Take these steps to celebrate sustainably this holiday season

Wrapping paper
Posted at 2:07 PM, Dec 08, 2021

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that American households contribute an extra 1 million tons of waste a week to landfills between Thanksgiving and the New Year.

However, experts say that making just a few small changes over the holidays can reduce the impact on the environment.

Creating a more sustainable holiday season starts with reducing food waste, which ends up in landfills and contributes to the emission of greenhouse gasses like methane.

"There are apps now that you can get on your phone for meal planning, and folks can RSVP if they're coming (to a party) and (noting) what meal they're going to bring," said Nathan King, the sustainability manager at Virginia Tech.

King also recommends that homeowners start using composting units, some of which are small enough to fit under a kitchen sink.

He also encourages people not to use single-use plastics for holiday meals.

Gift wrap can also lead to an increase in waste over the holidays.

"A lot of the wrapping paper that you buy this time of year is not necessarily going to be recyclable in your typical recycling programs, just due to a lot of the dyes and inks," King said.

He suggests re-using packaging and shipping materials and using newspaper, fabric or reusable bags as gift wrapping.

King also suggests shopping locally to avoid buying items that travel long distances.

For electronic gifts, King also suggests purchasing re-chargeable batteries.

Gifting experiences like event tickets or memberships can also reduce holiday waste.

"Those are going to create lasting memories and bonds with your family and friends that will mean a lot for years to come," King said.

Homeowners can also swap out older Christmas lights with LED bulbs. LED bulbs are about 80% more energy-efficient, and putting them on a timer can also help save homeowners money.

Planning for holiday travel can also be more cost-effective and reduce emissions. King suggests carpooling to and from the airport or driving multiple family members to the same holiday party.