A Greener Holiday Season

‘Tis the holiday season.  A time for family and friends, gifts and celebrations, and trash.  We create more waste during the holiday season than we any other time of the year.  But just because we’ve created it all, doesn’t mean we have to throw it all away.  Make it the season of recycling because most common holiday staples can be recycled.

Did you know…?
— We throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than any other time of year.  This amounts to 25 million tons of extra trash.
— If every family in the United States reused 2 feet of ribbon, you could tie a bow around the Earth with 38,000 miles of ribbon saved.
— The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.

Cutting back on the amount of waste we generate every season is actually very easy and doesn’t require large life-style changes.  Awareness is the biggest factor and finding what works in your life.

Here are some ideas that can help during the holidays and can be continued all year long:

Use reusable shopping bags. This will help reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in the trash and minimize the amount of petroleum used to make them. If you receive plastic bags, recycle the clean ones at your local grocery store.

Send holiday e-cards. E-cards can be enhanced with sound and animation and they create no physical waste.
If you do send holiday cards, look for recycled-content cards and envelopes. Or, even better, make your own cards or gift tags out of last year’s cards and the wrapping paper you saved.

Green up your wrapping paper. If you use traditional gift wrapping, try to avoid wrapping gifts in materials that are not recyclable or reusable, such as foil or metallic papers. Buy recycled-content wrapping paper and if your store doesn’t sell recycled-content wrapping paper, try asking the manager to order it in the future.  Reusing saved wrapping paper is an option, also.

Shipping a gift? Reuse foam peanuts from another package or use (unbuttered) popcorn for packing. Return unwanted Styrofoam packing peanuts to your local UPS Store. Please call before dropping them off.
Rechargeable batteries and a battery charger are a great way to cut down on the consumption of batteries.

Recycle your tree and wreath.

Broke it? Craft it! There are also lots of fun ways that you can recycle holiday waste by turning it into crafts.  Broken ornament pieces can be saved from going to the landfill by being turning into a mosaic candle holder, garden stepping stone, or another custom made ornament.  Holiday cards can have many different new lives.  They can easily become new cards by cutting the front off and gluing it to a plain piece of card stock or can be cut down and turned into gift cards.

Make some art. If you are fond of certain images on some old cards, cut them out and glue them to a complimentary color of paper.  Laminate them, punch a small hole for hanging, and run some old ribbon through.  Use these as bookmarks, ornaments, or decorate packages with them.  Throw the card remnants in the paper recycling or shred it to be used in paper-making or as confetti.

The holiday season can be stressful, but cutting down on the amount of waste you create doesn’t have to be.  These changes are so simple that you may find yourself continuing them throughout the new year.