8 Tips for a Zero Waste Holiday Feast

Food is the highlight of many of our holiday traditions and memories. We can all think of a holiday dish that makes us smile and our mouths water instantly. Yet, San Diegans dispose of 500,000 tons of food each year. During the holidays, millions of pounds of uneaten turkey, gravy, green beans, mashed potatoes, and other seasonal trimmings unfortunately end up in the landfill. This accounts for ⅓ of all food that is wasted each year.

According to a recent study, food waste amounts to the cost of approximately $1,500 per year, per family. Wasted food also wastes money, time, labor, transportation, water, and land used in food production. Aside from this waste, food decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen) in landfills releasing methane gas, a driver of global climate change that is up to 86 times more potent in trapping heat than carbon dioxide. San Diego County residents have the power to change this during the holiday season, and the study suggests that the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is the perfect place to start!  

Implementing some simple changes can reduce your food waste and support a healthy environment. Here are some simple tips to save money and help the environment while enjoying delicious holiday meals.

Cook and serve with a plan

The easiest way to reduce food waste during the holidays is to buy and prepare the right amount of food. Save the Food, a campaign of the Ad Council in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, created a tool to help save money and time while reducing food waste. Their Guest-imator helps create a menu based on how many people are attending the holiday feast.

Once the home chef knows roughly how much food is needed, create a detailed shopping list and stick to it. This will prevent getting sucked in by holiday displays appealing sales throughout the store, sometimes causing excessive purchases that may not be needed and may not actually be eaten.

When shopping for ingredients, opt for unpackaged items or bring your own cloth bags to minimize unnecessary waste further. In case there isn’t a package-less option for your groceries, learn how to Recycle Right on this county website.

Shop at local farmers’ markets

Nothing better than a festive farmer’s market! Visit one of the 36 certified farmers’ markets in San Diego County and buy local, unpackaged produce directly from regional farmers. View this resource from the county for a list of regional certified farmers’ markets.

Embrace all foods

When shopping, most people select the best-looking produce, meaning the “ugly” fruits and vegetables are often left on the shelves. If these items are not sold in time, they may be destined for the landfill. This wasted produce has the same vitamins and nutrients as their “prettier” counterparts but is not chosen simply because of looks. Give all produce a chance at the grocery store or farmers’ markets, especially if the chosen produce is part of a larger dish.

Go for plant-based meals

Did you know it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef? Incorporating more plant-based foods into holiday celebrations, such as green bean casserole, lentil shepherd’s pie, and stuffed peppers, can cut the environmental cost of meals significantly. Find more plant-based holiday recipes here.

Shrink serving sizes

During the meal, reduce portion waste by using smaller dishes and smaller serving spoons – seriously, it works! People can always come back for seconds.

Anticipate yummy leftovers

Having a plan for leftovers is another way to ensure that the food prepared is eaten. After all, half the goodness of holiday food is in the delicious leftovers the next day. Provide containers for guests to take remaining food home, freeze leftovers for a later date, or use those leftovers in creative ways. Some recipe ideas can be found here.

Donate unused items – WasteFreeSD.org

Visit WasteFreeSD.org for more tips, including how to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer, and for donation locations for regional food pantries. Currently, about 1 in 4 people in San Diego County are nutritionally insecure.

Spare your drains

Prevent the “fatberg.” Another important way to protect our environment (and your plumbing) this holiday season and year-round is to properly manage used cooking oil. Deep-fried turkeys have become an increasingly popular holiday tradition, but can use up to three gallons of cooking oil. When discarded down drains, oils, fats, and greases can block pipes and damage plumbing systems. Contrary to popular belief, mixing oil with soap or pouring hot water down the drain afterward are ineffective methods for preventing “fatbergs” that cause sewage backups.

Fortunately, there are free drop-off locations for used cooking oil. Collect cooled cooking oils in a secure lidded container labeled “used cooking oil.” Do not mix chemicals or other liquids with the cooking oil. To find the closest drop-off location, visit the Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste database, WasteFreeSD.org, or call 1-877-R-1-EARTH (1-877-713-2784).

Residents interested in learning more about food waste reduction can visit the County of San Diego’s Recycling website. To learn more about composting resources and options, please visit WasteFreeSD.org and click on Resources.

