Increasing sustainable food consumption during the holidays


Lindsay Taylor '24

Holiday gatherings are often a source of excessive food waste.

As the Christmas season approaches, people across the world prepare for big dinner gatherings with family and friends.  While the COVID-19 pandemic might reduce the number of large winter gatherings this year, many families still plan to celebrate the holidays.  Although they are special and sentimental for many, these events lead to an increased amount of food waste during the holiday season.  

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that household waste increases by approximately 25 percent over the holiday season, according to  Around 70 billion pounds of food enter landfills each year, and such an increase in waste production has a significant impact on the total amount of food waste produced, according to  

Senior Annie O’Connor is one of the heads of the Sacred Heart for Sustainability Club.  She believes that food waste is a critical issue that often goes unnoticed during holidays.  Annie commented on why she believes food waste accumulates more over the Christmas season.  

A truck at a composting facility disposes of food waste. Courtesy of Mr. Rich Pedroncelli

“I think food waste increases during the holidays because a lot of people buy in bulk quantities,” Annie said.  “When they prepare the food, they overestimate how much of it they are going to consume, and therefore they waste the excess food.” 

Annie also highlighted how overestimating the amount of food consumed can lead to unsustainable disposal of waste.  

“When large groups of people gather, food is wasted easily, especially perishable ingredients,” Annie said.  “When [perishable ingredients] are prepared, the people preparing the meal overestimate how many people are going to eat them, and then they do not dispose of the food in a sustainable way.”

Food waste is common among most households with the average family losing $1500 to food waste each year, according to  However, despite the normalcy of excessive food waste in households across the globe, food waste is incredibly harmful to the environment.  It additionally disposes of food that may be preserved and distributed to those in low-income communities facing food insecurity.

Senior Kaitlyn Langer is one of the heads of the Hunger Awareness Club.  She organized a holiday baked goods drive that delivers fresh-baked food to food-insecure persons.  Kaitlyn remarked on the impact of food donations on these communities.

“It is important to donate food to those who are food insecure because they do not know where their next meal is coming from,” Kaitlyn said.  “It is essential that we supply them with nutritious meals that benefit their health, rather than food from gas stations or fast-food restaurants.  Those who are food insecure have very disrupted eating patterns due to a lack of money in a household and other resources, so it is extremely important that we do everything we can to help.”

People throw out 30-40 percent of the food produced each year, according to  Most of this food waste ends up in municipal landfills where it emits the third-largest source of manmade methane emissions, according to  Although much of this wasted food could feed people who do not already have enough food to eat, only a small fraction of wasted food feeds impoverished people.  Feeding America, a large charity that runs a network of food banks, was only able to donate 3.6 billion pounds of food in 2019, accounting for a small portion of the total amount of food wasted, according to

Annie acknowledges that food waste is a serious and complicated issue but still believes that people can reduce the amount of food wasted annually and work towards a more sustainable future.

Leftover food piles up at the Waste Management facility in Brooklyn.  Courtesy of Associated Press Photo (AP)

“When people buy perishable foods, instead of just throwing them out, they should seek to compost those foods, donate them to a perishable food pantry, or find other ways to dispose of that food,” Annie said.  “Making your life more sustainable is not about doing grand acts such as never driving your car.  It is more about the little things.  Sustainability is a very long process.  It is not immediate and it takes a lot of investment and time to make sure that sustainability is achieved for our world.”

Additionally, Annie urges families to manage their waste consumption and think about sustainability during the holiday season.

“I would just like to encourage everybody over the holiday season to just be aware of how much of an impact not only food waste is having on our environment, but also waste from certain presents and gift wrapping waste,” Annie said.  “Just be conscious of your eco-footprint.  Do not worry about it too much, but if it is just in the back of your mind, I think that we can all make a difference this holiday season to try to be more sustainable.”

Featured Image by Lindsay Taylor ’24