These 7 crafts might help decrease your holiday waste

Online shopping continues to increase every year, and your household trash might, too.

When it comes to holiday waste, things usually aren’t very jolly.

Waste expert Robert Lilienfeld, who has developed recycling programs across the country and helps businesses create more sustainable practices, estimates that Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the Thanksgiving-to-New-Year period than at any other time of the year. That could be anything from delivery boxes to excess packaging to one-time decorations.

And according to the National Retail Federation, holiday online sales are expected to increase this year 10 to 12 percent. Although all that paper and cardboard might be relatively easy to recycle, Lilienfeld says online orders affect how much is actually recycled.

Brick-and-mortar stores can collect, compress, and bale cardboard cartons, then sell to recyclers. But because of increased online shopping, “much of this cardboard never makes it back into the waste system,” Lilienfeld says. Delivery boxes and other packaging often wind up in landfills because of a lack of local recycling services, confusion on how to recycle properly, or people who are simply not participating.

Ordering items all at once and deselecting expedited shipping can reduce your holiday shopping carbon footprint. But those impulse-purchase decorations and not-quite-right gifts might also end up in landfills. “The key to making more environmentally friendly decisions is to plan ahead,” Lilienfeld says.

Of course, you won’t be able to DIY that hot new game console or adorable collectable plushie that your kid’s been begging for. But you can cut down on holiday waste by making other things you’d normally purchase. Try these crafts with your kids to create family holiday experiences—without generating as much trash.

This article was originally published in November 2021, and has been updated with new statistics about holiday spending habits.

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