Each holiday season, there are many things to be thankful for; family and friend gatherings, community generosity, holiday lights, familiar holiday smells and so much more. But it’s fairly safe to say no one is thankful for the extra waste the holiday season brings. 

As we move into December, consider adopting these tips for reducing your household’s holiday waste. 

Non-Recyclable Holiday Packaging and Decor 

Regrettably, many holiday wrapping and packaging items are NOT recyclable curbside in Arlington.

Here are some recycling tips for common items.

  • strings of lights – use mail-in recycling programs or call Lowes to check status of their recycling program
  • wrapping paper with metallic treatment and glitter –
    see wrapping paper alternatives below
  • tissue paper – see wrapping paper alternatives below
  • ribbons, bows and twine – save for reuse next year
  • packing peanuts – try to reuse, otherwise put in the trash
  • bubble wrap, air packs, plastic shipping envelopes – try to reuse, otherwise recycle with film recycling at local grocery stores (remove labels)
  • styrofoam – take to the Reuse and Recycling Center
  • plastic bags – take to film recycling centers (grocery stores like Stop & Shop, Whole Foods)

The RecycleSmart Recyclopedia is a good resource on how and where to recycle these and other items.

    Read our companion blog: Low Waste Gift Giving Ideas
    for additional tips and inspiration.

    Wrapping Paper Alternatives

    Wrapping paper, tissue paper and gift bags are not recyclable curbside in Arlington. Adopt these creative alternatives instead.

    • Boston Globe comics, old calendar pictures or maps
    • Repurpose your child’s artwork (you can only keep so many 14” x 18” finger paintings)
    • Try Furoshiki– the traditional Japanese art of cloths to wrap gifts
    • Plain brown paper- Kraft paper or just use paper grocery bags
    • Dishtowels and scarves  
    • Are you crafty? Cloth gift bags are easy to sew and a gift themselves.
    • Reuse last year’s holiday cards as tags or gift wrap
    • Skip wrapping stocking stuffers

    Food Waste

    • Create and stick to shopping lists. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the trap of impulse buying and hyper-consumerism.
    • “Shop” your refrigerator and pantry first.  
    • Plan an “eat the leftovers” night.  
    • Freeze extra food such as side dishes or meat.  
    • Consider safely sharing extra food with family or donating unopened, non-perishable food items to a local charity such as Arlington EATS.  
    • Select items with the least amount of packaging possible.
    • Compost food waste

    Holiday Cards

    • Consider a postcard, email card, wishcloth, or reuse last year’s card (or printed photos you already have) rather than the traditional higher waste card/envelope.
    • We like Paper Culture for holiday cards & gifts – they plant a tree for every order.

    Decor & Parties

    • Strive for reusable plates and utensils at parties rather than single use items.  
    • Reuse those black plastic take-out containers to send leftovers home with guests.
    • Use natural holiday decor – tree clippings, dried fruit, pine cones.
    • Consider buying Energy Star qualified LED lights – these last longer and are 90% more efficient than traditional Christmas lights – or go the extra mile and buy solar-powered LED lights. 

    How to Re-Gift (Well Intentioned!)

    We encourage you to carry these ideas into your every-day life, not just during the holidays. 

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