Posts filed under ‘Holiday Waste’
Be sure to remember Mother Earth on your shopping list this year! What do you get the planet that has everything? Fortunately for all of us, Mother Earth doesn’t have expensive taste. She just wants all of us to do a little more to show we care.
Mother Earth has been working really hard this year to keep up with all of the changes happening in her life. Give her a break and let her sleep a little longer in the dark these days: always turn off lights in unoccupied rooms around your home and use less lighting for holiday decorations.
She also appreciates the crisp cool air of the holiday season so be sure to keep the thermostat down and instead possibly wear some of the sweaters you received as gifts in past years.
Nothing makes Mother Earth smile like a batch of freshly baked holiday compost soil. Consider giving Mother Earth the gift of starting a compost bin or pile in your yard or where you work or go to school. Much of your holiday waste could be composted instead of trashed including your tree, food waste, organic decorations, and shredded paper.
Another great idea for Mother Earth is to treat her to a facial! Mother Earth always loves to be pampered with new native gardens and trees naturally landscaped to enhance her beauty.
Mother Earth has also been very generous, digging into her savings account the last several years to let us manufacture new things out of natural resources. So be sure to recycle the stuff we already have and let Mother Earth keep some savings to splurge on herself!
Remember, you can’t go wrong with anything green, organic, efficient, resourceful, or that does less to stress her out.
If nothing else, Mother Earth always appreciates a hug!
Except that at current landfill rates, that means just throwing the trash in the landfill cost $4000. That does not count transporting it to the landfill. Then the price rises to over $8000. But who picks up the trash? Volunteers? This is probably the biggest cost…
With one of my New Years Resolutions being to reduce the amount of trash I make, it is lucky I ended up not going to Times Square for New Years Eve! My resolution would have been over before the year had begun. According to EarthFirst, 40 tons of trash were created by the one night event. There was a lot of buzz about the ball that was dropped being ‘green’, but clearly there is a lot more to do for a green event. Thinking about waste reduction not only would make the event cheaper (both because you would be buying less stuff and because you wouldn’t need to pay 163 workers over 8 hours to pick it all up)
By the city’s own admission, it makes way more (economic & environmental) sense for the city to recycle. Since I wasn’t there I don’t know if there was any special recycling receptacles set up for the event, but every other time I have been to the square, it has been difficult for me to find receptacles. Though less confetti was used this year, what about using confetti made from recycled paper and then composting it? Then the compost could be used in city parks to save on pesticide use the following year. (At least I think I have heard that NYC has a few parks, one quite centrally located…)
I totally get that Times Square is insane on New Years Eve. But that is the exact reason it is important for the Times Square Alliance to focus on waste reduction, reusing, and recycling the materials they use at their annual celebration. The 5 R’s allow every attendee at the event participate in sustainable behavior. Waste reduction is not as much the ‘it’ thing compared to talking about LEDs, but it is getting at the same issue: saving natural resources and saving money.
For more information about thinking a little about waste reduction, reusing, and recycling at your next event, visit the EPA recognized plan by Be SMART (Save Money and Reduce Trash). If your event is in Waukesha County, you may borrow free recycling containers by contacting our office via email (email@example.com) or via phone at (262)896-8300.
Since wrapping paper is traditionally not recyclable, I’ve put together a quick list of ways to reuse the stuff with some help from my Facebook friends and fellow Tweeters. This way all that pretty paper won’t end up in the landfill.
- Shred it to use as ‘fluff’ in gift bags and gift boxes for future gift giving needs. (Thanks Lis!)
- Make textbook covers
- Make tiny gift tags or cards
- Learn origami
- Use it as decor (wrap artwork for an easy holiday decoration) (Thanks Zachary)
- Mat photographs
- Piece scraps together with glue on a sturdy box for reusable gift packaging
- Kids art projects
- Make paper snowflakes
- Glue or tape scraps to juice can lids to make a pattern matching game. Wrap a Pringles can with paper for storage of the lids.
- Use scraps for kids to make paper dolls (via E-how)
- Make a decorative wreath
Often well-intentioned residents try to recycle items because they know the environmental and economic benefits of recycling. However, there are a few popular holiday items that do not belong in your blue bin and a little reminder is never a bad thing.
recycle in waukesha, recycle in brookfield, recycle in delafield, recycle in pewaukee, recycle in oconomowoc,
Oh the weather outside is frightful! Bundle up if you are in Wisconsin today. Weather like this makes me very glad that the hubby and I have decided to host a get together for friends for the holidays because then we get to see everyone without having to leave our apartment! Although many of the same waste reduction tips apply from our Thanksgiving get-together, when entertaining friends, there are a few extra tips.
