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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Composting, public transportation

November 2010 Newsletter

Greening the Season

As we shop, celebrate, decorate, give gifts and travel this holiday season, we also generate a lot of waste and increase our energy use.  The volume of household waste in the United States generally increases 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day -- from 4 million tons to 5 million tons.  

gift-wrapped packages

There are many simple ways to “green” your holiday season by reducing, reusing and recycling.  It takes only a small commitment to protect the environment. 

  • When decorating, use more energy efficient mini-lights rather than the larger, old-fashioned lights, or use LED outdoor holiday lights, which require 1/50th of the electricity of conventional lights and last 20-30 years.  Put lights on a timer or turn them on only when someone’s home.
  • When out shopping, bring reusable cloth bags or tell store clerks you don’t need a bag for small or oversized purchases, or combine your purchases into one bag rather than getting a new bag at each store.  Millions of paper and plastic shopping bags end up in landfills every year.
  • Planning a sumptuous holiday feast?  Think organic meats, veggies and fruits, or sustainable seafood. 
  • Avoid using disposable dishes and utensils when entertaining friends and family, and if you must use them, buy them made from recycled material.  Remember to place easily identifiable recycling containers at your celebration so guests can recycle soda cans, bottles, paper products, etc.  Remember to compost afterwards.
  • Bring your own camera instead of using disposable cameras when capturing those holiday memories.
  • When traveling during the holidays, consider taking public transportation or carpool with friends or relatives. Combine several errands into one trip.
  • Use cool wrapping materials—reuse maps, the Sunday comics, posters, etc.  And remember to save ribbons, bows and bags.
  • holiday lightsWhen sending or giving cards or stationery, look for paper with the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content. Or make your own from paper you'd throw away.
  • Give gifts that don’t require much packaging, such as tickets to a movie, concert, theatre, opera or sporting event. 
  • After the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of sending it to a landfill.  Approximately 33 million live Christmas trees are sold in North America every year. Check with your community solid waste department to find out if a tree recycling program exists in your area.  Programs like these collect and mulch trees, which can then be used as compost or landscaping material. Or buy a potted tree and plant it after the holidays.

There are many simple steps you can take to reduce your energy use and the amount of waste generated during this time of year.  And remember—using energy efficiently and reducing, reusing and recycling are not just for the holiday season. Continue your green habits and keep giving gifts to the earth all year long! 

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