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Reduce and Reuse at your Holiday Party!

Image by pikisuperstar on Freepik

With the holiday season in full swing, there is always so much to celebrate! This year we would like to offer the challenge of bringing the reduce and reuse mindset to your classroom holiday celebrations. This can create an opportunity to teach students about consumption, resources, and their personal power in reducing food and other single-use waste. 

Along with the darker days and colder weather, burnout can often creep in. This makes it that much easier to add something to your shopping cart, pick up some cute, single use party supplies, and use the 'new is always best' mindset engrained into American culture. Ironically enough, making conscious choices about what you consume can help the winter blues and burnout. Humans are meant to create and share – and while it may take a little more effort sometimes, doing so can boost morale and connection.  

As teachers, you are leaders in changing perceptions about waste. While some may think waste is icky, it is an essential part of our everyday lives, community, and ecosystem. Use time in the classroom to spark dialogue about our relationship to waste. Most importantly, showcase the joy of creating something with repurpose.

A brief history of quick consumerism in America. The 'grab-and-go' American culture formed with the technological innovations of WWII and the affordability, durability, and sanitary convenience of single-use plastics. Believe it or not, single-use plastic bags have only been used in the United States markets since 1979. The convenient accessibility of single-use plastics has made the saying "out of sight, out of mind" a staple of American culture. This mindset has translated to our waste stream, transforming our relationship with waste to, well, not having one. Just in Washington alone, the state produces over a million tons of food waste every year – only to be sent to the landfill.

Methods to reduce waste at your holiday party. To make this process easier, listed below are some ways you can encourage a reduce and reuse mindset in your classrooms.

1. Have a signature tablecloth!

Who says reducing and reusing can't be in style? Find your signature look this holiday season that can be remembered and reused year after year. Local Goodwill stores often have a linen section. Here you can find tablecloths, curtains, and an assortment of fabrics for an affordable and classic tablecloth. 

Don't know where to shop for one? Our Green Neighbors program has developed an interactive map of all thrift stores and donation locations within Clark County.  

2.  Make compostable or reusable holiday decorations! Here are a few ideas depending on your prep time:  

Dried orange (or any sliceable fruit) garlands: This project does require significant preparation before the event as the fruit will need to be sliced and dried in advance. Your school cafeteria may have some leftover fruit on the way to the landfill you could use. One great thing about this project is students do not need to use needles to thread the dried fruit. Simply poke some holes with skewers or a pencil, wrap tape around the end of some twine, and thread it through! This means even smaller kids can do it too. Not only do these garlands look amazing but they also smell great. 

A Classic – cranberry and popcorn garlands: This one may have to be reserved for the older kids as needles are required. The best part about this decoration is it doubles as a snack! What student wouldn't be thrilled to eat popcorn? What parent wouldn't be thrilled to see a holiday staple when they get home? 

Make biodegradable confetti: Bring on the mess – although a biodegradable one! This can be a great way to get kids outside and identify trees and plants. Have each student collect some leaves off the ground, preferably on the dry side. Use various hole punch shapes to create infinite amounts of confetti! Enjoy throwing it outside immediately or use paper bags to take home. 

Create a New Year's collage: This one could get sticky! Have students and families bring in old magazines and a cardboard square. Let students browse and cut out images and words to create a New Year's vision board. You can encourage a theme of waste reduction and reuse, or just let the creativity fly. You will be amazed and inspired by what they create.

3. If you give your students gifts, use newspaper or reusable bags to hide the gift. Alternatively, you can ask your students to use newspaper to wrap gifts for you!

Promote reuse in your classroom. Show students how fun it can be to use newspapers, magazines, or fabric to wrap gifts. You get to read the comics and receive a present, how great! 

As teachers, you are always at the forefront of leadership, innovation, and hard work. Clark County Green Schools would like to send out our biggest thank you for your commitment to reducing waste in your school.

If you have any other compostable or waste reduction holiday party ideas, send us an email at Also, if you use any of these recommendations and find success in reducing your classroom holiday party waste – send us a photo!

Thank you again for your continuous effort and happy holidays! 

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