Setting the mood
- Decorate with either a fake tree that you can reuse year after year or get a tree that you can keep in a pot and plant in the spring. If you need that ‘tree’ smell, decorate with boughs on the mantle or a real wreath. People with lots of land sometimes grow their own trees on their back lot line, constantly replacing an old tree with a new one.
- Make your own ornaments out of edible holiday cookies, old holiday cards, strings of popcorn, items collected on a vacation (like sea shells). Reuse these ornaments year after year instead of buying new ones every year.
- Use an old skirt, table cloth, or formal dress to make a tree skirt, mantle scarf, or table runner. My wedding dress worked out quite nicely for a tree skirt.
- Pull out the recycling bin and the garbage can. Place them right next to each other so that people know where both are. If you have a lot of out-of-towners that don’t know what gets recycled in Waukesha County, consider making a quick list and taping it above the can.
- Decorate to minimize electricity use. Opt for LED lights. Put everything on a timer. Consider only turning your holiday lights on for a few hours a night when they are most likely to be enjoyed rather than all night long.
Getting the Gang
- Invite people via phone calls or electronically to save holiday card waste. One year’s worth of America’s holiday cards would fill a football field 10 stories high so reduce the amount you send. If you must send traditional invitations or holiday cards, consider reusing decorative papers to make your own or purchase cards made from recycled content.
- When you receive holiday cards, think of creative ways to reuse them. They make great gift tags, decorative ornaments, framed decor, place cards, etc. If you can’t reuse them, make sure they are recycled.
- Suggest people carpool. Enable this by putting together a shared document on-line for people to share where they are coming from. We have 2 sets of friends coming from Milwaukee, 3 sets from Madison, a few from Janesville (you get the idea) so it is easy to suggest that they consider carpooling. It also helps in our case that everyone has met before. Carpooling also helps us out because there is not a lot of room for parking at our apartment so the fewer cars the better!
- Turn down the heat before people arrive, lots of bodies will heat the place up in a hurry!
- Purchase locally made eggnog and other drinks.
- Consider asking everyone to bake some cookies for a cookie exchange rather than purchasing a lot of heavily packaged foods. Have everyone bring a reusable container for some left overs (if there are any!)
- Opt for items purchased en-bulk. There is a lot less waste generated by serving soda from a 2L bottle than from individual cans.
- Have a gift exchange rather than having everyone get gifts individually. Playing a game to exchange gifts is one of the highlights of our party.
- Opt for reusables rather than disposables such as cups, plates, napkins, etc. When the party is over be sure to wash items using the least amount of water necessary by using an energy efficient dishwasher that is completely full.
Have I missed anything? I would love to hear your ideas.
Now that you have got the goods, make sure to wrap your presents in creative ways that are easy on you, your wallet, and the environment.
Allrighty kids. Thanksgiving is done and I managed to have less than 1 bag of garbage, filled mostly with Kleenex from the string of bubonic plague going around my family. On to the next hurdle of the holidays with creating less trash: purchasing presents.
While the folks at adbusters advocated the 17th annual Buy Nothing Day last Friday, shopping on Black Friday was up around 7% from last year. I wasn’t a part of it though, as were many other people that I have talked to. It seems most of the people I know are cutting back on their holidays for either environmental or economic reasons. Despite the stores lauding the best deals ever, prices are rising because of a variety of issues. This year the ubiquitous 12 Days of Christmas costs $86,609 (up over 10% from last year). While some like the folks at Adbusters advocate having a gift-free holiday, even suppling certificates you can distribute to people to explain that you don’t want anything for the holdidays, this is a little too drastic for many in my circle.
As I wrote last year, finding the perfect gift is a family tradition that probably pre-dates the actual holiday. As the greenest of my family members, I try to promote an easy route to go green without having to move to a hippie commune and use a composting toilet. While looking back at my efforts last year I decided they were a nice place to start. Good for a beginner. I made sure that gifts were usable and reduced waste through wrapping items in creative ways. However, this year I really want to green up my gift-giving up an extra notch.
