The holiday season is traditionally a time for giving, but along with the gifts, come a lot of waste. Christmas trees, wrapping paper and packaging materials overwhelm our trash collection services.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and the New Year than during any other time of the year. This extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of trash, or about 1 million extra tons per week.
Here are a few ideas on how to keep your holidays green.
- Buy gifts that look beautiful with no packaging - for example, a gift basket (with a reusable basket) or a potted plant in a hand decorated pot.
- Cut back on ribbon usage – use paint or markers to decorate packages instead. If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.
- Wrap your presents in creative materials -newsprint, brown paper bags, old calendars that you can then decorate, or in reusable tins, baskets or boxes. If every family in the U.S. wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
- Send electronic greeting cards or call people to wish them a happy holiday season - The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high, and they require the harvesting of nearly 300,000 trees.
Making a concerted effort to reduce material use can have a significant impact on the environment.
Keep these gift ideas in mind:
- Give experiences rather than "things."
• tickets to a local play, concert, sporting event, or museum
• music, language, art, or cooking lessons
• passes for recreation centers
• gift certificates to a favorite restaurant (or a home-cooked meal)
• back and neck massages
• breakfast in bed every Sunday in January
• a monthly lunch date
• list of 100 your fondest memories with the recipient (on recycled paper)
- Give gifts with an environmental message.
Give gifts in reusable green grocery bags instead of paper bags or boxes.
- Give donations or memberships to local nonprofit organizations.
- When entertaining, choose reusable glasses, dishware, silverware, and cloth napkins.
If you need to go with disposables, choose eco-friendlier options, like recycled paper napkins and plates, or plastic cups that can be recycled. Choosing organic and/or locally grown food also makes a difference for the environment.
- Recycle as much as you can.
- View Christmas tree recycling information - Trees can be recycled and used as mulch in city parks.
- Non-foil type wrapping paper can be recycled in the paper bins at the following locations:
- Fire Station No. 1, 3948 West 73rd Ave.
- Municipal Court, 3030 Turnpike Drive
- West View Recreation Center, 10747 W. 108th St.
- Municipal Service Center, 6575 W. 88th Ave.
- Block Styrofoam can be recycled at EcoCycle’s Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM) located at 5030 Old Pearl Street in Boulder from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 303-444-6634.
The following ideas are from Slow Food USA.
- Shop in your pantry: Using what you have on hand reduces waste. Take inventory of what's in your fridge, freezer and cupboards and build your shopping list around what you find.
- Use it up: One-third of food in America goes to waste, adding up to 15 percent of what's in our landfills. Use every bit of food, like incorporating vegetable scraps and inner meats in stocks, gravies and sauces, and don't forget to compost what's left.
- Have a leftover plan: Sure, you could feed the family turkey and stuffing for five straight days. But why not incorporate your Thanksgiving leftovers into innovative recipes for added variety?
- Take a look at your energy use: If you have several dishes that need to be in the oven at the same temperature, put them in at the same time to reduce energy use. And start with some of your ingredients at room temperature, like butter, to reduce stove-top melting time.
- Recycle cooking oil: Disposing of three to five gallons of used fryer oil from a deep fried turkey can be a nightmare. While it may seem harmless to pour your used oil down the drain, dumping any amount of cooking oil into the sink can harm wildlife and damage local sewage systems. Grease clings to pipe walls in small particles that latch on to each other, leading to massive clogs over time - and not just in your kitchen sink. Cooking oil and kitchen grease from residents and restaurants is the No. 1 cause of clogged sewer pipes, which costs cities big bucks. Whether it's a cup of olive oil or the leftovers from your deep-fried Thanksgiving, recycling is your best disposal bet. Get information on how to recycle cooking oil.