There are so many wonderful experiences at Christmas, but the accumulation of trash and waste is not one of them.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned last week, these holidays are the trashiest times of the year in America, generating more than a million extra tons of waste each week between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Last week, I shared some ideas for reducing waste while shopping and gift wrapping. So, today let’s focus on the decorating and “organic” side of life during the holidays!
OK, I am a born-and-bred Southern woman. I understand that we come out of the womb wanting — no, the word really is “needing” — to prepare an overabundance of food at meals and especially holidays. We just “don’t want to run out” and, of course, in our Southern culture as in many other cultures, food is love. We demonstrate our love for people by feeding them. I think we now realize in our obese world that overfeeding people is not really love. So, I am conflicted. I want to cook and feed, but I want to learn to not overdo it.
• The first suggestion for trimming holiday waste is to prepare a reasonable amount of food. Do not try to prepare enough for an army. This probably is the hardest suggestion of all, but even an old Southern dog like me can learn new tricks.
• Another major waste-reducer is to use “real” plates, cups, even napkins for your meals. I know we are all part of the “use once and throw away” generation, but give it a rest, at least for the holidays. Real china, glass and crystal are beautiful for a holiday setting. Cleaning up during the cooking process makes it less of an ordeal at the end.
• When decorating, get items you really love and use them every year. We don’t have to create new color schemes and décor every year. Please remember to recycle your live Christmas tree at the “Bring One for the Chipper” locations between Dec. 26 and Jan. 11. If you have a reusable tree, take care when packing it up so that you can use it for many, many years.
• I already have determined my main New Year’s resolution for 2014 — I am going to start composting food matter. My gift to the environment this Christmas will be that I am going to start by “composting for Christmas.” That sounds like it could be the title of a country Christmas carol to me. If you choose to do this, start small and work your way up, like I am doing. I am giving myself a little kitchen bin to collect my compostables and a junior-sized compost bin to use. Yes, I do give myself Christmas presents each year. I can make sure that I get what I want if I do that.
Our waste is made up of about 30 percent organic matter such as food scraps and other compostable materials, like yard trimmings, according to howtocompost.com. We have recycled and composted yard waste for years, but just imagine taking that next step and composting food waste, too. When that organic material decomposes in the landfill, it creates methane gas, a powerful greenhouse gas. Imagine if we could keep all that organic material out of our landfill. Better than imagining, give it a try.
Take the composting for Christmas challenge with me. Separate out your compostable food scraps for the holiday week just to see the difference — everything from that moldy pumpkin to your daily banana peel, plus the trimmings from your yard. One thing you’ll notice right away is your trash bin will be less full and heavy. There are directions on our website, www.keeplibertybeautiful.org, as well as a host of information online to get started. Start a compost bin now and by springtime, you’ll have some fertile compost to add to your plants and garden.
Here are some last-minute reminders: recycle all that you can, save items that you can reuse next year, and tightly tie off garbage bags. If you are taking them to a solid-waste convenience center or putting them out for pick-up, please secure your load so that you do not give the environment an unwanted gift of more litter on our roads.
With just a little bit of effort we can all have a joyous — and waste- and litter-free — Christmas!