One great group I have been looking at for inspiration is the local girls at Every Shade of Green. This year they are looking to have a holiday season with great memories and traditions while only spending $100. Some of the coolest things they got from local craft fairs. While I am not going to hit the $100 mark this year, I love the idea of supporting sustainable, green companies or local companies with my presents.
To review the rules:
- Everything must be useful. No wasteful gadgets, gift wrap, or one more item of clothing. My dad has plenty of coffee mugs and my mom is full up when it comes to smelly lotions. I don’t need to wrap stuff in paper just to have it tossed. My goal is 99% useful. (I figure the gift tag is a fair exception)
- Everything has to fit the person. No more useless gift emporium for me. Last year I vowed to get gift cards or make a charitable contribution to an organization in the persons name. This year I am going to do my best to avoid gift cards because they really are not as personable as I wanted.
- The new rule: Use the gift to encourage a green lifestyle or support a local business.
- The other sort-of-new rule: For immidiate family I am using reusable boxes for wrapping items. I semi-started this last year and it worked out really well so I am going to run with it.
O.K. So here’s what I came up with:
The hubby: A gym membership and a mp3 player. I have a couple of weaker ideas. Unfortunately this is one of them. Despite the fact that gym memberships are not eco-friendly when you can be excersizing outdoors sans electricity, we just got our first bought of snow last night and that puts a kabosh on all outdoor excersizing for a few months. However, I made sure to go to a gym where I can get a membership that I can ‘pause’ when the weather gets nice and he can again run around town. Also, I am going as eco-friendly as possible with the MP3 player, making sure that there are fewer toxins than your average electronic device and that there is a plan to recycle it when he can no longer use it.
The sister: Organic pancake mix. This probably sounds quite odd and is once again, not the most environmentally friendly sollution. You see, my sister moved to Belgium this past year to get her degree (same sister that had previously lived in Africa for those following from last year). In Europe they have different flour and the last time she lived in Belgium the thing she missed most was pancakes because the flour doesn’t work quite right. This site provided insights to green my shipping. I am also coordinating with other family members so we ship in one box to cut down on packaging. I am stuffing a really cute scarf in the box as well. Lightweight, usable, local craftsperson. Wunderbar.
The ‘rents: I got them a compost bin for their birthdays and they love it, even thought they were somewhat skeptical at first. It worked so well, I decided to go with a rain barrel. They are so green and don’t even know it — hehe!
The ‘rents-in-law: A retractable line for drying clothes. They used to dry everyting by line but then had issues with neighborhood children using line as a toy when it wasn’t in use that ended up causing damage to the house. This is the perfect way to solve a problem and encourage a truly green behavior!
The grandma: Framing. She has quite a few pictures that she has wanted framed for a while and then needs help putting them up on the wall, so I went all Mcgyver and got the pictures and will frame them and then take a day to hang out with my grandma to help hang them up. Pretty cheap, something she really has wanted, and an excuse to hang out. Perfect.
The grandpa: Currently undicided. Last year went with a gift to PBS and that went over really well. He also has re-taken up gormet cooking so I might go with a local/ organic gift basket or (gulp) a gift certificate for this endevor.
The co-worker: For the office pool my husband noted for gift suggestions that a charitable contribution in his name woudl be wonderful and as far as I know he is planning on doing that for whomever he draws.
Looking for more ideas? Visit Waukesha County’s site and do share your ideas!
This Norman Rockwell photograph is supposed to represent the ideal Turkey-Day. Although, I also enjoy Alton Brown’s interpretation of what this picture has done to our society. Despite the fact that turkey probably wasn’t even eaten on the original Thanksgiving, this is the image permanently etched in my head as I barrel through isles at the grocery store in search of the freshest ingredients to make a huge meal that no one in their right mind has any hope of finishing.
Waste reduction comes to my mind more so at the holidays because of all the extra trash we generate at this time of the year. Each week between Thanksgiving and New Years, Americans create 1million extra tons of trash. Since trash that goes to a landfill never goes away, we are not only spending a lot of money throwing away all of that trash, but are loosing the valuable energy and natural resources used to create that trash. From now until New Years I plan on sharing with you the little ways I plan to reduce trash through the holiday season.
This year I am hosting Thanksgiving. Last year we did this as well and we generated a lot of trash! By planning ahead I hope to drastically reduce the amount of trash we make without having people notice. Just because I want a waste-less holiday doesn’t mean everyone in my family will embrace the tofurky and reducing fuel usage by eating together via webcam. I think the best way to go about this problem is to think about what made up the lion’s share of our garbage last year.
