waste than any other holiday,” Snyder said. “When ordering online, just be aware when buying gifts and avoid those that have single-use packaging. Make sure the cardboard box that the gift is shipped in is recycled.”

While mostly unintentional, food waste also tends to increase during the holiday season. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, six million turkeys, roughly a $293 million value, were thrown away in 2016.

Plan ahead and only buy exactly what is needed to avoid being left with an excess amount of leftovers during the holidays. Start with smaller portions and then go back for a second helping later if you’re not full. This prevents the uneaten food on the plate from going straight into the garbage bin when you realize your eyes were too big for your stomach.

“Extra or uneaten food can be donated during the holiday season, as well as throughout the year to reduce waste,” Spiegel said.

The environment normally is not at the top of anyone’s list during the holidays, but taking a few extra steps to reduce waste can lessen the negative impact.

“More awareness of your environmental impact makes the job of reducing waste a whole lot easier and overall more effective, especially during the holidays,” Spiegel said.