BARC’s Holiday Sustainability Guide

December is an incredible time of year, with all the magic in the air and holiday cheer. It can be easy to get caught up in the fun of it all and forget about the holiday season’s negative impact on our environment. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, more than one million tons of additional waste accumulates weekly. This is one of the many reasons why being extra mindful of your impact is important.

Luckily, we have created the BARC’s Holiday Season Sustainability Guide so you can stay focused on your efforts throughout December, New Year’s, and beyond! Explore our guide for insights on recycling during the holidays, sustainable holiday shopping, decorating, and green New Year’s resolutions.

Recycling During the Holidays

Holiday Wrapping Paper

How to Tell If Your Wrapping Paper Is Recyclable

Recycling wrapping paper is a simple yet impactful way to contribute to environmental sustainability. However, not all wrapper paper is recyclable. Gift wraps that are non-recyclable typically contain elements other than paper, like glitter, foil, or metallic decorations. The same holds for ribbons, labels, or bows unless they are removable.

Any wrapping paper with a plastic coating or lamination is also non-recyclable. To test for plastic, try to rip a small piece of the paper; a plastic coating will make your wrapping paper harder to rip. However, if it does rip easily, it is probably just glossy wrapping paper (like in a magazine), which is recyclable as long as it contains no additives. If you have any doubts about recyclability, we recommend reusing the paper for future gift wrapping.

How To Recycle Wrapping Paper

Start by removing non-paper elements such as ribbons, bows, or plastic decorations. Smooth out the paper to reduce wrinkles and folds, making recycling easier. Check for any metallic or foil coatings, which can sometimes hinder recycling. If your local recycling program accepts wrapping paper, place it in the designated recycling bin.

Recycling Polystyrene (Styrofoam)

Many new toys and electronics come packaged with polystyrene (Styrofoam). This can be recycled, but before attempting to recycle it, we recommend consulting your local recycling center or waste management facility to see if they will accept it. If they do, there might be particular guidelines, including cleaning the Styrofoam and eliminating any labels or tape.

Recycling Cardboard from New Gifts

Most packages and gifts will also come with unwanted cardboard that you will want to recycle. We recommend looking at your local county’s drop-off schedule to determine where and when to recycle cardboard this holiday season.

Recycling Old Electronics

People often overlook what to do with their old gadgets in the excitement of acquiring new electronic devices. Recycling electronics at the end of their useful life is critical because of the impact improperly disposed of e-waste can have on our planet.

Luckily, recycling old electronics is easy with BARC! If you live in Northern Michigan, we can take all of your old electronics; we take everything from a large flat-screen TV to miscellaneous wires for a small recycling fee. If you are still determining what you can recycle with us, learn more by heading to the pricing page on our website or reading our blog, Responsibly Upgrade with BARC this Holiday Season.

Donating Old Toys, Clothes, Books, Etc.

After the holidays, many parents find it time to get rid of old clothes, toys, books, and other miscellaneous items their children no longer need. Instead of trying to recycle these items, we suggest donating them to a local charity or thrift store near you.

Eco-Friendly Holiday Shopping & Decorations

Shop Second Hand

Shopping for secondhand items this holiday season is a great way to save money and the planet. Plus, you can get unique gifts for the whole family. If you are close to Kaleva, stop by the BARC Resale Shop to get great deals on holiday gifts and decorations.

Shop Local

If you are still looking for a gift after stopping by your secondhand shop, shopping in person at small local businesses is the next best way to reduce your carbon footprint, mainly if what you buy is produced locally. Plus, this will also stimulate your local economy.

Get Crafty

Getting crafty is another excellent way to decorate your home and give thoughtful gifts this holiday season. If you like to be creative, see if you have anything in your home to make DIY holiday decorations or gifts. You can also go to your local craft store and pick up some air dry clay to make Christmas ornaments or small gifts like a clay flower pot.

Eco-Focused New Year’s Resolution Ideas

The holidays are not the only time to think about sustainability, so eco-focused resolutions are a great way to stay on track throughout the new year. Many people choose ambitious goals like mastering a new language for their resolution, but these can be highly challenging.

At BARC, we advocate for realistic and sustainable New Year’s resolutions that extend beyond the fleeting enthusiasm of January. We’ve got you covered if you’re seeking inspiration for eco-friendly goals. Check out our list from last year of Ten Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Bring Your Reusable Shopping Bags
  2. Conserve Water
  3. Donate Your Stuff
  4. Shop Second Hand
  5. Shop Local
  6. Eliminate Single-Use Plastic
  7. Eat Less Meat
  8. Curate a Capsule Wardrobe
  9. Use Your Voice
  10. Volunteer

Donate For A Greener Future

For the past 14 years, BARC has been working on advancing, piloting, and incubating innovative solutions for challenging recycling problems. In that time of trial and error, we’ve learned volumes—often most meaningfully from what did not work. These valuable lessons taught us how to improve our processes, working conditions, and outcomes. By donating to us this holiday season and beyond, we’re excited about what we can do to create a greener future in 2024!