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With Thanksgiving coming up quickly and Christmas and Hanukkah barely a month away, ’tis the season for holiday gatherings, comfort and food — and often lots of leftover garbage, too. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even the most complicated events can waste less and recycle more.

For a straightforward how-to guide, check out our Event Recycling Toolkit, which you can always find on the Resources page. It’ll take you through planning a more environmentally friendly get-together whether it’s at home, at work or in the community.

The first and most important step is to decide what you’ll have to throw away — and choose more recyclable options when you can. You could use unrecyclable plastic plates and cutlery that end up in the landfill, for instance, or you could skip them in favor of real dishes or BPI-certified compostable items that will go to a composting facility. Same with unrecyclable plastic or “styrofoam” cups, which can be replaced with reusable glasses or recyclable bottles and cans.

  • Heads up: Many common holiday food packages can be recycled when they’re empty and clean, including the steel cans for pumpkin and condensed milk, plastic bottles of corn syrup for pecan pies, and the paperboard boxes for pie crusts. Anyone else craving pie?
  • Turkey bones, eggshells, used paper napkins and potato peels are among the many kitchen scraps that can be composted. But compostable plates and the like should only go a formal composting program.

After choosing what sorts of trash you will (and won’t) create, the next big step is to figure out where it will go. Setting aside certain kinds of waste won’t do much good without finding them a proper destination. Food scraps can go in your backyard compost pile or to one of several regional composting programs, many of which need a subscription beforehand. You can find your nearest curbside or drop-off program for cans and bottles on this website’s How Do I Recycle? page.

  • Heads up: In most communities, glass bottles can’t go in your curbside program but can go to a drop-off. Fayetteville is the biggest exception, providing curbside glass service for residents.

Find even more information and resources in the event toolkit.

Here’s to a joyful and more sustainable holiday season!