Greening the Holidays!

October 31, 2022
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Did you know?

The amount of household waste in the U.S. increases an average of 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day ( EPA).

Everyone can “Green” their holidays and help reduce the amount of waste generated during this time by thinking outside the box.  Learn more about our Gift Outside the Box campaign.

In addition. below you will find a additional ideas about what you can do at home. Blog summarized from a blog written By: Maggie Glaudemans, intern at the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection in 2016.  


  • Buying food? Make a list. Check your pantry first!
  • Don’t shop when hungry.  This may prevent you from over shopping.
  • Plan your shopping in advance so that you can save money on gas by limiting the number of trips you make.
  • Shop with a friend and carpool or take public transportation, if possible.
  • Shop for gifts at thrift shops, antique stores, or estate sales
  • Support our local economy, including items made with recycled content materials, or locally produced items.
  • Think about ways to re-purpose gifts for kids.
  • Sponsor a swap, at your office or with family and friends. Swap items that you may have purchased but never used or were “gifted to you” (just make sure the person that gave you the gift is not part of the swap!).
  • Gift experiences – tickets to an event, opera, concert, memberships, workshops, etc.

Use Reusable Bags

  • Use reusable shopping bags. This eliminates the need to pay for and use either paper or plastic shopping bags.
  • Buy and give reusable bags as useful gifts.
  • Remind friends and family members to use reusable bags.

Wrapping Gifts

Reduce the amount of material used for wrapping gifts.

Before You Wrap

  • Consider giving gifts that require minimal or no wrapping: tickets to shows, concerts, and/or sporting events, gift certificates or gift cards.
  • Gift bags are a great idea. They save time and effort when wrapping gifts and can also be used again and again.
  • Instead of using wrapping paper, try giving some of your gifts in reusable bags
  • Many gift boxes are attractive and don’t need wrapping. Instead, add a reusable bow and/or ribbon – voila!

Plan Before Wrapping Gifts

  • Gifts wrapped using Trader Joe's bagsFor oversized or bulky gift items such as bicycles, sports equipment, or artwork, simply tie a reusable ribbon or bow around them.
  • Make the gift wrap a part of the gift, for example, put a plant in a wicker basket, cookies on a ceramic plate, gardening tools in a planter, or jewelry in decorative case.
  • Wrap gifts in useful and durable wrapping, such as fabrics, scarves, or towels.
  • Be creative, use your favorite Sunday comics, magazines, older maps or brown paper as wrapping paper decorated with stencils, glitter, and twine.
  • Reuse wrapping paper – have scissors or letter openers handy when opening gifts so paper doesn’t get damaged when removing tape.
  • Reused brown or decorative paper bags for giftwrapping
  • Reuse packing cartons, cardboard boxes, and shipping materials, shredded paper or newspaper for mailing materials. Donate excess packaging materials to local mailing centers.
  • If you must purchase wrapping paper, look for ones made from recycled paper and ones that can be recycled.
  • If you have wrapping paper or cardboard boxes that can no longer be used, recycle them. Be sure to put them in your mixed paper recycling bin or cart and recycle them in the County’s recycling program.


Holiday parties are definitely one of the highlights of the season. Everyone is especially festive and the food is always amazing. Unfortunately, there are a lot of opportunities for people to be wasteful. Below are ideas to reduce waste.

Party Planning

  • Send electronic event invitations, rather than paper ones
  • Make creative centerpieces and decorations out of natural items from your yard, such as flowers, sprigs, pinecones, leaves, branches, etc. When no longer in use returned to your yard or compost the material.
  • Use durable, reusable dishes, glassware, flatware, tablecloths and cloth napkins rather than disposable items. If you don’t have enough, consider renting these items or asking your guests to bring their own.
  • Turn down your heat before your guests arrive. They will generate enough body heat to help keep your home at a comfortable temperature.
  • Encourage carpooling!
  • Make sure to put recycling and even compost containers in a location where your guests can easily find and identify them.

The Food:

  • Practice portion control to reduce the food waste.
  • Don’t throw out leftovers. Put them in reusable containers for guests to take home with them to enjoy later.
  • Ask guests to bring their own Tupperware or clean carry out food containers to take home leftovers.
  • Avoid buying individually packaged beverages, and when possible purchase food items in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging.
  • Holiday cooking can generate many types of items such as bottles, jars, cans and containers that can be recycled in the County’s recycling program. Before recycling them, consider whether any of them can be reused for storing leftovers. Or repurpose them to hold flowers or centerpieces!
  • Be sure to recycle all the rest in the appropriate recycling bins.




When it comes to putting your lights up around your house (or even on your tree!), make sure that you use efficient lighting, such as LED lights. LED lights last longer and consume significantly less energy than incandescent lights.

To be even more energy efficient, try connecting your lights to a timer so that the lights are on for a set amount of time, or only on when it’s dark out.


Holiday Light Recycling

  • If you are replacing older holiday lights with newer LED lights this holiday season, consider recycling the old lights.
  • Do not place holiday lights into your blue recycling bin. These lights are not recyclable in Montgomery County’s recycling program.
  • Many hardware stores accept them.
  • Some local supermarkets also accept them for recycling.
  • Explore mail-in recycling programs such as Christmas light source. As a bonus, the proceeds from their recycling efforts are then donated to Toys for Tots.

Christmas Trees & Other Greens

Instead of throwing out your Christmas tree, recycle it! Montgomery County accepts Christmas trees through the curbside yard trim collection program.

  • When the holidays are over, recycle cut Christmas trees and wreaths. Christmas trees are given another use if they are composted or chipped for mulch.
  • Remove the stand and all decorations – including lights, ornaments, and tinsel, and leave no metal attached to the tree.
  • County residents of single-family homes and townhomes can recycle Christmas trees and wreaths at the curb on their regular recycling collection day.
  • Live Christmas tree branches and pine needles can also be recycled at home by placing them under trees and shrubs or adding them to a compost bins
  • Businesses and residents of apartments and condominiums should check with their property/business managers or representatives for specific instructions on recycling Christmas trees.

Blog summarized from a blog written By: Maggie Glaudemans, intern at the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection 2016

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