Happy trash-making season! That doesn’t sound as wonderful as “happy holidays” or “merry Christmas,” does it?
Unfortunately, we make more trash during the holidays than at any other time of year. We generate 25 percent more trash waste than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That’s a lot of trash.
I know that when you are Christmas shopping, you are not thinking, “I wonder how much garbage I can purchase.” But depending on the products and gifts you buy, that is at least partly what you are doing. Buying items that are overpackaged, disposable or even of poor quality means your cash ends up in the trash, and your trash is overflowing.
Have you considered all the food and leftovers accumulated from holiday meals? At least 28 billion pounds of food are wasted each year during the holidays. If we all put just one less cookie on Santa’s plate, we could reduce his snacking by 2 million pounds.
It is easy to see how we Americans accumulate an additional 1 million tons of garbage each week during the holiday season.
So what can we do to put a more green in our holidays? “Going holiday green” is not new. Many of us grew up decorating in this manner. We just did not know how “trendy” we were.
Here are some tips for making your own “green” Christmas.
Buy a potted live tree for Christmas and plant it in your yard after the holidays.
If you get a traditional cut tree, remember to mulch or compost your it after Christmas. Bring One for the Chipper is our Christmas tree recycling event. Drop off your tree for mulch between Dec. 26 and Jan. 9 at designated locations. We will give you free tree seedlings and free seeds to plant.
Choose a reusable tree (artificial), if you must, but if you do, please buy one with LED lights to save energy and plan to use your tree for years.
Use recycled items as decorations. The city of Newnan just showcased a bottle decorated tree in one of its parks. The bottles shimmer in the LED lights.
Use homemade ornaments, like the ones your kids have made or create origami decorations together. My niece is making me origami birds.
Show your kids or grandkids how to make paper chains or popcorn and cranberry chains to decorate your tree or mantle.
You could also make cinnamon and dough ornaments as a family activity.
Consider using natural materials as ornaments for your tree or for decorations. Greenery, berries, twigs, pine cones and sea shells can make attractive decorations. Grab the kids and see what you can find in your yard. Do you have a gum ball tree? Remember making tabletop trees out of sweet gum balls as a kid? We made them every year when I was young.
Remember to put timers on indoor and outdoor lights to save energy — the electric kind and your own as well. As your current lights wear out, buy LED Christmas lights that require less energy and will save you money on electricity. Using LED lights in all of your decorations is a really energy efficient.
As far as meals go, plan the amount of food for the number of people attending. If you have to make enough food for a kingdom, instead of throwing food out, make arrangements ahead of time with a local program, like the domestic-violence shelter or Manna House, who have people who need the food.
Decrease waste by using the good stuff for your meal: cloth napkins, the good china, etc.
If sending out invitations, do so through email when possible with services like Evite.com.
Don’t forget to set up recycling bins near your trash can to encourage recycling.
Preparing for the holidays with the environment in mind is not hard. It just requires a little thought. The effort can have a charm of its own.
Can’t we all use a holiday that is a little less plastic, much more green, and probably a lot less expensive? A green Christmas puts the focus where it ought to be — on the things that matter, like family, friends and a healthier planet.
Think green for the holidays! And merry Christmas!
Swida is director of Keep Liberty Beautiful.