Are you wondering how to ditch disposables and cut down on waste during the holidays? After the holidays last year, I was truly amazed at the size of the garbage bags we set out for pick up. I tried to be very careful when I made holiday choices, but we still managed to have two large bags of garbage after everything was over and done. This year, I am determined to cut down on our waste—without sacrificing our celebrations.

While everyone’s holiday rituals is a little bit different, here are a few simple ideas for ways to use fewer holiday disposables.

Plates and Table Wear

After spending all day cooking, the last thing I want to do is spend any more time in the kitchen cleaning up. It can be tempting to use paper plates, plastic utensils, disposable napkins, and foil pans. While disposables do cut down on cleanup time, they are a large source of waste as well. If you don’t feel that you can go completely disposable-free, try to limit the number of disposables you use. It takes only a few seconds to toss cloth napkins and a cloth tablecloth in the washing machine with your next batch of towels.

Wrapping Paper and Bows

The next largest area of waste in our holiday celebrations is the wrapping paper, ribbon, and bows we use to wrap presents. Did you know that most holiday wrapping paper is not recyclable? You don’t need to give up wrapping your presents. If you must use wrapping paper, buy recycled paper. Or you can get a large roll of brown Kraft paper and wrap your gifts in that. You can reuse it next year or recycle the paper afterward. Or you can use cloth gift bags to “wrap” your presents. Just reuse the bags each year to save on waste. Use real cloth ribbon to decorate your packages, or skip the ribbons and bows completely.

Packaging Materials

Every year, after all of the gifts have been opened, there’s a mound of empty boxes, styrofoam, and plastic in the center of the living room in many American households. These days, many consumer items are sold in layers of packaging. To avoid this, look for eco-friendly merchants online. Another option is to make handmade gifts, or buy handmade items locally. Small, independent merchants and crafts people typically don’t use the mass quantities of packaging materials that larger brands do.

If you’re concerned about the amount of waste in your holiday celebrations, I hope you’ll try a few of these simple suggestions to ditch the disposables—this year and beyond.