Say No To Single-Use Plastic Webinar

Did you know that we produce almost 400 million tons of plastic each year across the globe?


Join I Love A Clean San Diego on Wednesday, March 22 at 5 p.m. for our free Say No To Single-Use Plastic webinar on eliminating plastic waste through zero waste swaps!


During the one-hour webinar, you’ll learn:

  • How to properly recycle or dispose of the plastic waste you do create
  • What happens to plastic after we use it and throw it away
  • Zero waste product swaps for single-use items
  • Why it’s so important for our health and the health of the environment to reduce plastic usage

Registration is required. A recording of the webinar and resources will be shared to all registrants after the event. Thank you to the City of San Diego Environmental Services Department for sponsoring this event!


Now introducing a fourth “R”… Repair!

By now, you are likely familiar with the 3 R’s of waste reduction: Reduce, Reuse, And Recycle. But do you know about the fourth R in waste reduction? REPAIR! Choose to repair slightly broken or damaged items and decrease the amount of trash that ends up in our landfills!

Repairing is the process of fixing an item that you own, like a ripped shirt or a broken fridge, and giving it a second life. With easy access to Do It Yourself (DIY) shows and websites like Pinterest and YouTube, many people are choosing to learn how to mend their clothes and fix their household items instead of purchasing new items. In-person FIX-IT Workshops and Repair Cafes are also growing in popularity worldwide and creating community spaces where folks can share their repair skills on clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, toys, and more.

When you learn to repair the items that you already own, you can find new ways to personalize your belongings and help conserve valuable resources

Currently, 1 in every 2 people are throwing their unwanted clothes into the trash, generating more than 16 million tons of textile waste per year in the US only. The EPA estimated that 2.2 million tons of waste also comes from our small appliances, with only 5.6% getting recycled. Let’s not add on to trash in the landfills – repair your items instead.

It is easy to see why more people are choosing to repair their items once you know the environmental benefits of it. Here are just a few more of the benefits when you choose to repair:

  • Saves money – For some items, it is less expensive to fix them than to replace them. If a fix isn’t too difficult, you can likely find a how-to online and fix the item yourself, leaving you to only pay for materials. When deciding to either repair or replace an item, most experts say to use the 50-percent rule: if the repair cost is estimated to be 50 percent or less than the amount you paid for the item, it is usually better to repair it.
  • Saves energy – Repairing an item, rather than replacing it, saves energy (and resources) that would be required to make something new. Even if an item can be recycled, such as a refrigerator or computer, energy is still saved by choosing to repair.
  • You learn new skills – Learning a new skill can be extremely rewarding and can help build confidence. Many people who mend and sow their clothes, for example, describe the activity as a stress-releaser that helps them build patience.
  • Keeps items out of landfills– Choosing to repair slightly broken or damaged items, instead of replacing them, keeps items that still have a useable life out of landfills. Often times, just a quick fix can extend the life of household items.

So now you know! Repair helps with waste reduction and can benefit you, your wallet, and the planet! Learn a new skill and help extend the life of the items you already own.

Looking to repair something immediately? Visit WasteFreeSD.org and search for repair shops near you that service anything from a refrigerator to a surfboard

Interested in in learning skills to help you repair items on your own? Check our events page  for FIX-IT Workshops coming up!


Recycle Right for the Holidays: A Guide for Eco-Friendly Practices and Recycling This Gifting Season


Recycle Right for the Holidays: A Guide for Eco-Friendly Practices and Recycling This Gifting Season

Join the upcoming holiday webinar Celebrate Sustainably: Gifts and Glitz on December 8, 2021.

Getting back together with family and friends is cause for celebration. As we enjoy a season full of holiday traditions I Love A Clean San Diego offers some ideas to reduce holiday waste that occurs during this joyous time.

From shopping bags to increased packaging from online shopping, and giftwrap to food, Americans generate 25 percent more waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. This equates to an extra one million tons of waste generated per week nationwide during the holidays. However, much of this waste can be recycled or reused.

If every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Gifting and festivities can still be special and memorable while reducing waste and recycling right.

