The holidays are just around the corner! This season is all about food, presents, decorations, and more — but everything that goes into these cheery celebrations has the potential to create a lot of waste once the festivities have come to an end.
According to the EPA, American household waste increases by more than 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. All of this adds an extra 1 million tons per week to our landfills!
This year, consider being more mindful when it comes to the materials and food you consume so you can not only spread holiday cheer this season but give back to the planet as well. As a landlord, you can encourage your tenants to become more eco-friendly for the holidays with these seven sustainable tips.
1. Help Your Tenants Recycle Christmas Trees
Christmas trees are a staple when it comes to celebrating the holidays. However, they have a bigger environmental impact than you think.
Every year, 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States. A real tree of average size has a carbon footprint of about 7.7 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)—the equivalent to driving a car about ten miles.
If the tree is sent to a landfill, this carbon footprint increases. As the tree decomposes, it produces methane which is a stronger greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide and generates a much larger footprint—close to 35.3 pounds of CO2e.
With Christmas trees being one of the key decorations of the holidays, we’ve put together some tips for landlords to help their tenants practice sustainability:
- Select locally grown Christmas trees: Trees that come from local farms are less likely to have a large carbon footprint due to less transportation. Plus, this allows your tenants to support small businesses.
- Consider “tree miles”: If you don’t have a local tree farm in your town and you want one for your property or community room, ensure you’re aware of how far you traveled to buy your tree, as this will also affect your carbon footprint.
- Compare artificial vs. real trees: Artificial trees can be kept for six to nine years. This is how long a tree must be kept in order for its carbon footprint to match the footprint of a natural tree that is composted at the end of life, according to the Christmas Tree Association.
- Donate before you toss: If you have an artificial tree, see if it’s possible to donate it before you throw it away.
As a landlord, there are ways to encourage your tenants to be more eco-friendly when it comes to decorating their homes with Christmas trees and disposing them at the end of the year. Instead of sending your tenant’s trees to a landfill, set them up with efficient ways to recycle their trees.
How to Recycle a Christmas Tree
Encourage your tenants to recycle their Christmas trees with these simple alternatives:
- Treecycling: This is a process that grinds old, unwanted trees into useful materials like mulch. In the United States, there are more than 4,000 local Christmas Tree recycling programs. Research if your city has a Christmas treecycling program and promote it to your tenants during the holiday season.
- Rent a woodchipper: Rent a wood chipper for your apartment community to help your tenants easily turn their trees into wood chips that you can then use on your property.
- Use as firewood: If your units have fireplaces and space allows, encourage your tenants to chop up their trees to use as firewood.
- Tree compost: Set up a compost pile at your property where tenants can drop off their trees.
2. Encourage Mindful Decorating
Encourage your tenants to embrace mindful decorating this season! There are still ways to be fun and festive with your holiday decor while still keeping things green. Here are some decor substitutions you can use in your community rooms and tenants can use in their homes.
DIY Your Decor
Creating your own handmade decorations makes it a lot easier to be aware of the materials you’re using — plus it will save you some cash and a trip to the store! Also, these are great additions to add some holiday cheer to your rental property. Here are some wintry materials that are great for decorating, are all-natural, and can decompose if recycled:
- Leaves and branches: Use fallen leaves and branches from your yard to make a homemade wreath.
- Pinecones: Make your own ornaments or a centerpiece for your dinner table using pinecones and a coat of paint or glitter.
- Dried berries and fruit: Create a festive floral arrangement out of dried berries, a garland out of slices of dried fruit, or even a fragrant and spicy potpourri mixing the two!
- Cinnamon sticks: Use these to add a decorative touch to your gift bows, tie to the outside of a candle, or combine a few and hang as an ornament.
Use Lighting Substitutes
Although incandescent or halogen lights add the perfect twinkly touch to your trees or fireplace mantels, consider using LED lights at your property instead and encourage tenants to do the same. LED lights use 75% less energy, last 25% longer, and help you save on your electricity bill. To save even more electricity, consider putting your LEDs on timers.
To skip on lighting all together while still adding that sparkly touch to your decor, substitute for colorful holly in red or green or a silver garland.
3. Find Wrapping Paper Alternatives
Even though the holidays may have come to a close, the amount of trash accumulated after the excitement of gift-opening may still be lingering around your property. The materials we use to wrap our gifts is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to waste during the holidays.
Roughly 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper is produced in the United States each year, with 2.3 million ending up in landfills. Additionally, if every family reused only two feet of holiday ribbon, 28,000 miles of ribbon would be saved and could tie a bow around the planet.
Luckily, there are wrapping alternatives you and your tenants can use for your gifts that are a lot easier on the planet:
- Furoshiki wrapping: This is where you use cloth from around your home as a wrapping
- Reusable boxes: Make it funky and use a clean to-go or shoebox!
