Can You Control the Christmas Trash?

Christmas generates a horrendous amount of garbage. It’s not just the wrapping paper. It’s the packaging. The excess food. The greeting cards.

All of this goes into making for a fun holiday, but it can also be horrendously wasteful. What can you do to get things under control?

christmas presents

Gift Wrap

While you can’t control how people wrap gifts to you, you can control how you wrap gifts. I already have a post on greening your gift wrap if you need ideas for this.

You may not be able to stop people from using wrapping paper and such for your gifts, but you can keep it from being entirely wasted. Kids can get very creative with wrapping paper, and I don’t mean just balling it up and having a wrapping paper ball fight.

If it doesn’t have plastic or metallic prints it can often be recycled. This depends on your area, so check on it. Many recycling companies have websites now, so this can be pretty easy to research.

And of course, if it’s not too badly damaged you can save it for future wrapping purposes. It may drive some people nuts (my inlaws, for example), but where is the actual harm?

This is also why I love gift bags. I think I’ve pretty much broken my husband’s idea that they should be tied shut. Both gift bags and decorative tissue paper can be reused, often repeatedly. I’ve never understood people who throw these out after just one use.


This is the stuff that can really, really drive you nuts. Goes double if you have kids. It can take a ridiculously long time to get all their toys freed from the overenthusiastic packages. Plastic, wires, strings and cardboard are often combined to hold the toy completely immobile and all but inaccessible.

The first step is to think about what you ask for. When people want ideas from you, think about whether you need it and how bad the packaging is. With some things there is not a whole lot you can do about it.

Check all packaging for recycleability. Unfortunately, most plastic that toys and electronics are wrapped in is not clearly labeled for recycling. And if you live in an area, as I do, where only #1 and #2 can be recycled, and only in bottle form, you’re pretty much sunk for recycling any of this.

Don’t forget about shipped packages when thinking about packaging. If you’re going to come up with a use for it, save it! So much is highly reusable, while many kinds of shipping peanuts don’t break down that well in landfills, so far as I know. Shipping peanuts can also make interesting craft supplies for kids. There’s a quick guide on recycling shipping supplies on eHow that you may enjoy.


Mmm… holiday meals can be so decadent. Then there are the leftovers.

Buying organic and/or local is of course a good start. Don’t stop there. Think about how much you’re making. Think about what you’re going to do with the leftovers.

This year I get to cook and I’m making lasagna. One reason is that it freezes well. Great way to handle leftovers when it works. Others are bringing the side dishes. They get to handle their own leftovers, although if my mother has more than she can handle, I’ll no doubt be keeping some of them.

Holiday Cards

Just as with gift wrap, I like to hand these over to the kids at the end of the season. Free craft supplies!

The occasional particularly good photo card I do keep, but for the most part I am really not into just storing the Christmas cards. I knkow people who keep all of them, every year.

<>Kids, on the other hand, love getting their hands on these. They can cut out pictures and just have fun. It’s nice to have something unsual for them to work with.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I love reusing things as craft supplies for my kids. It means I don’t have to buy supplies for them. That means saving money, consuming less, recycling and still letting my kids be creative, as children should be.

There’s going to be a lot of trash generated this time of year by most households. Any steps you can take to control what you do will help.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,