December 2014

Thinking About Reducing Waste and Valuing Food Over the Holidays


English Bird and Sarah Pierpont


It’s time for all of us to make a commitment to reduce waste, especially food waste, over this year’s holiday season. In the United States, an extra five million tons of household waste is generated during November and December. This includes a 300 percent increase in the amount of food wasted during the holidays (World Watch Institute, EPA). Unfortunately, this added waste results in a 25 percent increase in the waste stream for these months.


Celebrations don’t have to negatively impact our environment. There are simple actions the average resident can take to reduce his or her carbon footprint this time of year. These include reusing and recycling wrapping paper, making your own decorations and gifts, unplugging holiday lights when not in use, buying items with minimal packaging, regifting items, composting or mulching your Christmas tree, using reusable items when hosting, buying rechargeable batteries, and the list goes on.


The New Mexico Recycling Coalition recently launched a complementary program to assist businesses and entities that handle food to better manage this valuable resource by 1) reducing food waste in the first place; 2) donating food to the hungry; 3) feeding animals, and 4) collecting food waste for composting. These resources can be found online at


Individuals can work to reduce waste by utilizing meal-planning and waste-reduction apps such as those developed by the Love Food Hate Waste organization. Additionally, the World Waste Institute offers the following tips to reduce food waste over the holidays:


  • Be Realistic: You can estimate what ideal portions would be for shared meals. Use the Love Food Hate Waste app to help you.
  • Plan Ahead: Stick to a planned shopping list.
  • Smaller Plates, Serving Utensils and Portions: Provide smaller serving spoons and utensils as a way to control portions. The American plate has grown 36 percent over the past 50 years; using smaller plates helps control portions.
  • Store Leftovers Safely and Wisely: Store leftovers in smaller containers for future portions.
  • Compost Food Waste: Now is a great time to start a home composting system. Choose to become a Master Composter, start your own backyard compost pile, or use a compost bin. Learn more about home composting in New Mexico with online resources at
  • Create New Meals: The Love Food Hate Waste app provides guidance on how some food scraps can be used to make new meals.
  • Donate Excess: Food banks and shelters welcome canned and dried food donations where labels are intact and legible. Find a local feeding organization at
  • Give Gifts of Food with Thought: Ensure your gift is something enjoyed by the folks you are gifting it to. Avoiding highly perishable foods can help reduce waste.



Tips for a Greener Holiday Season:


  • Invite friends and family to make this holiday as waste-free as possible.
  • Regift—Pass on something useful that you no longer need or use.
  • Cook and make holiday gifts—Consider making cookies, bread or a meal as your gift.
  • Choose gifts that are an experience rather than something material.
  • Buy recycled-content.
  • Compost or mulch your tree; use a living tree or use a tree in your yard to decorate.
  • Use creative gift wrap: Use the comics, paper from the recycling bin, or just put your gift in a recycled cardboard box that can be readily recycled or reused.
  • Choose rechargeable batteries.
  • Use reusable shopping bags.
  • Plan meals carefully—40 percent of food is wasted from production to plate each year (USDA); store and share leftovers.
  • Donate items kids have outgrown or other household items to a local charity.
  • Recycle old and defective holiday lights—Most Ace Hardware stores have a program.
  • Get off mailing lists—As the holiday catalogs roll in, call to cancel or go to to opt out online
  • Save gift wrap and packaging for reuse.


View the full list at



English Bird and Sarah Pierpont are with the New Mexico Recycling Coalition.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Articles