It’s safe to say the holidays are a busy time. So much to do in a short amount of time, which means recycling can get put on the back burner as you’re in a rush to clean up. As a result, Americans end up throwing away 25 percent more trash than any other time of year.
So how can you lower that number while you’re busy getting in the holiday spirit? Here are 10 simple ways to help you go green during the holidays.
Make your holiday party ‘green’
Send electronic party invites instead of mailing them. When serving food, get out the good china (your guests are worth it!) instead of buying disposable dinnerware that ends up in the trash. Make sure that your recycling container is located right next to a garbage can and is clearly marked for guests.
Reduce food waste
Make a food list and check it twice. This will reduce the risk of impulse buying and help you remember what ingredients you have at home. Be sure to send guests home with leftover containers. As for meat scraps and bones, fruit peels and food-contaminated items like napkins, paper plates and pizza boxes, these can be put into a compostable bag and dropped off at a Brown County Food Waste Organics drop-off site.
Send e-cards or recycled-content cards
Purchase recycled paper holiday cards or send electronic holiday cards to reduce paper waste.
Give the gift of togetherness
Sometimes the most cherished gift we can give is our time, love and energy. Consider making a charitable donation in someone else’s name. Or give an experience or an event to remember. These are great ideas that don’t generate any waste.
Take reusable cloth bags on shopping trips
Thousands of plastic bags end up in our landfills during the holidays. Reduce that number by bringing reusable shopping bags with you during holiday gift and grocery shopping. If you use plastic bags, be sure to recycle them at your local grocery or retail store, not in your curbside bin.
Give quality gifts
Durable products last longer, save money in the long run and are less likely to quickly end up in the landfill.
Use gift-wrapping alternatives
Wrap with earth-friendly items such as scarves, handkerchiefs, cloth napkins, kitchen towels or bandanas, old posters and maps, or newspapers (the comics section works great). You can also place gifts inside reusable containers like cookie tins, flower pots and baskets. Reuse gift bags and replace ribbons and bows with natural evergreens, berries, dried flowers (keep them as decorations or compost them after the gifts are unwrapped).
Use rechargeable batteries and LED holiday lights
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away and can save money in the long run. Recycle unwanted or broken strings of lights through a scrap metal collection, not in your curbside bin.
Keep electronics out of trash
The holidays are a big time for people to upgrade their electronics. When disposing of your old electronics, remember that certain items like televisions, laptops, cellphones and other computer accessories are banned from landfill disposal. Instead, recycle your old gear at the Brown County Household Hazardous Waste facility (a nominal fee is charged).
Recycle your live Christmas tree
When the holiday season is over, recycle your holiday tree and wreath at your local yard waste collection site.
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, all of us generate a lot more household waste, but there’s no reason you can’t have a happy and responsible holiday. For a full list of items you can recycle, visit the Brown County Resource Recovery website.
Thanks to my colleagues Chris Miller and Shelby Schraufnagel for all the great ideas and happy holidays from the entire Brown County Port Resource Recovery staff.
Mark Walter is the business manager for Brown County Port Resource Recovery.