Happy Holidays Get creative this season and celebrate more sustainably, how to guide

How to Reduce Your Waste this Holiday Season

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According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of household waste generated across the country between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is 25% higher than any other time of year. That’s 25% more trash being sent to the landfill and the EPA estimates that 80% of the extra waste could be repurposed or recycled instead. In the spirit of celebrating more sustainably, we’ve put together a few tips to help you reduce your environmental impact this Holiday Season! 


  • Buy outdoor light strands that are wired in parallel. If one bulb goes bad, the others still work, so you won’t be throwing away “bad” strands.
  • Avoid tinsel and flocking so that your tree can be mulched after it’s taken down
  • purchase smart power strips to prevent vampire energy draw from all the extra holiday lights and devices

Gift & Food Shopping

  • Buy locally - avoid shipping altogether, save money, and support local businesses.
  • Combine shipping orders - selected shipping options that will combine multiple orders into one box, reducing packaging materials.
  • Give the gift of an experience: music lessons, lessons for a new hobby, a massage, a trip to a state park, or tickets to a sporting event or play. This is perfect for friends who want to try something new but aren’t willing to spend the money on themselves. Plus, you don’t have to wrap the gift.
  • Switch to rechargeable batteries for your electronics. About 40% of all battery sales occur during the Holiday Season. 
  • Bring reusable shopping bags and avoid taking plastic bags.


  • Make the wrapping functional - put cookies in a flower pot or hide jewelry in a new pair of gloves or socks.
  • Get creative with your wrapping paper by reusing things like maps, reusable fabric, the Sunday comics, newspaper, or even try cutting up a brown paper bag and decorating it!
  • Avoid wrapping paper that's very metallic, glittery, or plastic coated wrapping paper as it's not recyclable.
  • Reuse packaging cartons and shipping materials.
  • Exchange or donate unwanted and duplicated gifts.
  • Recycle greeting cards, paper gift bags, cardboard boxes, and simple wrapping paper (no cellophane, plastic coated, metallic, or heavily glittered).

Food -

  • Reduce food waste first and foremost since a lot of water, fuel, and other resources go into growing, transporting, and processing the food for your table. Any uneaten or inedible foodscraps placed in the trash will be converted into compost and green energy at the Santa Barbara County ReSource Center.
  • Prepare only as much as you need. Get an accurate headcount ahead of time so you can buy and prepare only as much food as you need without creating excess leftovers. Here’s a very cool tool that will help you plan:
  • Make a plan for storing leftovers so they remain fresh for lunches or dinners in the following days.
  • BYO leftovers containers - invite friends and family to bring their own containers so they can also enjoy leftovers without creating additional waste.
  • Set up a "Bottles and Cans Only" recycling bin in order to keep glass and aluminum clean and separate from potential food contamination.
  • Smaller plates - provide guests with smaller plates and encourage seconds or thirds if they want more food. Most of the food that ends up in the trash at dinner parties actually comes off of people's plates, because they overload and can't finish everything they choose.
  • Choose canned or glass goods over cartons, as cartons are no longer recyclable in Santa Barbara.
  • Use reusable plates and utensils whenever possible. Plastic plates and cups that are wet and food contaminated are not recyclable.
  • Opt for fabric napkins and dish cloths instead of paper products. They can be easily tossed into the washer after the festivities.
  • Choose sustainable foods - like sustainably sourced seafood and locally grown fruits and vegetables.
  • Backyard compost any food prep scraps and send leftovers home with guests.

Christmas Tree Mulching and Other Services

  • Recycle E-waste - electronics cannot go in the trash and much be dropped off at the downtown recycling center or county transfer station. You can also schedule an extra e-waste pickup from MarBorg.
  • Recycle Batteries - place small batteries in a sealed plastic bag and leave them on top of your blue bin on your normal pickup day.
  • FOG - otherwise known as fats, oils, and grease, should not be poured down the sink as it can clog underground pipes and cause sewer overflows. Mix FOG with an absorbent material like coffee grounds or cat litter and put it in the trash. You can also pour into a sealable container and freeze and then place in your trash. More info here.
  • Extra waste pickup - customers can put out up to 95 gallons of extra Trash, Greenwaste, and Recyclables on their regular collection days for the two weeks following Christmas, and it will be picked up for free. All extra items should be bagged or bundled, and no bulky waste is allowed.
  • Christmas tree mulching - trees will be collected free of charge after the holidays. To have your tree recycled please bring it to the curbside on your greenwaste collection day. If you do not have greenwaste service, bring your tree to the curbside on your trash collection day.
  • Easy tree drop-off - Christmas trees can also be dropped off for free at MarBorg’s facility located at 119 North Quarantina Street in Santa Barbara or at the South Coast Recycling and Transfer Station (free through January 12th), located at 4430 Calle Real in Santa Barbara.

***Please remove all tree stands, lights, tinsel and ornaments, and cut trees that are over 6 feet in length so they will fit in the service trucks.***

Visit the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department local holiday guidance webpage for information about lower-risk holiday activities:

Need recycling advice? Give us a call at (805) 564-5631. For questions about your service or if you need to request any extra pickups please call MarBorg at (805) 963-1852.