- Food waste from preparing dinner. This was a big one. Potato peelings, fruit rinds, egg shells. You name it, I made it. This past year I have started composting. My compost bin is pretty much filled for the winter, but I am going to make sure that food waste from preparing dinner as well as compostable food scraps left on people’s plates will make it in to the bin before I officially close it up for the winter.
- Food packaging. This is another large culprit. This year I am double checking to verify that I am purchasing items with the least possible packaging. For example, for items I know I will use a lot of (staples, if you will) I have bought in bulk. For other items that I wont ever use again, I have bought the smallest size possible. My husband and I don’t drink soda very often, but we got a 2-liter for family members who drink the stuff almost exclusively rather than a lot of individual cans or 20 oz. containers. We also buy juice for the kiddos (not the re-hydrated or concentrate varieties) because although concentrate would make less trash, looking at the entire energy life cycle, it takes less energy to transport juice in larger containers than to dehydrate the stuff (containers that I make sure are recyclable btw). Also, I bought bacon that just came in the plastic rather than bacon that was in the plastic and then in a box. Downright goofy. Eggs I purchase in a paper egg carton as opposed to Styrofoam so that i can recycle it.
- Left overs on the plate. Last year we had huge plates that everyone filled to the breaking point, plus plates for salad and bowls for jello. Not only did this make our table very crowded, but it was difficult to realize just how much food you were even taking! This year I am doing away with all the extra plates and bowls. People can go back for seconds, which is better anyway because the food will be a lot more likely to stay hot if it is in the original container I cooked it it rather than sitting on its own ‘lil plate. Thats right – subtle psychological ploys to get my guests to take only what they will eat and not feel the need to beach themselves once full.
- Left overs in general. Last year was my husband and my first attempt at hosting a holiday. We had no idea about how much food to make and were a little over zealous in our attempts. This year I knew what to scale back on. Just as important, I have recipes handy to make tasty leftovers. I can personally vouch for this recipe to use up extra turkey and stuffing. I also plan to make turkey soup with the bones, and Shepard’s pie. One of my favorite tricks for making soup is to freeze individual sized portions in small, microwavable safe glass bowls. Then, once the soup is frozen I pop the soup-cicle out into a plastic bag so that I don’t have my dishes lost in the freezer forever. When someone needs an individual portion of soup you can just pop the soup-cicle back into the microwave safe dish and warm it up!
While Thanksgiving tends to revolve around family, football, and a really fun parade – food waste and food packaging are things that can easily be lessened by thinking creativly and planning ahead.
It seems as though everyone is Irish today. We had a work party to celebrate paper reduction and everyone brought in ‘green’ food (I brought in mint brownies). Local radio stations were broadcasting at Irish pubs that had opened for business at 6 AM. I don’t think there has been this much celebrating since Christmas.
Clearly, the first thing I did this morning when I got in was to do some reconnaissance work as to what everyone brought in. We marched to the library like lemmings with our guacamole, salads, and a very yummy green chili soup… and most of us toted our wares in a plastic grocery store bag.
The amount of plastic one-use grocery store bags would make any leprechaun a little green in the face. Estimates vary widely as to how many bags we use every year. Anywhere from 500,000,000,000 to 1,000,000,000,000 (yes – that is 1 trillion) “free” bags are given away every year. To deal with this staggering problem the Irish were the first country to introduce a “plastax” which placed a 15 cent tax on all thin plastic bags back in 2002. Within 6 months, plastic bag usage was down 90%. After being in place for 6 years, the tax has risen to 29 cents and usage is down 95%. Other countries and cities have caught on. Some countries ban the bags outright. San Francisco has banned them in certain situations.
Economic & Environmental Impact:
While the bags are cheap to produce, they are very expensive to dispose of. Many bags become problematic to curbside recycling programs because typical recycling facilities are not equipped to handle these bags. People can take them to many chain stores for recycling or reuse. However, many more of these bags become litter and clog sewers and cause other problems. Also, because most bags do not get recycled American’s are throwing away around 12 million barrels of oil.(Wall Street Journal) (but last I heard we have plenty of oil and the stuff is rather cheap so I’m not too worried about that ~ yeah. right.)
What to do?
