You CAN reduce your trash this holiday season - NMRC Offers Simple Solutions to Help
An estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold each year in the United States, enough to fill a football field 10 stories high. If every family reduced their mailing list by just one card, the nation would save 50,000 cubic yards of paper (California Dept of Resources Recycling & Recovery). Electronic holiday greeting cards, offered through a variety of websites, are a convenient, no-cost, waste-free alternative. Electronic greeting cards aren’t the only way to reduce your holiday waste this season.
With this simple list, it’s easy to get the entire family involved, have fun and decrease the burden on your wallet as well.
- Regifting – The holidays are a difficult time for folks to dish out extra cash, yet year after year we purchase piles of new gifts for family and friends. Did you know that, National Regifting day is December 18th? Why not pass on something you have loved to someone that you love! While it is not recommended that you regift your dad an old pair of grass-stained socks, wouldn’t you consider an antique (and working) watch from a resale shop? How about giving Mom a book that you really enjoyed, and thought she might also find interesting? Or why not give your niece that expensive toy you splurged on, but your kids quickly lost interest in?
- Compost or mulch your tree - Approximately 33 million live Christmas trees are sold in North America every year (EPA). After the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of sending it to a landfill. Check with your community solid waste department and find out if they collect and mulch trees. Municipalities and the public might be able to use chippings from mulched trees for landscaping.
- Electronic Greeting Cards - Send e-greetings instead of paper cards
- Get creative with gift wrap - Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper, paper bags, newspapers, funny papers, old calendars, magazines, mesh bags from produce, etc. Also remember to save or recycle used wrapping paper. Give gifts that don't require much packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates.
- Go Easy on Gifts - Draw names for family giving so everyone just gives one person a gift instead of buying for everyone. Nearly every family who switches to this method loves it! Pick a friend who you know will be receptive, and agree not to exchange gifts. Go out for dinner or drinks or a night at the movies instead. When a friend or family member says they “don’t want any more stuff,” take them seriously. If your spouse or partner agrees (very important!), give each other practical gifts you would have bought anyway, such as tools, kitchen stuff or a laptop computer. “Experience gifts” cut waste. If you can find businesses and organizations that offer gift certificates or tickets at a discount – for restaurant meals, massages, plays, concerts, sports events and more – you can also save money.
- Have a create-your-own-decorations party! - Invite family and friends to create and use holiday decorations such as ornaments made from old greeting cards or cookie dough, garlands made from strung popcorn or cranberries, wreaths made from treasures from nature and flowers, and potpourri made from kitchen spices such as cinnamon and cloves. Cut up cards to be used as gift tags, bookmarks, greeting cards or place mats.
- Avoid foil and plastic-embossed paper because it uses more resources in its manufacturing process.
- Rechargeable batteries - About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.
- Buy Local for your Holiday Feast - Locally produced foods, including fresh vegetables, have lower transportation impacts and often are grown using sustainable practices.
- Shop smart - Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money. Bake cookies or other goodies and package them in reusable and/or recyclable containers as gifts. Home-made goodies show how much you care and help you avoid packaging waste.
- Use Reusable Bags - Headed out for some holiday shopping? Take along reusable shopping bags and you’ll help reduce the number of single-use, disposable bags distributed by retailers.
- Volunteering: Giving the Gift of Yourself - From reading a book to serving food, to simply listening to someone’s story, our sheer presence, just for a couple of hours, can make someone else’s day – and life. Be moved to volunteer this winter for your favorite good cause.
- Buy Foods in Bulk & Compost the Leftovers - Consider buying food and holiday snacks in bulk to reduce packaging waste. Be sure to compost the leftovers—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates nearly 95 billion pounds of edible food, or 27 percent of the U.S. food supply, end up being wasted each year. Also plan meals according to the number of guests - at least 28 billion pounds of edible food is wasted each year – more than 100 pounds per person. One of the best ways to reduce your waste over the holidays is to plan ahead for the meal and practicing portion control.
- Make Room for New Gadgets & Toys - Outgrown toys, clothes and furniture may be donated to charitable groups like Goodwill Industries, The Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters or other local thrift stores. Many local charities operate thrift stores and are always looking for donated items.
- Recycle Old and Defective Holiday Lights - Recycle old and broken holiday light strings at participating ACE Hardware stores or check with your local solid waste authority. The ACE Hardware program recycles the old lights and donates proceeds to families of children with cancer to help offset their expenses. In three years, donations to the program have grown from three tons of lights to more than 23 tons.
- Switch to LED lights - Newer LED Christmas lights use just 10 percent of the energy of older incandescent bulbs, and because they run cooler they're also a bit safer. LED lights can be used both indoors and out. If candlelight is more your design look, opt for soy or beeswax candles, which, though a bit more expensive, don't contain the petroleum-based paraffin found in conventional candles -- and make sure all candles have wicks that don't contain lead.
- Lay the Foundation for a “Green” Holiday Meal - Use a cloth tablecloth or a washable plastic tablecloth instead of purchasing single-use paper tablecloths for your holiday meal tables. Recycle cotton or cotton-blend fabric remnants into napkins. If you host a party, set the table with cloth napkins and reusable dishes, glasses, and silverware. Consider using more formal tableware. Also save and reuse party hats, decorations, and favors. After holiday festivities, put leftovers in recyclable containers, and share them with family, friends, or others. If you’re expecting a big crowd, organize it like a potluck and ask your guests to bring dishes and silverware for themselves.
- Get Off the Mailing List - Overwhelmed with holiday catalogs received in the mail? Request to have your name/address removed from mailing lists by contacting the Direct Marketing Association. A token $1 fee removes your name/address for up to three years.
- Reuse Packing Peanuts - Check with local postal shipping stores to see if they will accept foam peanuts for reuse. Call “The Peanut Hotline” at 800-828-2214 to find the nearest location, or check the Plastic Loose Fill Council website for a drop-off location near your home.
- Buy Recycled - When buying gifts, check product labels to determine an item's recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials. Buying recycled encourages manufacturers to make more recycled-content products available.
- Save Energy - Recycling saves as much as 90% of the energy required to produce items from raw materials (Can Manufacturing Institute). You can also save energy by turning off the TV and going outside to play with your friends and family during the holidays. Do something fun! Instead of firmly planting yourself in front of the TV for the day, consider getting some fresh air or playing a board game. Take advantage of the time together with friends and family while decreasing your energy usage.
- Recycling Isn't a Chore: Make it Easy - Last, but not least, recycle your household items and make it easy for guests to recycle if you host a party. Encourage your guests to pitch in and clearly mark recycling bins. Recycling will significantly reduce the number of times you have to take the trash out, as well as the amount of garbage you send to the landfill. Remember recycling isn’t just good for the environment. In November of this year The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc, (ISRI) released a study that found that the people and firms that purchase, process and broker old materials to be manufactured into new products in America provide 459,140 adults with good jobs in the United States and generates $90.1 billion in economic activity. Also when you're not enjoying a fire in your fireplace, close the flue and block the hearth to prevent heat loss.
- Just Say No - do less this year. Even if all you do is skip one Christmas or holiday party, or buy one less present, or take one less trip, let that be your gift to yourself. Corporations, advertisers and the general public will do everything in their power to make you feel obligated to run yourself, your family and your credit cards into the ground. It's a slippery slope, and before you know it, you're driving all over town, losing sleep, going broke, running yourself ragged and having a lousy time. This year, however, take a deep breath and escape the insanity by having a calm, quiet, enjoyable holiday.
Thank you to Earth911.org, EPA and California Dept of Resources Recycling & Recovery for information on reducing waste during the holidays.