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Americans generate an average of 25 percent more waste, or 1 million extra tons per week, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the trash almost doubling right after the holidays. Isn’t it possible to celebrate without leaving a trail of trash that will stay in the landfills long after the season has passed?
Picture the bags of garbage you put on the curb last year and visualize what was inside. Then identify areas where you can prevent waste before it starts.
Holiday Waste Audit
What are all the waste-generating activities?
- Food waste (serving too much at parties)
- Energy waste (incandescent lights)
- Tree and other decorations
- Paper waste (cards, wrapping paper, and boxes)
- Plastic waste (drink containers, packaging)
Now consider durable items that turned out to be anything but—the new stuff that ended up in the trash or forgotten in a closet over the year. What broke, wore out prematurely, or was never really used?
- Kids toys
If you receive gifts that you will never use consider re-gifting them, or donating to your favorite appropriate charity. Communicate your gift-giving preferences ahead of time to your family to avoid ending up with gifts that end up in the waste stream or need to be re-gifted. According to a national survey, more than 3 in 4 Americans wish that the holidays were less materialistic. Nearly 9 in 10 believe that holidays should be more about family and caring for others, not giving and receiving gifts [New Dream]. Yet the average U.S. consumer plans to spend more this year—$805.65—on holiday shopping. Think about these facts and decide what type of gifts you want to give and receive this year.
Recycle your old holiday lights. The annual recycle holiday light drive sponsored by Eastridge Elementary School in Lincoln is being held again this year. To find all recycling locations, visit the Eastridge website at: http://wp.lps.org/eastridge/pto/.
Low-Waste Gift Wrapping
Tearing open a gift always brings a thrill, but wrapping with virgin paper and plastic ribbons spends a lot of resources on those few seconds’ thrill. Consider that 38,000 miles of ribbon alone is thrown out annually—enough to tie a bow around the Earth. Don’t send any wrapping materials to the landfill this year. Consider the following alternatives to store-bought gift wrap:
- Wrap with comics or paper bags decorated with markers, potato stamps, or drawings
- Use maps, fabric pieces, thrift store cloth, old calendars, or other repurposed materials
- Reuse gift boxes from last year or repurpose other boxes around the house (cereal, etc.)
- Give the gift of reusable gift bags: sew simple bags that can prevent waste year after year
- Decorate with old ribbons, ties, scarves, beads, and paper snowflakes
- Skip the wrapping altogether and opt for a scavenger hunt with clues
Source: Center for a New American Dream (www.newdream.org)
LEANNE MANNING, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD
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