How to Reduce Your Impact During the Holidays

The holidays are a magical time of year, yes, but they also tend to be excessive as well.

It can be all too easy to get caught up in the cheer—parties, family gatherings, gifts and feasts—without fully understanding the impact of our choices and festivities. Considering that thirty to forty percent of food produced in the U.S. goes to waste as it makes its way from farm to your fork (that’s the equivalent of two out of every five bags of groceries) and the volume of household waste increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s—this is no small problem.

The good news is that it’s possible—even easy—to minimize waste and entertain with an eye toward sustainability without sacrificing an ounce of fun or taste. (And it will likely up your cool factor.)

Here are some tried-and-true tips for entertaining in a sustainable fashion from planning to clean up.

Let the festivities begin.


  • Plan your menu and know how many people are coming to your event. Sound like a no-brainer, right? It is! According to the Food Recovery Network, these are two of the easiest ways to reduce food waste as you know how many mouths you’ll need to feed, who is bringing what and what (and how much) you need to make.


  • As either guest or host, you will likely have a beverage in hand, whether it’s water, wine or a fancy cocktail. Sustainable lifestyle guru Danny Seo recommends opting for organic and biodynamic wines, local beer, aluminum over plastic for non-alcoholic beverages, and reusing old wine or beverage bottles to serve tap or filtered water (depending on your preference).
  • For fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs and dairy go for what’s local and in-season. Shop at your farmers market or join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). By shopping local and buying directly from farmers, you greatly reduce not only the energy and distance the food needs to travel (on average food travels 1,500 miles from farm to table), you cut out some of the waste in between supply chain steps.
  • Consider fish! When fish are responsibly caught or farmed, they represent far greener (and healthier) choices than beef, pork, or chicken. Additionally, don’t rule out frozen: fresh fish is transported by plane requiring much more fuel that frozen fish shipped by sea and 30 percent of fresh seafood goes to waste due to perishability. Skeptical? Try some of our delicious barramundi recipes. You won’t feel like you’re missing out.


  • Use reusable shopping bags for your groceries (canvas is a popular choice as it’s made of natural fibers and can easily handle heavy items). Forgo the plastic produce bags in favor of organic cotton mesh produce bags. And for ingredients purchased in bulksuch as grains, nuts or dried fruitopt for cloth bags, too.



  • Use table decorations and tableware that you can use again, such as cloth napkins and tablecloths, reusable plates and utensils, and even mason jars as cups.


  • Be prepared for leftovers. Freeze what you know you won’t be able to eat in the next few days and/or send friends and family home with containers of foodthey’ll love you for it.

Whether you’re an enthusiastic entertainer or not, these tips are a great place to start to live a more sustainable lifestyle. To dive deeper check out Trash is for Tossers for tips on aspiring to a zero-waste lifestyle, and Michael Pollan for a better understanding of our food system and what needs to change.

Do you have a go-to source for tips and inspiration for living a more sustainable life? If so, we’d love to hear it in the comments below!