So much preparation, food, and fun leads to so much waste. The Holidays are magical. A perfect time to reflect, be thankful for what you have, spend quality time with friends and family. As the family slowly filter out the bags and bags of trash remain. I have a few quick suggestions to help keep your holidays a bit "greener".
1. Recycle. It can be a pain especially with an elder family member who is not quite as familiar with the idea of recycling, You will find that keeping the paper (especially with gift boxes and wrapping paper) will help to significantly cut down on the garbage. The way to make it easiest and receive the most participation is to clearly label the bins. If they don't know where to put things they'll either trash it or the materials will get all mixed up and end up being thrown away later. A few minutes of organization will make a huge difference in its success. On a side note: a few recycling facilities are now able to utilize the #3-7 plastics for alternative fuels and other applications which would allow you to also "recycle" your plastic cups, plates and utensils (if they are completely clean of food particles). You would definitely need to check with your local recycling coordinator or facility so if they cannot accept them that they did not contaminate the other materials.
2. Don't wrap.. I know this idea of this with young children just won't fly. A young child "needs" to open a gift but do the adults? A lot of times gift bags or baskets can be just as festive, adds a bit more to the gift (especially baskets) and can be reused.
3. Sharpie your cups. If you have plastic cups that you are using (glasses can be overwhelming but an even greener step) have your guests label their cup. Add a festive spin and have a "contest" for the artistically gifted and see who creates the best holiday design.
4. Limit your plates & napkins. It may sound cheap but if you opt to have plastic ware still set places at the table or limit the amount of plates that you put out. If the guest has a plate at their seat they will use and typically reuse that same plate if they return for seconds. If there is a huge stock of plates & napkins out on the table it makes it much easier to throw out the old and get a new one. Stash some backups if someone needs another but make them ask.
These are just a few simple tricks but you might be amazed that just little changes can make a huge difference. If you have any other "green" tricks please comment!!