Picture this:

Your family is piled in the living room, anxious to open Christmas presents. One by one, you open your gifts, share hugs, and snap pictures. When everything has been unwrapped, you pile the scraps of wrapping paper, ribbon, and scotch tape into a big, black garbage bag and promptly throw it in the trash.

Sound familiar? 

If so, you’re not alone. Each year, U.S. families produce an extra one million tons of trash per week during the holidays, from gift wrap to leftovers. To give you some perspective, a large elephant weighs around 7 tons - that’s over 140,000 elephants in weight per week in extra trash! 

This year, as you’re preparing your eggnog and wrapping those last minute gifts, consider these seven tips to make your Christmas just a little bit greener this year:

1. Get creative with gift wrap

Wrapping paper is a top contributor of trash during the holidays. For any last minute gifts you need to wrap this season, consider one of these options instead:

  • Old scarves, t-shirts, and other fabric 
  • Newspapers, magazines, maps, or that extra brown packaging paper from your latest online shopping excursion 
  • Extra glass jars or plastic containers from your kitchen

2. Share or donate your leftovers 

If you’re hosting a holiday party this year, consider using old containers to package up leftovers for your guests to take home (or ask your guests to BYOC - bring-your-own-container). 

There are also some pretty incredible tools and services that allow you to give away your leftovers. Try Leftover Swap or Feeding Forward to donate any extra food you don’t plan on eating this season. 

3. Recycle your Christmas tree (it’s easier than you think!)

Recycle Christmas treesRecycle Christmas trees

Skip the trash this year and recycle your Christmas tree. Check with your local department of public works or do a quick Google search for “recycling Christmas trees in [your city]” to find a drop-off or pick-up service for your tree. 

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, your recycled Christmas tree can be used for everything from mulch, path material for your local park, and even sand and soil erosion barriers. 

If you’re in California, consider renting your next Christmas tree from The Living Christmas Co, where they provide you with a potted tree that they’ll drop off and pick up after the holidays.

4. Shop local for last-minute gifts  

For those last-minute purchases, consider skipping big box retailers and stopping by that neighborhood shop you’ve been eyeing. Not only will you find something you may not find at the mall, but it’s likely that you’re also supporting a local artist or maker in your area by buying goods from the shop. 

What are your favorite neighborhood shop? Share the love in the comments below! 

I Like You, one of our favorite shops in Minneapolis, is filled with locally-sourced gifts. 

New @everthine_jewelry drop off - woohoo!! 󾌬󾔒✨

Posted by i like you on Friday, December 18, 2015

5. Make ‘giving back’ a new family tradition 

The holidays are a wonderful time to get the whole family involved in your local community. This season, consider starting a new family tradition of donating your time to a local organization (no gift wrap needed!).  

If you aren’t sure where to start, search VolunteerMatch.org for holiday volunteer opportunities in your area. 

6. Recycle your old Christmas lights 

Many hardware stores in your area (think Ace Hardware and Home Depot) have recycling programs set up for holiday lights. So this year, instead of tossing your old string of lights in the trash, consider dropping them off to be properly recycled. 

If you’re in the Twin Cities, check out the Recycling Association of Minnesota - they not only collect your old lights, but they also work with vocational facilities to employ roughly 400 workers to help separate out the materials of each string of lights collected.

7. Travel sustainably 

sustainable travel bagsustainable travel bag

Nearly 100 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home during the holidays. If your family is included in the travel mix, consider these simple swaps while traveling:

  • Bring your own reusable bottles rather than buying from gas stations or airport kiosks 
  • Pack snacks from home in reusable containers 
  • Carry reusable tote bags for last-minute shopping, to carry gifts, etc.
  • Don’t forget to turn off lights and electronics, and turn down your thermostat 
  • Consider buying carbon offsets from a certified vendor

Your turn:

What tips do you have to create a greener holiday season? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Photos: 1) Flickr/Personal Creations 2) Flickr/SavannahCorps