How to Be Waste Aware This Holiday Season

How to be waste aware this holiday season

Good morning!

Today, I want to write a little bit about my endeavor to reduce the refuse leaving my condo in the form of food waste, plastic, glass, and just general trash. I began my quest to reduce my own wastefulness beginning with food in 2015 and more recently with general refuse in August 2016.

Taking out the trash is probably my least favorite household chore, even though my trash receptacle is literally 50 feet from my doorstep. I’m spoiled, I know. But it still stinks when it’s negative 30 out, brutal Michigan winter- I’m looking at you. The most exciting thing in my quest to reduce refuse is that I went from taking out the trash 1-2 times a week to taking it out maybe… once a month or every other month? Honestly, I don’t know how long it would take me now to fill up a standard 13-gallon trash bag, which is what I used before. It would probably take at least 2 months to fill with what’s leftover after recycling and composting. These days I reuse plastic grocery bags for my trash can needs (most of the time I use reusable grocery bags, but when I need some to use for trash, I get the plastic bags).

How to get started

Fortunately, I live in Ann Arbor, where our ecofriendly culture makes it ridiculously easy to recycle and compost. I mean super easy, guys. It’s $25 a YEAR to get a compost bin. The link provided also describes what is/is not compostable. This runs from April 4 to December 2 (Yikes that’s tomorrow, hope I didn’t miss the last pickup!). I haven’t yet looked into what to do in the winter, but I’ll update this when I figure it out. Confession: My condo association won’t let me have a compost bin for fear of critters (legit) so I walk the extra 25 feet to the neighboring apartment complex’s bin. Apparently critters 25 feet away isn’t grounds enough for getting our own. If you ever find me in the “wanted” section, it’ll be because I’m a Gangsta Gardener. For recycling, most (if not all) Ann Arbor residences have access to a recycling bin. My parents live in the country and consequently don’t have access to this curbside service, so they take their recyclables to a Recycling Center. Slightly more effort, but worth it!

A super easy way to compost

I have two gallon-size ziplock bags I keep in the freezer to avoid the compost smell. I dump all food scraps, coffee filters, and tea bags into it and empty it into the compost bin when it’s full. I have found this is super motivating to use all my food each week, because I’m putting in the effort to actually take care of food I let go bad.

So how can you be waste aware this holiday season?

  • Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle this Holiday: Reducing your impact on the environment while saving money this season only takes a few changes to habits.
  • Non-Material Gifts: Give experiential gifts like vacations or services, like gift certificates for massages & spa treatments.
  • Give Handmade Gifts: Use reused and recycled materials whenever possible.
  • Shop & Buy Local: It helps to support your local economy. Shopping local and buying locally made items also benefits the environment in that it uses fewer resources and creates less pollution.
  • Reduce Food Waste: Shop wisely and plan ahead; buying only what you need in order to minimize food waste.
  • Reuse Gift Bags & Wrapping: And, try not to overly package gifts.
  • Look for Recycled Materials: Buy cards, paper, and gifts made from recycled materials.

My own additions:

  • Consider Buying Less Packaged Products: Buy more raw foods that don’t require recycling the package afterwards. Bonus side effect: You’ll eat healthier!
  • Batch Your Errands: I’ll be the first to admit, I drive a ton more gearing up for the holidays. I always seem to forget something and have to drive back to the store two days in a row. Plan out your errands, caffeinate, and get it all done at once to reduce your automobile emissions. Bonus if you can ride your bike! Double bonus: if you ride your bike, you’ll get extra exercise in and can therefore eat more Christmas cookies. What. Up.

For a pretty printable (or paperless PDF!) and other ideas, download the Winter Holiday Reuse & Recycle Guide Here!

By reducing our waste and our personal impacts on the earth, we create more space for intentionality and give life to the things that are truly important. May your holiday season be a season of abundance: an abundance of family, friends, laughter, generosity, love, hope and joy.

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  1. No matter how you choose get involved—whether it’s by just limiting your excessive food waste, sending a few dollars to a local shelter, giving up half your Saturday to work at a soup kitchen, or helping a food rescue organization—you are making an immediate and measurable impact.


  1. […] Learn to compost and reduce waste […]

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