As we enter into that “most wonderful time of the year” we all need to remember that just because we’re busier, it doesn’t mean all of our good environmental practices should suffer.
In fact, there are lots of ways to be even greener during the holidays. Do you have old strings of lights that don’t work anymore? Check with local hardware stores to see if they’ll accept them for recycling and maybe give you a voucher for the newer LED lights. The new lights use a lot less energy, so you’ll save some green there too.
If you’re still buying presents for family and friends, remember to bring your reusable bag with you. And speaking of buying ‘things’, consider purchasing tickets to concerts, sports events or the theatre instead. Or maybe even providing the gift of your time, by offering to baby, pet or house sit for family or friends.
If you’re like me and have scattered friends and family across the globe, when you choose your holiday cards, consider sending those made with recycled content paper and/or those made from trees which are sustainably grown. They’re not as hard to find as in this past and you’ll be keeping the joy of receiving a holiday message alive while you’re supporting the environment too. Have a stack of old cards sitting around that were just too pretty to recycle? Reuse them by cutting out the design on the front of the card and using it as a gift tag. Discard the remainder in your recycling bin, of course!
The holidays can also be a great opportunity for reuse. Have a sweater that your cousin gave you last year that just doesn’t fit or the color is unflattering? There is nothing wrong with re-gifting despite all the jokes about it. And if you don’t want to re-gift it, at least donate it to one of the many thrift shops here on the Cape. Have outgrown clothes hanging everywhere? Now is a good time to at least donate all of those winter clothes so that someone else can be warm this season.
Even when cutting back on gift giving, there are still lots of old things that don’t work, aren’t wanted, are outgrown, etc. Before you just toss them in the trash, consider whether they are still usable and then donate them to a local thrift shop. Toys and small electronic gadgets tend to fall into this category. Some have seen lots of use and simply can’t be cleaned or have parts missing . When discarding electronically operated toys, small appliances and tools, etc. please remove the battery(ies) first before recycling or discarding. In many instances the batteries that operate toys and tools in particular, are rechargeable and thus contain mercury, lead and cadmium, all metals that we need to carefully manage, rather than just tossing in the trash. When you get to the transfer station, just ask the attendant where the batteries go.
And last, but certainly not least, when you’re getting ready to sit down to dinner, consider using reusable dinnerware rather than paper — or worse foam — plates and glassware. After the meal, it’s actually nice to stand up chatting with relatives about the meal, their lives, and the next day’s events. If you can purchase foods which are locally grown, all the better and composting the fruit and veggie waste rounds out your environmental holiday. And don’t forget to recycle all paper gift wrap too!
Remember, there is no declared holiday that says we don’t have to reduce, reuse, compost or recycle. Season’s Greetings to everyone for a very green holiday.
Margretta Morris is a chair of the Brewster Recycling Committee.