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Tips for gifting greener and reducing holiday waste

The amount of household waste in the U.S. increases an average of 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, according to the EPA.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — The amount of household waste in the U.S. increases an average of 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, according to the EPA. Wrapping paper, decorations, packaging, and leftover food often don’t last long and end up in the waste stream.

That's why Montgomery County's Department of Environmental Protection is kicking off a new way of giving this holiday season. The agency and its partners are challenging residents to reduce waste by thinking differently about how you shop for and give gifts with their Gift Outside the Box campaign.

The holiday campaign has five focus areas:

Buy Local: 

When you visit local businesses and purchase gifts made locally, you are helping to improve the area economy and support jobs. Plus, you’re helping the environment by reducing fuel. Here are some suggestions for how to buy local.

Gift Experiences:

Not everything of value comes inside of a box. Some of the best gifts are those that bring families and friends together even online, enrich us, and allow us to experience something new. Here are some options.


  • Gift online classes: The Montgomery County Department of Recreation has tons of outdoor and virtual opportunities.
  • Gift a Montgomery Parks virtual class:  They have everything from tai chi and tennis to botanical drawing/painting classes, photography classes, and more.
  • Gift a Brookside Gardens experience: From poinsettias to full moon walks, they have tons of experiences.
  • Gift a Montgomery County Public Libraries experience: Bring a friend or a family member to get a free library card. MCPL has a great variety of online and in-person services and resources for the whole family.

Gift Greener:

Hearing “gift green” might make you think of giving out money as a gift. It's more about the impact to the environment of what we buy and how we buy.

  • Gift lower utility bills: An energy audit can help appliances or the latest tech to lower energy usage, like a smart thermostat or smart LED light bulb.
  • Gift when your online shopping cart is full: When making purchases online, try to make sure you have added everything you will purchase from each company to your cart before you complete your purchase to reduce the amount of packaging, delivery trips, and contact.
  • Gift something from a Certified Green Business: The Green Business Directory is comprised of local businesses that have been certified through at least one certification standard.

Give Back:

No gift has greater positive impact than giving to charity in someone’s name.

  • Gift your time: Volunteer in someone’s name (with safety precautions). Find volunteer opportunities on the Volunteer Center website.
  • Give the gift of life: Donate blood at the NIH Blood Bank.
  • Gift a meal: Get together a virtual group of friends to cook a meal and deliver the food  to a local hospital for front-line medical staff. You’ll spend virtual time together and help those in need.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Right:

Check out tips on holiday waste reduction and recycling:

  • Gift reused items: Shop at a discount home improvement center such as Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Or rethink hand-me-downs. Create a dress-up kit or an arts and crafts “idea box”. 
  • Gift a craft: Make it unique and get crafty! Try a class at VisArts to create gifts yourself with reused items, such as personalize a picture frame or sew a customized gift. 
  • Gift a reduced waste gift: Look on Buy Nothing, Facebook Marketplace, or NextDoor to find gifts that help reduce waste in the future, like a reusable coffee mug, a lunch bag or a starter kit for canning or pickling at home.


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