From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Where do you think all this extra trash ends up? You got it, mostly in landfills. An additional one million tons of waste hits American landfills every WEEK of the holiday season. It’s mainly food, shopping bags, product packaging and wrapping paper.
Your San Diego Eco-Warrior is here with a few tips from Good Earth Plants to help you do your part to recycle, reduce and reuse. Consider it your Christmas gift to Mother Nature.
Let your fingers do the shopping. Don’t drive aimlessly from mall to mall browsing and burning up fossil fuels. Do your homework online first, then minimize your driving by going directly to your destination. If you have several errands in the same area, try to take care of them all during the same trip.
Cut down on the paper. We use a lot of paper during the holidays. If everyone sent just one less Christmas card in the U.S., 50,000 cubic yards of paper would be saved. Do you really need to send a card to a former co-worker you haven’t seen in five years? Update and pare down your holiday mailing list, and you’ll save time and money.
Wrapping presents takes a lot of paper, too. Think of alternatives to new wrapping paper. Gift bags that can be recycled every year. Have your kids decorate tote bags that can be used as shopping bags the rest of the year. Use recycled comics from the newspaper, old maps, or your kids’ art projects (if you can bear to part with them). Tie presents up in dish towels or fabric remnants with ribbon. Try not to wrap oversized presents at all. A big bow will do. At the very least, buy wrapping paper made from recycled products.
Ditch the ribbon. If you can go without ribbon, do it. If every household reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, it would save 38,000 miles of ribbon. This is enough to tie a bow around the entire Earth! Consider it our gift to Mother Nature.
Serve local foods for your holiday feast. Purchase your turkey or ham from a local butcher, and your produce, breads, cheeses and such from a local source, such as farmer’s markets. Foods produced local saves fossil fuels used for delivery, and also supports local businesses.
Be sure you will eat everything you prepare. Americans waste up to 40 percent of the food produced in this country every year. The National Resource Defense Council Project estimates the amount of food Americans waste has increased over 50 percent in the last 40 years, which costs an extra $165 billion every year.
Choose LED lights for your decorations. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, use the same same computer-chip technology used to light calculators and watches, This is 90 percent more efficient than traditional style lights. They also release far less heat, which is much safer. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved in a month, if everyone replaced their conventional holiday light strings. This is enough energy to power 200,000 homes for an entire year, which means less coal or fossil fuels burned in power plants.
Use rechargeable batteries. If you are giving battery-powered gifts, choose rechargeable batteries instead of disposable batteries. Better yet, rethink those battery powered gifts for a human powered or chargeable alternative.
Recycle your old electronics and e-waste. If you are replacing someone’s cellphone or flat screen TV with a new model, be responsible and dispose of the old one at an electronic waste recycling center such as the one at the Miramar landfill, or at a recycling event. If the item is still in working order, donate it to a charitable group that refurbishes items for disabled veterans, women’s shelters or foster youth.
Consider a living plant as a gift. Anyone’s home or workspace can benefit from the addition of a plant suitable for the location. A plant is always the right color and size, and won’t blow anyone’s diet.
By now we shouldn’t need to tell you to recycle your fresh-cut Christmas tree after Christmas, right? Put it out with your greenery pickup, or take it to a drop off site.
You don’t have to be a Scrooge or deny your kids their Christmas fun. Couldn’t you have just as good a time by using a little less? And do you think your kids even care about what their presents are wrapped in, or what kind of lights are on the tree?