The Effects of Holiday Waste on the Environment

Overall waste skyrockets during the holiday season. More and more people are starting to become conscious about how their habits affect the environment but is that all disregarded when the general holiday cheer takes over the population?

An FAQ done by Stanford University states that Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year. 

As the stress,  joy, and nostalgia of the holidays set in, it can be easy to forget about your effects on the environment. 

“It is critical to be aware of how much waste is generated during the holiday season because most people are unaware of the amount of waste they are producing.” Senior President of Green Atoms, Abdullah Jayed said.

Food, wrapping paper, decorations, and greeting cards are all additional contributors to waste during the Holidays. According to, unwanted food is the No.1 item thrown away nationwide throughout the year. That statistic becomes more prominent as we enter the holiday season.

When holiday material is discarded, most of it ends up in a landfill where it goes through bacterial decomposition which creates “landfill gas”. Landfill gas is composed of hundreds of different gasses but mainly contains methane and carbon dioxide.

Students in Green Atoms have a responsibility to spread awareness about environmental issues. “I believe that green atoms students are aware of how much waste is produced during this season and are able to recycle and spread awareness to their family members and friends about what to do and how they can keep the environment clean and sustainable,” Jayed said.

The key to change is being conscious. “People should try to learn more about the environment so that they fully understand how these things can negatively impact it and can learn to make small changes gradually to keep our environment sustainable,” Jayed said.

There are simple alternatives that can make a difference in the amount of waste produced by you or your family. One of the easiest ways to eliminate waste is to reuse. Wrapping paper is one of the biggest contributors to holiday waste. Reusing wrapping paper, wrapping your gifts with newspaper or colorful magazine cutouts or buying wrapping paper made from sustainable materials are all good ways to reduce waste.

Once the season ends, set aside your Christmas tree to recycle rather than just throwing it away. Get to know your recycling program and don’t take a break from recycling over the holidays as this is one of the most important times to stay on top of it. 

Avoid wasting food by meal planning, sending guests home with leftovers or donating any leftover food you may have. Another good way to avoid food waste is by composting. If you don’t necessarily have a green thumb there are some local gardens and nature centers that will gladly accept compost donations.

Lastly, the best gifts are those given with care so a homemade gift may not only be more environmentally friendly but also show a little more thoughtfulness.