I really do love the holidays — but I cringe as we also approach the trashiest season of the year.
With the holidays, we unfortunately get a lot of trash and waste. Garbage really adds up in the weeks from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates an extra million tons of waste is generated each week in that span.
That amount of trash creates two problems: We don’t recycle many products that could be reused, and a lot of that trash ends up on our roadways.
I believe that by planning ahead, we can reduce holiday waste and still have a wonderful time with our family and friends. With Thanksgiving in less than two weeks, here are some suggestions from the EPA for recycling and reducing holiday waste!
• Plan now what food and supplies you will need — and I mean really need. We all prepare too much food for Thanksgiving. Why not try to plan for the actual number of guests you will have and not for a whole army? You will reduce waste and actually might enjoy Thanksgiving a little more because you will not be so exhausted. Believe it or not, I do not think your guests will mind at all if they only have one or two desserts instead of 10.
• Plan your shopping trips for food and supplies, too. You will save time and gasoline. And don’t forget to use the reusable shopping bags instead of the store’s bags. While I am thinking about it: If you have not washed those reusable bags lately (or ever), now would be a good time to do that.
• While you are sprucing up your yard for company, take all those leaves you rake and use them around your shrubbery and landscape beds. They also can be used in and around any potted plants you have.
• Show your guests where to put recyclables such as aluminum, glass and plastic beverage containers. They will be happy to be included in your recycling efforts.
• Buy products in concentrate or bulk or in refillable containers. This reduces packaging waste and also can save you money.
• After the holiday feast, put leftovers in recyclable containers. If you have too much food left over to use, share the goodies with family, friends or others.
• Donate whole, untouched leftovers from your parties or festivities to local food banks or homeless shelters.
• Wash and reuse or recycle empty glass and plastic jars, milk jugs, coffee cans, dairy tubs and similar containers that otherwise would get thrown away.
• Reduce wasteful water usage. Preparing for and cleaning up after holiday meals and parties can use much more water than ordinary, everyday use. Running your tap while preparing food or washing dishes can use more than 2 gallons of water every minute. Scrape dirty dishes clean, instead of rinsing them off. Your pipes will thank you for it. You also will save a significant amount of water. There is this wonderful invention called the dishwasher, and it uses less water than washing dishes by hand. And I am so thankful for it. It is my favorite appliance. 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. Either of these simple practices could save 10 gallons of water. If every American household reduced their water usage by 10 gallons on just Thanksgiving Day, it would save more than 1 billion gallons of water.
• Those traveling for the holidays should turn down their thermostats and put lights on timers to save energy while gone. Unplug appliances and electronics that won’t be needed. They use energy even when they still are plugged in.
Don’t “waste” this opportunity to be thankful on Thanksgiving. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in the cooking, cleaning and festivities that we forget why we even have this holiday in America. Be thankful for our country, freedom, military and veterans. Be thankful for our families, friends and community. Be thankful for our faiths. Take a quick look round the world and you will know that we — even the poorest of us in America — have much to be thankful for. We should do this every day, but please do so this Thanksgiving.
For more tips on holiday-waste reduction, search: “Ways to Reduce Waste During the Holidays.” From all of us at Keep Liberty Beautiful, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.
Swida is director of Keep Liberty Beautiful.