Did you know that from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent?

Food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows, and ribbons—all of this puts an additional one million tons a week in to the nation’s garbage piles. 

If we all do our part to cut back, we can make some big changes. Here are some ideas to help limit household waste during the holidays:

Hosting Holiday Parties

  • Calculate and buy only the amount of food needed for the party or dinner.
  • Buy food that comes in packages made of recycled content that can be recycled again.
  • Plan foods that are easily frozen and package leftovers for guests to take home.
  • Use dishes, glassware, silverware, and cloth napkins rather than plastic and paper.
  • Decorate with natural items–squashes, gourds, and colorful leaves for a fall festival; pine cones and natural wreaths for winter holidays–as these items naturally decompose.
  • Buy a live tree that can be planted outside after the holidays.


  • Try sending Electronic cards or those made from previously used cards and/or materials that you have at home to save on cost as well as waste.
  • A phone call is often more personal and more appreciated than a card.


  • Buy less, buy local and buy “green.”
  • Give a gift of experience: Tickets to a play, concert, or sporting event, lessons or classes, or a year-long pass to the state parks or a favorite museum.
  • Give the gift of time: Babysitting, a monthly ride for the person who does not drive or does not have a car, offering to routinely take a neighbor’s recyclable items to the drop-off sites.
  • Give a gift that gives twice, such as a donation to the person’s favorite charity.
  • Encourage others in their recycling habits by giving a reusable lunch bag filled with their favorite food, recycle bins for their garage, or a battery charger and rechargeable batteries.
  • Plan gift exchanges that incorporate previously loved or homemade products, such as books, a refurnished piece of furniture, or a rebuilt bike can be cherished by more than one person.

Wrapping Paper

  • Use the newspaper cartoons, comic books, coloring book pages, or decorated paper bags.
  • New kitchen towels, gloves or a reusable shopping bag can be the wrapping and a gift.
  • Use cloth ribbon or a thin scarf that can be reused. Make cloth ribbons by tearing that stained holiday tablecloth or other material into strips.
  • For gifts that need boxes, start saving food boxes that you usually recycle. Cracker and cereal boxes (including those round oatmeal boxes) and tubes from paper towels and toilet paper hold many gifts and make appealing shapes.
  • Make the package part of the gift: Put seeds or bulbs in a flower pot; put ingredients for cookies on a cookie sheet, or a “themed” meal in a picnic basket.
  • Use popcorn (unbuttered and unsalted) as packing protection, then put it out for the birds to eat. Unsalted, in the shell peanuts work as well.

Pack away what can be used again, wrapping paper, bows, etc. Recycle cardboard packaging, gift wrap, cards and the tree. Give usable products that you no longer need to a local thrift store or shelter.


Christmas Tree Recycling

Once the celebration of Christmas has passed and the ornaments are safely packed away for next year, there’s just one thing left to do:

Contact your city or county directly or ask your local Christmas tree grower about Christmas tree recycling programs near you.

Christmas Tree Drop Off in Gallatin County



Gallatin Solid Waste Management District Recycling Program

Recycling Collection Locations in Gallatin County

Earth 911.org

Montana DEQ Recycling and Waste Reduction

EPA Reducing Holiday Waste Tips