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Holiday Tips from the EPA

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The US Environmental Protection Agency shares the following message for reducing waste through reuse and recycling during the holiday season.

  • After the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of sending it to a landfill. Check with your community solid waste department and find out if they collect and mulch trees. Your town might be able to use chippings from mulched trees for hiking trails or beachfront erosion barriers.
  • Buy a potted tree and plant it after the holidays.
  • Have a create your own decorations party! Invite family and friends to create holiday decorations such as ornaments made from old greeting cards or cookie dough, garlands made from strung popcorn or cranberries, wreaths made from artificial greens and flowers, and potpourri made from kitchen spices such as cinnamon and cloves.
  • Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Doing so will not only save energy, but will also help your lights last longer.
  • If you’re buying new greeting cards this holiday season, send recycled-content greeting cards. Buying recycled encourages manufacturers to make more recycled-content products available. Also consider sending electronic cards, and remember to recycle any paper cards you receive.
  • Think “green” while shopping holiday and birthday sales. Try to buy items with minimal packaging and/or made with recycled content. Check product labels to determine an item’s recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials.
  • This holiday, Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money. Look for items that embody the concept of reuse. For example: wooden toys made from scrap wood, craft kits that take advantage of used goods and discards, and drawing boards that can be erased and reused.

  • Thousands of paper and plastic shopping bags end up in landfills every year. Reduce the number of bags thrown out by bringing reusable cloth bags for holiday gift shopping. Tell store clerks you don’t need a bag for small or oversized purchases. Use reusable cloth bags instead of disposable ones for trick-or-treating.
  • Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or funny papers. Also remember to save or recycle used wrapping paper. Give gifts that don’t require much packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates.
  • Donate the older toys that your children no longer use to charities. Also check with local libraries. A number of public libraries have extended their children’s section to include a lending collection of toys, games, puzzles, and musical instruments.
  • Many battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.
  • When giving flowers as gifts, consider buying long-lasting silk flowers, potted plants, or live bushes, shrubs, or trees that can be planted in the spring as gifts.
  • Bake cookies or other goodies for your friends and love ones and package them in reusable and/or recyclable containers as gifts. Homemade goodies show how much you care and help you avoid packaging waste.
  • If you host a party, set the table with cloth napkins and reusable dishes, glasses, and silverware. Consider renting more formal tableware that you might not use very often. Also save and reuse party hats, decorations, and favors.
  • After holiday festivities, put leftovers in recyclable containers, and share them with family, friends, or others. Donate whole, untouched leftovers from parties to a local food bank or homeless shelter.

  • Where possible, compost leftover food scraps, leaves, and grass clippings.
  • After parties, fill your dishwasher to capacity before running it. You will run fewer cycles, which saves energy.
  • Wash and reuse empty holiday glass and plastic jars, milk jugs, coffee cans, dairy tubs, and other similar containers that would otherwise get thrown away. These containers can be used to store leftovers as well as buttons, nails, or other loose items.

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