Join Us for the Gifts and Glitz Webinar

Join I Love A Clean San Diego for tips and inspiration at the “Celebrate Sustainably: Gifts and Glitz” webinar on Wednesday, December 8 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Online registration is open now to attend the fun and informative event. I Love A Clean San Diego’s education team will bring creative ideas to reducing waste and recycling, while keeping the spirit of the season alive.

Batteries, Bah Humbug

Americans use more than three billion batteries each year and about 40 percent of all battery sales in the U.S. occur during the holiday season. Batteries are considered Household Hazardous Waste. When not properly handled or recycled, batteries corrode and leach toxic chemicals like lithium, cadmium, sulfuric acid and lead. These chemicals can contaminate soil and groundwater. Some of these elements, like lithium, are limited in supply and need to be recaptured.

Here are suggestions to help reduce battery waste
1. Skip the single-use alkaline batteries. If you do, please collect and recycle them properly.
2. Buy rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries pay for themselves many times over and can easily be recycled for free after they reach the end of their useful life.
3. For both single-use and rechargeable batteries, use the free search tool at WasteFreeSD.org to find a drop off location near you.

Low Waste Gift Giving

When thinking about holiday gift shopping, consider the entire life cycle of your purchases. How long will the person receiving this gift actually use it? Will it be memorable and useful, or will they forget about it by next year? Gift giving can be a wonderful opportunity to express love and appreciation, but it can also slip into feeling like a mandatory practice – “I don’t know what to get them, but I have to get them something” mentality. Here are some ideas for low waste, mindful gift giving.

Take the Love Languages Quiz with your friends and family to determine how meaningful gifts actually are to each of you. Does a friend prefer serving others rather than being on the receiving end? Would your family member value quality time more than an item? Knowing this may change what you gift them.

Try shifting the focus away from “stuff.” Check out this graphic on WasteFreeSD.org and this Zero Waste Guide to Holiday Gifts.

Here are some low-waste gift ideas and technologies to consider.
• Give away items you do not need anymore. The new Good Use App, designed right here in San Diego, allows you to give your gently used items a second life. Sign up for the Good Use App here.
• Experiences: Memberships or subscriptions, tickets, classes, or pre-planned adventures and excursions
• Time: Making a home-cooked meal, helping with car or yard maintenance, “get out of a chore” or “design your perfect day” passes for kids
• Donations on their behalf to a cause or organization they’re passionate about
• Second-hand items: The most sustainable item you can buy is the one that already exists. Used items can still be high quality and in practically new condition. Aside from thrift stores, the Good Use App, Facebook Marketplace, Offerup, and Buy Nothing can be good online sources to check regularly.
• Zero waste tools: Help your loved one live more sustainably with items such as cotton produce bags, handkerchiefs, reusable makeup wipes, dryer balls, or a refillable growler.
• Items: If buying a new item, opt for locally made products and items made from reclaimed materials, such as upcycled skateboard sunglasses, dog leashes from retired climbing rope, and reclaimed wood picture frames

Gift Wrapping

Many traditional gift-wrapping materials, such as ribbon, bows, and cellophane, are not recyclable in your blue bins. To help sort out what is recyclable during the holidays, check out the Don’t Take a Holiday from Recycling flyer from the County of San Diego.

Stick to these recyclable items when wrapping presents
• Paper wrap without metallic and glitter designs
• Paper gift bags
• Cardboard boxes
• Paper cards and envelopes
• Glass jars are great for DIY gifts

These materials cannot be recycled in your curbside bin so please avoid or reuse them
• Metallic, glossy and glitter-covered wrapping paper
• Ribbons, bows, and twine
• Polystyrene packing peanuts
• Cards on glossy photo paper
• Plastic bags and film (return to participating stores for recycling)
• Tissue paper

Reuse supplies you have on hand, such as cardboard shipping boxes, tissue paper from a new pair of shoes, and paper bags from the store. There is no shame in reusing a gift bag; the person on the receiving end will not know the difference.

There are so many ways to get creative with repurposing materials, so have fun with it! See this as an opportunity to customize the gift to the person. For example, check out this tutorial to learn how to make bows out of magazine pages. If you are feeling extra adventurous, give the Furoshiki cloth-wrapping method a try.

Recycling and Proper Disposal

Keep these recycling tips and resources in mind.

