By: Mary Pat Baldauf
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day Americans throw away 25% more trash than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week. So, to help trim the trash while trimming the tree, here is a checklist of simple things you can do to reduce waste while you eat, drink and make merry this holiday season.
Plan Your Parties
From Thanksgiving through New Year’s we like nothing more than to eat, drink and be merry, so we need successful strategies to cut down on the waste we create from our amplified entertaining.
- Turn down the heat before the guests arrive. You’ll save energy while the extra body heat of your guests will warm up the room.
- Walk to neighborhood parties, or carpool with friends if it’s too far to walk.
- After the party, don’t throw away the leftovers! Put them in plastic containers or bags and send them home with guests, or donate to food banks.
Bring Your Own Bag
- During the nation’s busiest shopping season, bring your own shopping bags. Paper, plastic and cloth are all good; the latter two can be folded easily into purses and pockets until used.
- Consolidate your purchases into one bag rather than getting a new bag at each store on your shopping rounds.
- Instead of using wrapping paper, place your gifts in reusable bags. Your present will be two gifts in one: the actual gift and the bag, which the recipient can reuse.
Fuss-Free Gift Giving
- Plan your shopping in advance. Consolidating your shopping trips saves fuel (and aggravation), and you’ll avoid that last minute frenzy when you won’t have time to make careful gift choices.
- Rather than piling up “stuff” under the tree, think about what friends and family really want or need. Try giving gift certificates if you don’t know what someone wants, or simply make a donation in his or her name to a favorite charity.
- Give gifts that encourage others to use less stuff, like a book about making crafts from reusable items, a cookbook for leftovers or reusable tote bags.
- Or simply set a good example by giving homemade food or something you’ve made yourself from reused items.
- For kids, start a savings account or give stocks or bonds. It’s fun to watch money grow and it teaches children the value of financial conservation.
- Shop for gifts at antique stores, estate sales or flea markets, since one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
- Donate unwanted gifts, along with last year’s gifts that the kids have outgrown, to charity.
- When buying electronic toys and other portable items that are used regularly, remember to buy rechargeable batteries to go with them.
- Instead of wrapping gifts for the kids, hide the presents, plant clues to where they’re hidden and turn the kids’ search into a treasure hunt.
- Get the kids to make their own tree ornaments out of things you already have around the house or from materials they might find in the backyard: twigs, bark, flowers and herbs, pine cones, etc.
- Old clothes and jewelry make a great dress-up box for kids.
- Tools and gadgets make a great idea box for a young inventor.
This season our mailboxes burst with membership offerings and fundraising appeals, presents, gift catalogues and cards. What to do …
- Send e-greetings to family, friends and business associates who are online.
- Did you know…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.
- Save yourself time, money and hard feelings between friends – and reduce mail volume – by updating and paring down your holiday mailing list.
- Be creative. Instead of buying placemats or table decorations, make your own. Cut old cards into shapes and press between two pieces of clear contact paper.
Shop Right…And Ship Light
- When buying gifts you will send by mail, pick items that are easy to ship and won’t require excess packaging.
- Reuse packing cartons and shipping materials such as peanuts, wood shavings, shredded newspaper and bubble wrap.
- Drop off extra packing peanuts at local private mailing centers.
Wrap It Up
- Or better yet, think of gifts that don’t have to be wrapped at all: tickets to concerts, museums, or sporting events, gift certificates, house plants, or even gifts of your own time.
- When giving oversized gifts like bicycles or CD racks, instead of wrapping them in paper, just tie a bow around them.
- Wrap gifts in old maps, newspapers, Sunday comics or fancy holiday gift bags. Kids’ art work is a perfect wrapping for presents to proud grandparents.
- Use brown paper grocery bags to wrap small-to-medium size boxes that have to be mailed.
- Make the wrap a part of the gift: Putting cookies in a flower pot or hiding jewelry in a new pair of gloves will keep your gift under wraps and the “wrapping” out of the trash.
Which of these changes can you commit to making this holiday season? Can you think of other ways to reduce your waste this holiday season?