- Brown shopping bags: You can get these from grocery stores or retail shops.
- Newspaper: This also adds a unique look to your gift.
- Tea towel: Perfect for kitchen gifts like cookbooks or tools.
- Seed paper: This plantable seed paper is great for making gift tags and can be added to your garden when you’re done with it.
- Shredded paper box filler: Put old newspapers or magazines through a paper shredder and use as box filler to hide your gift instead of tissue paper.
- Old t-shirts: Cut up old t-shirts into a ribbon shape and use them to wrap up your gift.
As a landlord, make sure your property has recycling services. You can also set up an area where tenants can drop off gently used holiday wrappings so you can save and disperse the following year.
4. Reduce Food Waste
For many, celebrating during the holidays means gathering with friends and family and sharing those once-a-year recipes — but these feasts can generate food waste in large quantities, causing harm to the environment. Shockingly, Americans waste about 40% of the food grown between the farm and the consumers’ table. Here are some ways to be more mindful about the food you’ll consume this season.
Spend more time thinking about how much food you’ll actually need for your celebration. This will prevent you from buying an excessive amount of food as you’re shopping. Make sure you’re using what you already have — a lot of food items can get forgotten when stored high up on those shelves! Also, be sure to look for locally-grown and fair trade foods where possible.
Get Creative With Leftovers
You may be overwhelmed with the amount of food that’s left in your fridge after the holidays. Consider finding recipes to turn the food into new meals, or send them home with guests at the end of the night.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, yard waste and food scraps make up 30% of what we toss out — not knowing that they can be composted instead. Things that can be composted include fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds, shredded newspaper, cardboard, fireplace ashes, and more. Just be sure to avoid composting meat bones and scraps and fats, greases, and lards.
Give back to those who cannot afford to have a holiday feast. Take any leftovers, such as canned foods, and donate them to food drives. Consider even setting up a virtual food drive in your community as a safe and convenient alternative to in-person gatherings. These are also a great alternative if you’re unable to deliver donations to your local food bank. Contact your local food bank to get one started.
As a landlord, foster a community spirit and organize a food drive your tenants will love to participate in. To do this, you can have tenants leave their donations outside their doors or set up a drop off box where donations can be collected and sent to a food bank.
5. Reduce Paper Usage
`Tis the season for sending out holiday cards — cards that are usually made of paper materials. In the U.S., 2.65 billion Christmas cards are sold each year, enough to fill a football field ten stories high. If Americans sent one less card, 50,000 cubic yards of paper would be saved.
If you send holiday cards to your families or you’re a landlord who passes them out to your tenants every year, consider switching to e-cards. E-cards are electronically sent, eliminating the need for paper resources altogether. Since paper and paperboard recycling (46 million tons) makes up the largest portion of recycling, the benefits of this will greatly help the environment.
Additionally, the US Postal Service delivers an estimated 14.9 billion pieces of mail during the holiday season. As a landlord, you can unsubscribe to mailing lists to reduce the amount of paper mail your complex receives.
6. Reconsider Your Gift
This year, think before you give. Last year, Americans spent an average of $942 on Christmas gifts alone. Consider reducing the number of materials that you’re purchasing and instead giving the gift of an experience.
This could be anything from a special dinner with a loved one, a camping trip nearby, or a night out with your friends. You can also donate to someone’s favorite cause or charity! Giving experience gifts is not only a more thoughtful gift than an item or gift card but reduces the number of materials that might be thrown away down the road.
7. Promote Recycling Habits for Your Tenants
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget about recycling basics. The EPA estimates the average American generates about 1.5 tons of solid waste every year, 75% of which is recyclable.
As a landlord, you can help promote recycling habits throughout your community and make recycling holiday waste easy for your tenants. To do this, set up a recycling program so that your property can recycle more and reduce the amount of trash that’s getting sent to landfills. Here are more ways to make recycling easy for your tenants:
- Set up your bins: Start by setting up multiple bins throughout your community to collect different recyclable materials, like paper and cardboard.
- Make it obvious: Place signs around the areas where you have recycling bins — this helps avoid any confusion and raises more awareness.
- Color code the bins: Using color codes for the different bins makes it easier for the tenants to distinguish which recycling items go into each bin.
- Let your tenants know: Communicate the launch of your recycling bins to the rest of the property by handing out flyers. You can also use these flyers to educate the residents on what can and can’t be recycled.
During the holidays, it’s more important than ever to develop eco-friendly habits. From promoting better recycling habits to encouraging mindful holiday decorations, these easy and sustainable tips will encourage your tenants to reduce the amount of waste they create during the season.
Implementing sustainable practices at your rental property can help you attract and screen eco-conscious tenants that are a good fit. If you’re a landlord looking to fill an apartment, visit our rental application and tenant screening services to help find the perfect tenants.