Cut down, chow down

Save time, money, and the environment this holiday season

By Kristen Wicker

Photo: Shopping for produce at local vendors like the 2nd Street Market reduces our toll on the environment


From turkey dinners to stringing hundreds of lights, pulling off the perfect holiday can be overwhelming and expensive. With so much to do, sustainable household practices may not be top-of-mind, but remain increasingly important.

According to the Use Less Stuff Report and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), extra waste during the holidays amounts to 25 million tons of garbage. Additionally, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the holidays and 28 billion pounds of edible food.

“With some planning and organization, families and individuals have an opportunity to save resources while still enjoying the holiday season,” says Five Rivers MetroParks Education Coordinator Tim Pritchard. “Sustainable holiday practices reduce waste and resource consumption, both of which adversely impact the environment.”

While climate change, deforestation, and pollution may seem like monumental challenges that any one individual cannot directly change, everyone doing his or her small part can create a measureable, positive impact on the environment. Practicing sustainability in your household during the holidays in the short term reduces waste and utility usage, and in the long term, can save time and money.

Chow down

Much of the food thrown away can be saved or composted. Follow these tips to keep your waste to a minimum, while saving money in the process:

Plan social gatherings ahead of time to reduce reliance on disposable goods. Take a pre-event headcount to determine how much washable dinnerware and cutlery you will need.

If you are having your event catered, ask the caterer about options for serving on reusable dinnerware.

When dining out for the holidays, look for local restaurants that use reusable dinnerware and manage waste responsibly. Take your leftovers home in your own reusable container.

If you’ve bravely volunteered to host Thanksgiving, keep food warm by using a lined bag or thermal catering hot box instead of energy-dependent appliances.

Source local ingredients for your holiday meals at establishments such as the 2nd Street Market, 600 E. Second St. in downtown Dayton. Using locally sourced foods is less taxing on the environment and often more nutritious.

Plan portions to eliminate food-waste. Visit to use its Thanksgiving Dinner Portion Planner, and then compost what can’t be saved after your meal.

The gift of green

The holidays are all about giving, so it’s easy to go overboard. With a little “green” pre-planning you can tackle your shopping list in a timely manner. Tips include:

Get onboard with the experiential gift-giving trend. Season passes to the MetroParks Ice Rink, family memberships to local museums and tickets to the movies are all great gifting options. These choices also allow you to save money on shipping costs and reduce packaging waste.

Consider stocking stuffers that are purchased locally and promote sustainable living. Reusable shopping bags, travel mugs, and canteens are useful and environmentally friendly.

Save time and money by placing presents in reusable gift bags instead of using wrapping paper.

Get crafty and upcycle a gift. Search local consignment shops and boutiques instead of purchasing a new gift.

When unwrapping gifts, reuse whatever materials you can, and set up a station that clearly describes what can be recycled.

Deck the halls

Many family holiday traditions include decorations, from hanging ornaments to stringing lights. Knowing what to purchase when shopping for decorations will help you be more Earth-friendly and save resources.

Use decorations that can be stored and reused each year. Avoid cheap paper and plastic decorations that break easily and need to be disposed of after the season.

Purchase lead-free LED holiday lights. These lights are energy-saving, may last longer and will save money in the long term.

Make sure to set your indoor and outdoor lights on a timer. This will ensure your lights aren’t using energy for long periods of time overnight.

To take your conservation commitment to the next level, consider participating in the following Five Rivers MetroParks programs:

STOCK UP WEDNESDAY: Nov. 23, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Pick up last-minute items for your holiday meal at the 2nd Street Market. With a variety of fresh, local produce, desserts and prepared dishes, the Market has crowd-pleasing options for your Thanksgiving meal.

COMPOST KITCHEN:  Tuesdays, Jan. 10, 17, and 24., 6-8 p.m.

This three-part program covers everything you need to know to compost effectively, and is offered free of charge, thanks to a partnership with the Montgomery County Solid Waste District. Talks and activities explore soil ecology, chemical-free gardening, and household waste management.

For more information or to register for  Compost Kitchen, please visit

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Reach DCP freelance writer Lauren Lemons at

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