• Recycling Right – When sorting through and putting away decorations and gifts, remember to dispose of items properly. Recycle only accepted materials in your curbside blue bin. In general, this includes paper, cardboard and cartons, plastic bottles and containers, glass bottles and jars, and metal and aluminum cans and foil. For more information on what is recyclable, visit the County of San Diego’s recycling page.

Common holiday items that can be recycled include cardboard gift boxes, plastic bottles and containers, glass jars, and brown paper wrap. Remember to keep these items empty, dry, and loose.

• Batteries and other household hazardous waste – Separate out hazardous items such as batteries and lights. These CANNOT go into the trash or recycling bins. Check WasteFreeSD.org for a comprehensive list of hazardous items and find drop-off locations in your area.

• Christmas tree recycling – After the holidays, remember to recycle your fresh-cut tree and help close the loop, returning the tree to the earth as mulch. County of San Diego residents are encouraged to recycle their Christmas trees as soon as possible to reduce fire danger and minimize the amount of holiday waste sent to the landfill. In addition to dozens of community drop-off sites, many local waste and recycling haulers offer curbside tree and wreath pick-up. These trees and wreaths are ground into mulch, which is then used to improve soil health, reduce evaporation and erosion. Visit WasteFreeSD.org or call 1-811-R-1-EARTH for more information and a complete list of drop-off locations.

Incorporating zero waste into your holiday planning may take some time and thought at first, but once these habits are implemented, they can reduce stress, save money, and allow you to focus on what is most important about the holiday season-spending time with those we love.

Sunset Sweep: Manzanita Canyon Community Cleanup

Community Cleanup

Join I Love A Clean San Diego, San Diego Canyonlands, and Think Blue San Diego for a virtually-hosted litter cleanup in the Manzanita Canyon neighborhood! We will pick-up litter from the community and divert it from the canyons and Pacific Ocean.

These cleanups are currently virtually-hosted; we are not gathering or meeting in a specific location. Instead, you can do a fun and flexible cleanup on your terms. If you choose to join us physically in this community, we will have a staging table in the community. You can stop by to say hi and grab some disposable supplies, and clean up nearby.

Invite your neighbors and practice social distancing. Bring a bucket and gardening gloves from home, and wear your face-covering. You can make this cleanup zero-waste by using your own supplies!

Watch the kick-off video you get in your e-mail, then clean up in the neighborhood and use your household cans for disposal. Afterwards, log your totals and request a Letter of Appreciation for your service – it’s that easy!

Register now to receive e-mail resources and event details.

DISCLAIMER: By participating in a cleanup, you agree I Love A Clean San Diego is NOT responsible for any injury suffered and you waive any claim arising from participation in the event.
I agree to read and follow all of the safety protocols for this event.


Waste Hierarchy: What are the 4 Rs?

4R's of Waste Hierarchy

Waste Hierarchy: What are the 4 Rs?

Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose/Upcycle, Recycle –

These 4 R’s are extremely important when it comes to sustainable living and help manifest environmentally responsible consumer behavior. They all aim to reduce the amount of waste we create, which will not only save money but conserve natural resources and energy as well.


Reduce comes first in the waste hierarchy and is the most effective way to prevent waste from being generated in the first place. From production to transportation, every single product that we own uses up large amounts of raw materials and energy, which poses as a detriment to the environment through resource depletion and pollution creation.

Tips on Reducing

  • Only buying what you need
  • Buy in bulk, click here to learn the basics of bulk buying
  • Buy used items from thrift stores or consignment shops
  • Borrow, rent or share items that are used infrequently like Halloween costumes, party decorations, pool toys
  • Printing double sided
  • Avoid buying non-recyclable products


Reuse is a great way to give an item an elongated life span by using it more than once. This means that none of the components of the product are wasted and can be used again for the same purpose.

Tips on Reusing

  • Using a reusable grocery bag instead of a getting a new plastic bag at the store
  • Using reusable utensils and water bottles
  • Reusing plastic or glass jars as storage containers (e.g. glass honey jars to store flour or sugar)
  • Repair items like clothes, shoes, tires, electronics or appliances instead of throwing and replacing them
  • Donate unwanted items to charity organizations like Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity and help those in need


Repurposing and upcycling are often used interchangeably but they are actually slightly different. Repurposing is using one product to serve a different purpose and creating a new use for an old product. Examples include making plant pots out of egg cartons or making tea lights out of bottle caps.

