Campus News

Celebrate sustainably this holiday season

Consider using brown craft paper or newspaper comic strips, which can be recycled, when wrapping presents.
Consider using brown craft paper or newspaper comic strips, which can be recycled, when wrapping presents.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 5, 2023) — Looking for easy ways to reduce your waste this holiday season? University of Kentucky Recycling offers easy ideas to celebrate while being zero-waste this holiday season.

  • Reconsider cards. Greeting cards are popular because they’re so easy to throw into a gift, but since most people don’t keep the cards they receive, a ton of waste is created during this season (and all other holidays). Reduce your waste and save money this holiday season by sending electronic cards or a small, handwritten note.
  • Give experiential gifts rather than material ones. Sometimes the perfect thing to get someone isn’t a “thing” at all. Giving concert tickets, day passes to a local museum or gift cards to their favorite restaurant are all wonderful ways to give thoughtful gifts that don’t end up in the landfill.
  • Honor someone with a donation. Donating to a local charity in someone’s honor is a great way to practice “reduce” during the holidays. You can also donate your nonperishable food items and good condition household items as a gift. Items stay out of the landfill and you are helping the community at the same time. 
  • Gift your time. Forgo giving gifts and gift your time by volunteering to help a friend or a local nonprofit.
  • Give reusable gifts. Today, there are more sustainable and low-waste gift options than ever before. This holiday season, buy your friends quality items that will withstand reusing long term.
  • Buy secondhand. Utilize thrift stores this season. They are great places to find unique gifts at an affordable price. Or, pay it forward this holiday season by donating items you no longer need that could make a great gift for others. Buying secondhand gives a new home to items that may have ended up in a landfill otherwise — while also supporting local businesses or charities. A full list of resale places in Lexington can be found here.
  • Give everyday items a new life. Turn a teacup into a candle or mini planter or make a soda can into a unique ornament. With a little creativity, items can be reused and given new life with a personal touch for your friends and family to enjoy.
  • Choose wrapping paper alternatives. When giving gifts this year, consider leaving out the wrapping paper. Most wrapping paper gets disposed of after just one use. Instead of wrapping paper, use brown paper, fabric, maps, calendars, newspaper or any other material you already have sitting around (or, reuse old gift bags). This is a great way to not only reduce your waste but also make your gifts stand out.
  • Repurpose real trees or donate unwanted fakes ones. Many Christmas trees can be repurposed. If you have a real Christmas tree, instead of just throwing it out at the end of the season, look into local collection programs that can turn old trees into mulch or wood chips, use them for wildlife restoration, or even to feed goats! If you have a plastic tree that you no longer need, donate it to a local thrift store or shelter so it can find a new home.
  • Decorate sustainably. Decorating for the holidays is arguably one of the best parts of the season. However, a lot of holiday decorations are made of plastic, only relevant for one month out of the year and may break after only a few uses. This year, try using natural decorations like seasonal fruits or plants, popcorn garland or making upcycled crafts.
  • Recycle boxes. Cardboard is one of the most universally recyclable products, so when you order gifts online this year, make sure to recycle the boxes they’re shipped in (if you decide not to repurpose the box as a gift box). Same goes for gifts you receive from others — if they’re in a cardboard box you can’t use again, make sure to recycle it. Greeting cards and paper bags can be recycled on campus, too.
  • Continue to recycle during the holidays. Find out what is recyclable in your area and participate in the program. Recycle all your cardboard, aluminum cans, plastic bottles and jugs and pizza boxes.

For information about what is recyclable at UK visit

For any other information about UK recycling, visit or contact

For information about what is recyclable off campus, please contact your local solid waste coordinator or local government officer.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.