Tips to Reduce Holiday Waste

So it seems that Santa was pretty good to you this year. You gathered the family together and harvested your own Christmas tree at one of those big commercial tree farms. You decorated it with lots of tinsel and confetti. You had lots of friends and family over for Christmas dinner and the kids had all of the presents that they wanted under the tree on Christmas morning. Now that all of the excitement has died down, you have a tree that’s drying out and becoming a fire hazard and enough trash to fill all of the recycling bins in the neighborhood all by yourself for the next month. What do you do?

Among the tons of gift wrap, ribbons, and packaging we throw away every year during the holidays, almost none of it is recyclable. Take Christmas gift wrap for example, it has come a long way from the days of plain brown paper and string, but while today’s foil and plastic-based wrap make gifts look good, it poses a huge problem for the land fills. The average household generates between 30 and 60 pounds of trash a week. During and after the holidays that amount can increase by more than ten pounds a week. It is estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s there are an extra million tons of waste generated in the United States per week! People throw away some 38,000 miles of ribbon alone. That’s enough to tie a great big ribbon all the way around the center of the Earth. There are some things that you can do to make the holidays a little more eco-friendly this season:

Take that Christmas tree to one of your local parks to be ground into mulch. A lot of local parks departments have these programs. Call to find out where they are in your area. Next year you might even consider getting a balled tree that you can plant afterwards. You might even consider an artificial tree that you can use year after year. As far as decorating the tree, try to use glass ornaments and lights that can be used over the next year instead of foil and garland that gets tossed into the trash. Stringing the tree with colored popcorn is a fun and eco-friendly family activity.

One way you can save is to not use wrapping paper altogether. Instead wrap your gifts in reusable things like towels and T-shirts. Use packaging that has already been used, like that from a flower bouquet, or newspaper. Try to secure your gifts with reusable ribbon or string instead of sticky tape. The sticky tape makes it even harder to recycle the packaging materials. One gift shop owner has a novel idea: she takes the mounds of Christmas cards that she receives each year and makes little gift boxes out of them! You can even eliminate the cards altogether by sending an E-Card. Consider giving gift certificates or a homemade gift. Tickets to sporting events or concerts make good low impact on the environment gifts. And lastly, consider recycling old electronics. Motorola has a program where schools can collect old mobile phones and the company will pay them three dollars each. See if there is such a program in your community. With a little forethought and practical planning, you too can have a GREEN Christmas.

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