Tips on Repurposing

  • Look for inspo on creative ways to repurpose items: blogs
  • Repurposing can be a fun arts-and-craft activity to do with children
  • Works really well during holidays like Halloween and Christmas, where you can make decorations and costumes from old and used items at home


Upcycling on the other hand is enhancing or upgrading a product to better serve the same purpose through the addition of paint, ad-ons, decorations etc. An example is painting over your old table to transform it into a new pretty one.

Tips on Upcycling

  • Look for inspo on creative ways to repurpose items: blogs, YouTube
  • Utilize items at home that might be outdated such as old clothes to use as rags and towels for your project


Recycle comes last in the waste hierarchy and should also be the last option you choose if you exhaust all the other choices from reduce, reuse and repurpose/upcycle. This is because it is still creating materials and using up energy during the recycling process. Recycling aims to close the loop on resource consumption and preserve them for continued use by turning them into new products. For example, milk jugs and other plastic containers can be made into new bottles and containers, or even furniture and playground equipment. Paper can be recycled into toilet paper and tissues, and thin cardboard boxes and cartons.

Tips on Recycling

  • Only put items accepted by your waste hauler in your blue recycling bin
  • Make sure your recyclables are generally clean and dry
  • Putting contaminated items into the blue bin can contaminate the entire recycling load and deem it unusable
  • Never bag recyclables in plastic bag
  • Mixed material items such as chip bags cannot be recycled because there is no process to separate the items
  • Keep electronics and hazardous waste items out of your blue bin
  • Visit WasteFreeSD.org to find out where you can recycle other items like electronics and batteries

A Practical Path to Sustainable Parenting

Making trash is an inevitable part of raising kids, right? It doesn’t have to be! Register today for I Love A Clean San Diego’s upcoming free webinar, A Practical Path to Sustainable Parenting, on Tuesday, March 16th, from 8-9 p.m. From infants to teens, we’ll share how to integrate low-waste habits into daily routines in achievable ways, including toys, snacks, birthday parties, and school supplies, and how to effectively teach your children about environmental issues. Please register to receive the Zoom link. Thank you to the City of San Diego for sponsoring this event.

Celebrate Sustainably: Gifts and Glitz Webinar

Celebrate Sustainably: Gifts & Glitz Webinar

Learn how to cultivate your very own waste-free winter wonderland this season at home! Join I Love A Clean San Diego on Saturday, December 12th from 10:00-11:00 am for our free Celebrate Sustainably: Gifts and Glitz webinar. We will discuss how to maintain a low-waste lifestyle while navigating the gift giving, wrapping, and décor of the holiday season. Participate in a live furoshiki demonstration (wrapping in fabric), learn how to properly dispose of your Christmas tree, and leave with low- or no-waste gift ideas to waste less throughout this season and beyond! Please register to receive the Zoom link. Thank you to the Unincorporated County of San Diego for sponsoring this event. Can’t wait to see you there!

Save Your Scraps Webinar

Save Your Scraps Webinar

Join I Love A Clean San Diego and the City of Poway from 10:00 AM – 11 AM on Saturday, October 3rd for a webinar on food waste and organics recycling! Come hungry to learn about reducing food waste in the kitchen, from smart shopping and proper storage to repurposing food scraps. Hear about new legislation surrounding organics recycling and how it will affect you and your household. Learn why it is so important to keep organic waste from reaching the landfill, and leave with the tools you need to stop wasting food (and money)! Register with your email address to receive the webinar link!

Register Here to receive the webinar link!

Green Routines Webinar

Green Cleaning Routines

Green Routines Webinar

Have you ever wondered how you could have healthier and less wasteful household and cleaning routines? Join I Love A Clean San Diego and the City of Carlsbad Sustainable Materials Management Division on Saturday, September 12th from 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM for our Green Routines webinar.

Come hungry to learn about smart shopping, proper storage of food, repurposing food scraps and some of our favorite recipes for ‘green’ cleaners! Learn why it is vital to divert waste, especially organics, from our landfills, and leave with tools to help you stop wasting food (and money)!

This webinar is available for City of Carlsbad residents only.

Register Here to receive the webinar link!