I do love Christmas! I love the gift-giving, holiday parties, Christmas carols and, yes, even the shopping — crowded as it may be! People usually are nicer and friendlier during the holidays.
It is truly a wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, it also is one of the most wasteful times of the year. Think about it: heavily packaged gifts insulated in that thick molded plastic, wrapping paper, ribbons and bows, holiday cards, envelopes, food, food and more food. Garbage really can add up. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates an extra million tons of waste are generated each week between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. And the Clean Air Council estimates that 4 million tons of this is wrapping paper and shopping bags.
And then think about all the food and leftovers accumulated from holiday meals. According to recycleworks.org, at least 28 billion pounds of edible food are wasted each year during these few weeks. Use-less-stuff.com says that if we all put one less cookie on Santa’s plate, we could reduce his snacking by 2 million pounds. He would be a much trimmer, healthier elf.
So how can we reduce our “wasteline” this year? Here are some tips, with some help from websites such as epa.gov and use-less-stuff.com and from previous columns:
• Plan your shopping trips. To reduce the amount of time and hassle spent shopping as well as the amount of gasoline wasted driving all over the place, plan out what supplies and gifts you need to buy.
• Use reusable shopping bags. Using reusable shopping bags reduces the number of those plastic bags that we accumulate.
• Let your fingers do the shopping. Consider shopping by phone or Internet. Even local retail stores are beginning to develop web presences, too.
• Purchase products with the least amount of packaging. We live in an age where products have safety seals to prevent tampering and alarms to prevent shoplifting. That often translates into excessive molded-plastic packaging that ends up in the garbage can and can last thousands of years in a landfill. You still can look for items with less packaging or even consider buying items that you use frequently in bulk. Buying in bulk will decrease waste and your total cost, too.
• Buy rechargeable batteries for all those electronic gizmos you are giving and using this year. Yes, I know the upfront cost for rechargeable batteries is steeper, but most of these batteries can be recharged a thousand times.
• Consider giving gifts of your time and talents. You might surprise yourself with the crafty things you can make or bake. By using recycled or reusable wrappings, you also can reduce an incredible amount of waste. You can make your own by decorations with brown paper or newspaper and even your own gift bags. I also am seeing reusable gift bags for sale, too. Send recycled-content greeting cards, or consider making new cards from scrap paper or by attaching new backs to the fronts of old cards. Or consider sending electronic greetings from a website like Green Mountain. Even the most technologically challenged person can use this site.
• Consider buying gift cards or even making donations in honor of someone on your gift list. Gift cards are a safe way to make sure that your giftees love their presents. It also means that you can reduce the waste of unloved gifts. A trip also is a great gift for that special someone. Making a donation to a favorite charity in someone’s honor is another great package-free gift idea.
• Choose eco-friendly gifts. It is easier than ever to find great gifts that are easy on the Earth, too. From Walmart to companies like Ten Thousand Villages and Poo Poo Paper, gift possibilities made of recycled products or organic or renewable resources are just waiting for you to choose them. Many articles of clothing are made from recycled materials.
• Reduce water usage. Preparing for and cleaning up after holiday meals and parties can require much more water than ordinary, everyday use. Running your tap continuously while preparing food or washing dishes wastes water. Remember to scrape dirty dishes clean instead of using water to rinse them before you put them in the dishwasher. Also, if you don’t use a dishwasher, fill the sink with a few gallons of soapy wash water, clean your dishes and put them aside. Then rinse them all together afterward.
Lighten up this holiday season and you can lose lots of pounds — of waste, that is! Have a merry, waste-free shopping time this holiday!
Upcoming Keep Liberty Beautiful events
Win-dex Award — Nominations for attractive businesses are accepted through Dec. 31. For more information, call 880-4888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bring One for the Chipper — Plan now to recycle your cut Christmas tree between Dec. 26-Jan. 12.