The holidays are one of the highest waste generating times of the year. Thinking green is sometimes lost during this busy season. While the holidays can mean using more natural resources than normal, making a few small ecofriendly changes can be easy and cost effective. You don't have to sacrifice your traditions or enjoyment to have a sustainable holiday.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, Americans throw away a million extra tons of garbage each week, according to Robert Lilienfeld, co-author of the book Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are. One of the major contributors to all this extra waste has to do with everything that goes into buying, wrapping, and giving gifts. Environment911.org reports that wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about 4 million tons of trash annually in the U.S. To help reduce your contribution to all this waste, remember to bring reusable shopping bags when shopping. Additionally, there are many creative alternatives to the typical one time use giftwrap. Consider wrapping your gifts in reusable shopping bags that can be used by the recipient long after the holidays are over, using colorful newspaper such as the comic section, or reusing gift bags you have previously received. Additionally, decorative boxes, baskets, pretty fabric, scarves and dish towels are a fun way to add some creativity by wrapping your gift in a gift. If you still desire to use traditional giftwrap, look for simple paper giftwrap that can be easily recycled that is free of glitter and/or shiny foil. Be sure to reuse any gift wrap accessories such as boxes, ribbons and bows for the next year. Not only does this save on waste, it also saves money.
Keep old holiday cards from ending up in the garbage by using them to make gift tags for the following year. Greeting cards have beautiful designs on them that can be cut into fun gift tag shapes. Punch a hole in them and attach a piece of ribbon to them and you’ll have lots of one of a kind gift tags. You can also find organizations such as St. Jude’s Ranch for Children where you can donate the front panels of your old holiday cards and they make new cards from them.
If you’re feeling festive and enjoy decorating your home to get into the holiday spirit consider using reusable decorations. Decorations that are reused each year help to create a sense of tradition and can provide a sense of fun anticipation for you and your family. Decorations made from food or natural materials can be a nice way of bringing the outdoors in. Consider stringing popcorn for your tree or decorating with pinecones or fragrant pine clippings that can be easily composted afterwards.
Holiday meals have the potential to generate a large amount of waste. Be sure to utilize reusable dishware and cloth napkins, and if you use disposable plates ensure they are compostable paper rather than Styrofoam. Be sure to place all food scraps and food soiled paper products in your composting cart instead of the trash.
If you chose to get a real tree for the holidays, have it picked up to be composted after the holidays. Our local Napa Valley Boy Scout troops pick up trees for a donation after New Year’s Day. Additionally, Napa Recycling and Waste Services (NRWS) will accept trees at the curb on your normally scheduled solid waste and recycling pickup day during the week following New Year’s Day. Please make sure that all stands, metal spikes, ornaments, lights and tinsel have been removed from your tree. Trees that are over 8’ should be cut in half to be picked up at the curb by NRWS. Having your tree composted is an excellent way of ensuring that it will not take up space in the landfill.
Excerpted from the City of Napa Recycling Division and Napa Recycling and Waste Service, whose staff wishes you and your family a very Happy Green Holiday Season!