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Tips To Reduce Holiday Waste

December 1, 2011
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Those EPA folks have some handy ideas on how to trim down the enormous mounds of waste that is dumped into landfills during and after every holiday season. You can get your family involved at home, and your coworkers involved at the office. For younger kids, you can make a game out of it. For older “kids,” an incentive may be needed, such as dinner at a local restaurant for the person or team who recycles the most between now and New Year’s.

  • Thousands of paper and plastic shopping bags end up in landfills every year. Reduce the number of bags thrown out by bringing reusable cloth bags for holiday gift shopping. Tell store clerks you don’t need a bag for small or oversized purchases [especially if you’re carrying around an over-sized tote bag anyway!].


  • Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or funny papers. Also remember to save or recycle used wrapping paper [we do this in my family a lot]. Give gifts that don’t require much packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates [or cash!].


  • Send recycled-content greeting cards to reduce the amount of virgin paper used during the holidays. Remember to recycle any paper cards you receive. You can also try sending electronic greeting cards to reduce paper waste.


  • About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts and consider giving a battery charger as well [I dug out my old one just last weekend]. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away and can save money in the long run.


  • Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Doing so will not only save energy, but will also help your lights last longer.


  • Approximately 33 million live Christmas trees are sold in North America every year. After the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of sending it to a landfill. Check with your community solid waste department and find out if they collect and mulch trees. Your town might be able to use chippings from mulched trees for hiking trails and beachfront erosion barriers.


  • To help prevent waste from cutting down and disposing of live trees, you can buy a potted tree and plant it after the holidays.


  • Have a create-your-own-decorations party! Invite family and friends to create and use holiday decorations such as ornaments made from old greeting cards or cookie dough, garlands made from strung popcorn or cranberries [I remember doing this as a kid!], wreaths made from artificial greens and flowers, and potpourri made from kitchen spices such as cinnamon and cloves.


  • Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money. [Also look for the Energy Star label on electronics.]


  • When buying gifts, check product labels to determine an item’s recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials. Buying recycled encourages manufacturers to make more recycled-content products available.


  • Use your own camera instead of a disposable one to reduce waste while capturing holiday memories. Consider buying a digital camera so that you don’t have to use film and only print the pictures you want to keep.


  • Kelly's Tips

    Every year, my colleagues and I receive CDs (and some DVDs) with product and press releases from industry manufacturers and marketing agencies. Don’t get me wrong - I love this medium over printed releases and photos, but you end up with a lot of plastic at the end of the year. But don’t throw those old CDs and DVDs in the trash. They can be recycled. Some companies even take the jewel cases, but I usually save those myself for when I burn CDs for family photos or work files. I recycle flash drives, too - great for transferring info between team members when the server is down.

    If CD/DVD recycling is not available in your area, you will have to mail them to a center to be shredded (you can use the U.S. Post Office’s flat-rate boxes as long as the weight is less than 70 pounds). Some companies will even send you a container to fill; it’s a flat fee for the container and the shipping.

    And don’t forget to recycle all that paper you’ve accumulated over the year - purge and recycle! If you don’t have a recycling program at your company, see if you can add it to your garbage disposal service.

    For other tips on reducing waste, recycling electronics or disposing of hazardous waste, visit the EPA’s site at www.epa.gov/epawaste/wycd/index.htm.

    Do you have any tips you’d like share?

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