Holiday Waste

Posted on December 19, 2023

The holidays bring a lot of, well, everything! Meals with friends and family, presents, Christmas trees, and time doing things you enjoy but might not always make time for, like skating or taking a Christmas light tour.

Another thing the holidays bring a lot of is waste. With so much to think about over the next couple of weeks, we thought you’d appreciate a quick guide to both creating less waste and responsibly disposing of the waste that is inevitable.


Trying to throw a sustainable party? A few small details can make a big difference.

1.       Reusable plates and cutlery. It’s easy to reach for the disposable options and make your clean-up a breeze, but consider resisting the urge. If you have a dishwasher, this is a little easier, but even for those who don’t, washing the dishes can be a time to slow down, stare out the window and reflect on the time spent with friends and family. Or it can be a great time to catch up with a friend or spouse as you tackle the task together.

2.       Reusable dishes not happening? Okay, we understand. But opt for paper plates and bamboo cutler that can be composted. Make sure the paper plates do not have any plastic or waxy coating, or they cannot be composted. You’ll have to be mindful of Green Washing, as we’ve seen disposable plates claim compossibility, that clearly have a coating on them. Bpi compostable cutlery, plates, or cups are not accepted in the City of Calgary compost facility, so stick with paper and bamboo only.

a.       Let your guests know that everything is compostable and where the compost bin is. Larger bags for kitchen garbage cans can be purchased (we don’t expect you to fit this in your kitchen catcher from the City) or you can use paper bags, like the ones for yard waste. Just be sure to roll the bag closed to prevent a big mess when the truck comes to tip your green bin.

3.       Ask your guests to keep all food out of the landfill waste bins. Organics do not decompose in the landfill, but become leachates and greenhouse gasses.

4.       Remember, if you do have small plastic items like cutlery or coffee lids, even with the recycle symbol, these are too small to be processed and are landfill. Best to avoid.

5.       Skip the party favours. Unless you plan to send everyone home with some yummy baking or leftovers from the party, skip the party favours. They are going to end up in the landfill anyway, so why?

Wrapping Presents:

1.       Keep and reuse gift bags that are given to you. Most gift bags can be re-used many many times. They don’t breakdown (great for re-use, terrible for our waste systems) and they fold up small to store.

2.       Reuse old sheets or other fabric materials as wrapping paper.

3.       Reuse wrapping paper. Like bags, it will keep for a very long time and can be folded small to store for future gift giving.

4.       You can find a few more gift wrapping details on our blog from 2019.

Christmas Tree Composting:

The City of Calgary will take your trees and recycle them create mulch for city parks and other projects. You have two options to recycle your real tree. Before recycling remember to remove all lights, ornaments, tinsel, and tree stand. Then you can either:

1.        Cut your tree into small pieces and place in your green cart (make sure lid can close). If your green cart is full, put cut branches in paper yard waste bags and roll tops closed, setting bags 0.5 metres (2 feet) from side of your cart.

2.       Bring you tree to one of these drop-off locations for free.

Food Waste:

Did you know that 63% of food thrown away in Canada could have been eaten? This equates to about $1300.00/household a year. There are a few simple ways one can help reduce this waste, not only during the holidays, but all year long.

1.       Of course, we all know, eat the leftovers, but we also all know sometimes this is easier said than done. To increase your chances of success, plan the meal, pre-plan the leftovers. Think about how the ingredient from the main meal can be used the next day, and pick-up any extra items you might need during the original shopping trip. If you have a plan, and the items to execute that plan, it will be much easier to follow-through.

2.       Make soup or casserole out of leftovers. Neither have any rules and both can be eaten the next day or frozen for the future.

a.       Boil the bones from turkeys and chicken, adding the left-over carrots and other vegetable you won’t eat the next day (why waste all that seasoning you put on them). Anything that doesn’t break down into the broth will sift out when you drain the bones. Everything else is now part of a delicious bone broth. Add left over meat to the bone broth and fresh vegetables. Season to taste. My go-tos are salt, pepper, savory, paprika, basil, and garlic. If the plan is to freeze it for later, freeze the leftover meat too (unless your favorite part of Christmas dinner is next day sandwiches, then eat your sandwiches and let future you worry about meat when it’s time to thaw out the soup). Vegetable will be better fresh, so they don’t get soggy.

b.       Casserole can include the vegetable, meat, and potatoes. Once baked in the oven, everything will come together like a party in your mouth. I'm a fan of a little cheese on top of my casseroles.

3.       Cook a smaller meat and add more side variety. Colour on the table is appetizing, people will fill up on the sides, and you’ll have less meat to store after. 

4.       Dry goods, such as crackers, should be sealed to prevent going stale. Chip-clips are a great way to keep these items sealed for future enjoyment.

5.       Leave yourself a note to eat the leftovers! A note on the bathroom mirror of fridge can help remind you to eat what might have been pushed to the back of the fridge.

6.       Send your guests home with food. Purchase inexpensive containers at a dollar store or ask guest to bring a container with them and send them out the door with a portion of the leftovers.

We hope you a have a fun holiday season this year and wish you all the best for the New Year.