A Sustainable Holiday Season

The holly jolly season is upon us once again, albeit under the lingering cloud of a global

pandemic. On the upside, the past 10 months have taught us new ways of doing things. We are all a lot more adaptable than we thought. What better time than now, when we are primed for

revision, to institute a few small, simple changes to make our holidays more sustainable?

Sustainability is about finding more efficient and effective ways of doing things: doing more with less and being more thoughtful about our choices. This runs counter to the holiday season modus operandi, which is so often synonymous with excess.

The data around holiday waste is compelling:

  • Americans throw away 25 percent more trash from Thanksgiving through New Year’s than any other time of year.

  • Between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply goes to waste each year, with the heaviest losses during the winter holidays.

  • Four million tons of waste generated during the holidays consists of wrapping paper and shopping bags. That’s 30 million trees cut down just to wrap gifts, according to some


So what is a holiday loving person to do?

Foremost, take advantages of offerings in your own backyard. We are fortunate to be situated in a town with an eye towards sustainability. In fact, New Canaan just earned a Bronze-Level 2020 Sustainable CT Certification. Our town will offer a first-ever recycling program for Christmas trees in the new year. Stay tuned for details.

Food scrap collection is another worthy new local initiative. Before tossing out holiday leftovers consider that food waste is the single largest component of our municipal solid waste (MSW). The local waste transfer station is now accepting food scraps, including bones, meat, dairy, cut flowers and even small house plants for composting services. Another option is to sign-up for Curbside Compost, which offers weekly food scrap collection services.

Perhaps the most meaningful action you can take this holiday season is to shop local. In doing so you save the carbon emissions and packaging waste inherent to online delivery and support local retailers, which is more important now than ever.

When gift shopping don’t discount the value of secondhand goods, homemade presents or gifts of experience. There is a growing trend towards such presents. Gift wrapping also warrants a

rethink. The majority of gift wrap simply cannot be recycled. If it’s shiny, glittery or has a foil texture it’s safe to assume it’s going to landfill— and in fact it’s better to throw out wrapping

paper rather than to “wishfully recycle,” which causes myriad problems at recycling facilities. Consider re-use. If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. And if every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Re-usable wrapping cloth, like a Japanese furoshiki, is a great alternative to traditional gift wrap.

Let’s draw on the lessons from this past year to embed sustainability into our daily lives:

embrace our adaptability and rejoice in new ways of doing things. Enjoy a happy, healthy and sustainable holiday season!

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