Go buy a reusable bag! There are tons of cute, big, small, plain, fancy, etc. options! The average American family uses 1,500 plastic bags a year. By reducing this number, you will have the greatest impact. If you must use a plastic bag, make sure it gets recycled. Check out your local grocery store to see if they have a collection bin. Then do a little jig, because you will know you had a huge impact.
Today is the last day that the USPS will guarantee mail delivery by Christmas. This, of course, made me panic and reminded me that I have more than a few cards left to write. It’s easy to see how November and December are the most wasteful times of the year. In Southeastern Wisconsin we generate an extra 5,000 tons of holiday trash each year. This includes gift wrap, gift boxes, cards, and ribbon. America alone throws enough ribbon away each year to tie a bow around the earth. The sheer amount of catalogues alone is ridiculous. I actually got a catalogue for old people’s health stuff. Walkers, canes, bedpans. Really. I am 24. A little bit of prescreening would have went a long way with that company. A hundred years ago when catalogue shopping was new and necessary for people on the frontier, people kept their used catalogues in the bathroom for reading as well as toilet paper. Of course, this was prior to glossy paper, but at least back in the day there was a use for these ridiculous holiday junk mailings.
Now, anyone who knows me would tell you I will do just about anything to get the perfect gift. It has become a competition to see who can come up with the most perfect gift. Things usually are themed, the wrapping matches the gift, and even if I spent 30 minutes shopping online, it appears as if I was on a lifelong quest for the holy grail of gifts. However, this year for a plethora of reasons, my typical excess is not going to work. My sister recently got back from Africa and has sworn off all earthly possessions and my best friend (whom I am fairly certain created this holiday gift giving competition extravaganza) has moved into the worlds smallest apartment halfway across the country and has no need for anything larger than a thumbtack. Even more awkward, my new husbands family doesn’t ‘really do the gift thing’. I don’t know how I am supposed to respond to that. So, being quite out of my element required me to think creatively. Here is what I came up with:
* Everything must be useful. No wasteful gadgets, gift wrap, or one more item of clothing. My dad has plenty of coffee mugs and my mom is full up when it comes to smelly lotions. I don’t need to wrap stuff in paper just to have it tossed. My goal is 99% useful. (I figure the gift tag is a fair exception)
* Everything has to fit the person. No more useless gift emporium for me. There usually is a person or two on my list that even I can’t think of something the person would like. My husband pulled a name in the office gift exchange. He just started a new job and is not even quite sure who the person is. I suggested lotion. I think I may still have 73 bottles I received last Christmas that he could use. Now, I appreciate these people thinking of me. But honestly it’s the thought that counts. If I can’t think of something that the person can use, I have decided to make a charitable contribution in their name or give them a gift card to a place I know they frequent.
So after considering these 2 criteria, here is what I came up with…
My Dad: A certified book addict I got him several used books (they look like new) and am wrapping them in a reusable tote from his favorite used bookstore.
My Mom: Always in need of a break, I got her a new robe to replace her threadbare one and some slippers that I am wrapping in a holiday fleece throw.
My Sister: Despite shunning worldly possessions, she has a weak spot for old jazz records so I found a site online that takes old vinyl records and turns them into bowls. I included a bag of microwave popcorn and a DVD of her favorite musical. Instant gift basket.
My Friend: A tote bag that rolls into itself so she can keep it in her purse for whenever she needs a bag. I slid in a gift card to her local grocery store and the whole thing is as small as a tennis ball so I wrapped it in a tiny gift bag that she can give someone else a gift in.
My Husband’s Coworker: A day-by-day calendar for the office. We found one generic enough to be enjoyed by anyone and, personally, I like them because you always have a stack of ready to use scratch paper.
Grandparents: One set is really into the local art museum so I got them a membership there and my other set really loves PBS, so I made a donation in their name.
The Hubby: Lately he has been having car problems. Commercials on TV tell me I should buy him a new car with a bow as big as I am on the roof, but it is a little out of my price range so I got him a survival kit. In a rubber container I put a little blanket, a nice car jack, road flares, jumper cables, and an air freshener for the gift tag. My parents did something similar for me the year I got my license and it has been one of the best gifts I ever got.So that’s it. How I managed to still give creative, themed gifts (including the wrapping) without making extra waste. If you have some other ideas, I would love to hear about them because I have a few birthdays coming up that have me stumped.