Sustainability Tips for the Holiday Season

With the start of the holiday season, people begin to shop more, decorate, feast, have parties, and give gifts. With all of these fun festivities, we also end up consuming more and generating extra waste. Make your holiday season more sustainable by trying a few of these tips below that will help you reduce your waste and environmental impact.

On this page:

Holiday Dinner Parties: Reduce Your Food and Single-Use Plastic Waste 

  • Have a plan for party food leftovers. For example, plan to have an "eat the leftovers" night within the immediate following days of the party. Don’t let food go to waste.
  • Freeze any extra food you make.
  • Consider the packaging of food items (e.g. for condensed mushroom soup - go for a can instead of plastic)
  • Use reusable tableware and dishes for holiday events and parties. Use cloth napkins and reusable silverware, plates, and cups. Say no to paper plates and single use plastics. 
  • Have family members and friends bring containers for leftovers to reduce the amount of plastic wrap and single-use storage containers used.

Decorate with Sustainability In Mind

Greener Gifting, Shopping, and Wrapping

  • When shopping for gifts, bring reusable bags. 
  • Consider alternatives to wrapping paper, such as reusable tins, fabric, or baskets, or find wrapping paper made from recycled paper. If using wrapping paper, carefully open gifts to reuse wrapping paper or recycle your used wrapping paper. However, some wrapping paper is not recyclable, such as paper that contains foil, glitter, or is embellished. Check with your local recycler. 
  • Save and reuse bubble wrap, ribbon, and bows. These materials are not usually recyclable, but can be reused. 
  • When deciding on what gifts to give during a gift exchange, consider giving a gift card or giving an experience (e.g., movie tickets) instead of material possessions that may not be used. This will also limit packaging waste.
  • Shop local, sustainable businesses.
  • Buying products made from recycled content (e.g., greeting cards made from recycled paper)
  • When using online shopping, ship items in single shipment when possible, and order local when possible.

Recycling and Disposal Tips for Holiday Decor, Parties, and Other Activities

  • Recycle Holiday/Christmas Trees
  • Recycle your used wrapping paper - check with your local recycler. Some wrapping paper is not recyclable, such as paper that contains foil, glitter, or is embellished.  
  • Let your guests know how to properly recycle or dispose of wastes at your party. 
  • Recycle holidays catalogs mailed to your house. Consider calling the company to be taken off the mailing list.
  • Leftover pumpkins can be used as animal feed or can be composted.
  • If you do need to get rid of Holiday/Christmas lights, don’t put them in your curbside recycling bin. Find local recycling options or mail-in programs:

Local Holiday Recycling Tips 

Set your holiday parties up for sustainability success by knowing what holiday-related materials can go in your curbside recycling cart and what materials cannot. It is important to note that each local area's recycling provider may collect different recyclable materials. When in doubt, contact your local recycling service.

Clark County (Republic Services)

  • YES - Can go in your recycling cart:
    • Plastic bottles
    • Soda Cans
    • Plastic Cups
    • Clean Paper Plates
    • Cardboard Boxes
    • Wrapping Paper if uncoated. Toss or reuse if glossy or embellished. 
    • Gift bags if uncoated. Toss or reuse if glossy or embellished.
    • Tissue paper
    • NO - Cannot go in your recycling cart:
      • Bows and ribbons (Reuse or toss)
      • Soiled paper plates
      • Polystyrene (Styrofoam) cups
      • Food containers
      • Pizza boxes
      • Paper towels 
      • Plastic Wrap
      • Cellophane 
      • Electronics cannot go in your curbside recycling bin, but they can be taken to a local electronics recycler, donated, or sent through a mail-back recycling program.
      • Plastic bags
    • Republic Services' Holiday Recycling Guide

    Washoe County (Waste Management)

    • YES - Can go in your recycling cart:
      • Aluminum roasting pans. Please wipe out as much food residue as possible and place in your recycling cart.
      • Wrapping paper IF it is plain brown paper. Paper with foil, glitter, or plastic coating cannot be recycled.
      • Wine or Cider Bottles
      • Mail order boxes (please break them down)
      • Greeting cards IF they are plain cards without foil or embellishments. Cards with foil, glitter, or electronics cannot be recycled through single-stream recycling.
      • Cooking oil bottles. Make sure the bottles are empty.
      • Soup cans. Wipe out residue and place in your recycling cart. 
      • Plastic bottles
      • Soda Cans
    • NO - Cannot go in your recycling cart:
      • Broken ornaments
      • Garland or other rope-like items
      • Polystyrene (Styrofoam) packaging
      • Padded shipping envelopes. Reuse if possible. Some shipping envelopes have specific recycling locations printed on them and may be recycled at those locations. However, these shipping envelopes cannot be placed in your single-stream recycling cart.
      • Snow/Cable Chains. Drop off scrap metal for free at the Transfer Station on Commercial Row.
      • Reddi Whip/Whipped Cream Cans
      • Paper or plastic table clothes
      • Ribbons
      • Rechargeable batteries. Need to be taken to a special handler for disposal. 
      • Plastic bags

    For more information about local recycling services throughout Nevada: please visit our Where Can I Recycle page.