Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Seeing distant relatives, exchanging presents, and the generally joyous atmosphere of the holiday season make this opinion fact for the many who celebrate it. It can also prove to be one of the most wasteful times of the year. For example, Americans alone produce approximately 25% more garbage during the holiday season. 

This holiday garbage often comes in the form of used trees, decorations, and unwanted gifts that add to already overcrowded landfills. 

Furthermore, the popularity of Christmas lights and the high amounts of holiday traveling means that resources such as electricity and fossil fuels are used frequently this time of year. The high use of fossil fuels in particular leads to higher carbon emissions during the Christmas season. That being said, there are methods that you can use to make your holiday season even a little less wasteful.

Consider Recycling your Christmas tree into mulch.

Around 30 million Christmas trees are bought each year in the United States. A majority of those trees end up in landfills after the Christmas season, where a lack of space and oxygen causes them to degrade slowly. One Christmas tree already takes so much time to decompose, imagine hundreds or thousands of them all occupying the same landfill. Not to mention, all the other kinds of waste that get put right alongside.

Since trees are biodegradable, consider turning them into mulch. There are many programs in areas of the United States that are doing just that. In New York, for example, an annual Mulchfest is held from December 26th to January 8th. Participants can trade their used Christmas trees and receive bags of mulch created from them. That mulch can then be used in your gardens or flower pots to help keep soil healthy. 

Like this, a Christmas tree that would have otherwise been stuck taking up space in a landfill is instead helping to nurture other plants. 

Use LED Christmas lights instead of incandescent light bulbs.

It is a common fact that LED lights use less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, (up to 90%.) The United States Department of Energy recommends you use LED Christmas lights over bulbs. For one, they are less of a fire hazard due to being cooler, they are far more resistant to breakage, longer lasting ( can last approximately up to 40 Christmases!) and are easier to install than incandescent light bulbs. 

Regardless of the type of lights being used, it is also important to know when to not use them. Although it may be tempting, having your Christmas lights on display all the time wastes enormous amounts of energy. Consider turning them off during the day, when they can’t easily be seen, or buy Christmas lights that come with timers. This way, you can set times for the lights to come on and off at your convenience, while wasting less energy in the process.

Regift unwanted presents

Regifting is the act of taking unwanted presents and turning them into gifts to give to others. Although it may sound like a cheap thing to do, for a lot of people, the alternative is returning them to stores. Retailers, having nothing else they can do with returned gifts, will often throw them away by the truckload. Like with Christmas trees, perfectly good gifts are left to sit in landfills, becoming a waste of time, money, space and of the resources that went into creating them. 

Approximately 5 billion pounds worth of unwanted Christmas gifts end up in landfills each year. If you are given a gift you do not want, consider regifting it to someone else first.

Carpooling and Public Transportation

Between heating (due to the cold weather, ) Christmas lights, and the biggest offender, travel, Christmas is a time where energy consumption is at its highest all year. With energy consumption often comes the emission of carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere. Christmas celebrations alone are responsible for approximately 4.6% of the average family’s carbon emissions in a year. In terms of traveling, carpooling may be a viable alternative to having several family members set out. Depending on the distance, buses and trains can also help reduce travel emissions. Plan out your travel route, and if possible, see changes you can make to reduce the most amount of carbon emissions.

Have a merry Christmas while playing your part in making it less wasteful! 


About the Author: Jean Gardere is a PR and Social Media Specialist Intern of the Lesniak Institute for American Leadership. Jean is a graduate student at Kean University currently pursuing a Masters degree in Human Behavior and Organizational Psychology.