I know I talk about this every year, but so far I’ve had no luck in changing the world. So I’m talking about it again. Holiday season is upon us, and as our focus turns to decorating and gift giving and cooking and singing and taking part in our family traditions, we also create tons of extra festive garbage.
It seems like we should be able to enjoy our holidays without being part of that crazy statistic that shows household waste in this country increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s week. That’s about a million tons of extra trash a week, the EPA says.
That comes from all that extra packaging, shopping, wrapping, food buying, shipping. And because we tend to drop the careful habits we adhere to during the rest of the year because we’re busy and rushed and we feel obligated.
Now is the time to start finding ways to be an outlier. Stop contributing to the problem. As long as you’re making your lists, think about what’s on them and how to adjust them to cut down on waste.
Shopping? Use that list to be efficient. Group trips together to avoid dozens of smaller trips. Carpool with friends and neighbors on shopping trips. Or avoid shopping, and work with those friends and neighbors on making gifts — breads or jams, cookies or chocolates, gingerbread houses, soaps. That also makes for gifts that can be used up.
Wrapping paper? Do you already have some hidden from last year, or do you have other things — paper, cloth, a bag in the cupboard — that you can wrap a gift in? If you’re buying, look for recycled papers. And avoid metallic dyes, which aren’t recyclable.
Decorations? Nature offers a lot of, well, natural choices that are biodegradable. A bowl of pine cones or a vase of twigs from firs or berry bushes are pretty festive and waste-free, too. It’s also a nice way to put a festive touch on a package without buying ribbons and bows.
Houseful? Let the guests help with the dishes rather than pulling out disposable dishes, cups and flatware. Prepared too much food? Freeze leftovers, send some home with guests or put together plates for neighbors who might appreciate a meal. Compost what’s left over or feed it to the animals.
Enjoy the season. Just don’t trash it.
Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Dec. 8. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] com or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.