Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A holiday without the waste?

As Christmas and other holidays approach, I am just baffled by the quantity of waste that goes into it.  Christmas, more than any other holiday, seems to be, more and more, about the "Stuff".  Everyone we associate with needs to receive something and that something needs to be wrapped in something else. We then put half of these into yet ANOTHER box which we mail all over the country and the world, using unmentionable amounts of fuel to deliver.  We also send countless cards and "'What the family was up to' updates" via snail mail. We make massive amounts of sugary and fat laden treats that we eat while we make and then eat when traded with others and still more are thrown away. And all of this is BEFORE the big day.

On the Big Day, we take all of the boxes and wrappings and put them in the trash (the recycling bin is never big enough - especially if you have kids.  Then, one by one the actual presents are opened and THEIR packaging is thrown out in the already full trash.  Despite eating a meal equivalent to a week's worth of calories, we throw even more away because too much was made. (Gee, why are we the fattest country in the world??)   A few days later we drink way too much, throw away recyclable bottles because a. the bin is still full from Christmas and b. half the people at the party were either too drunk to know where the recycle bin was or worse, b. didn't care.  There is confetti and decorations and balloons that will all go in a landfill at the end of the night.  A few more days later, the Christmas decorations come down and the landfills will fill even more with discarded Christmas trees of those who were at least responsible enough to not discard them on the side of the road.

When did the word "holiday" become synonymous with "buy and waste as much crap as possible day" ?  Why can't we celebrate and give to one another without filling a landfill?

A few thoughts to save some space in the landfill...

One word - E-card.  Make sure you put a personal note on there - not just Love, Jane.  For those who do the family updates, EMAIL it.  If they want a hard copy, they can print it.  You will probably still need to print a few for those that don't have email, but if my 78 year old mother has it, chances are most of your family does too.

Buy a service.  A friend and I spent an evening recently going thru old pictures.  I have another friend that does photo scanning.  I am going to give friend A. a gift certificate to have friend B. scan her pictures.  Her pictures will be safe and she will be able to share them more easily.  No waste will be created (except the one slip of paper (which was probably a scrap that had something printed on the back further down the sheet)) and not only have I given a fabulous gift but I have also created work for another friend.  You could put together a coupon booklet for a local babysitter (after arranging with the babysitter first, of course) when they use the coupons, the babysitter comes to you for payment.

Get tickets to do something together later in the year.  This can be anything from a movie to a cruise - get creative and spend some time with them.  Take a class together or buy a college student's class.

If they don't need it, don't buy it.  If you don't know, give them a gift card - everyone has a favorite store.  If you have friends that are short on cash but INSIST on exchanging gifts, give a Walmart card.  Most Walmarts now have pharmacies and groceries.  I know, personally, they carry just about anything I need.  This is also a great idea to keep on hand for people you didn't plan on exchanging with and if you end up with an extra, you can use it yourself.  This could also be a nice anonymous surprise for someone needy.

I, a VERY long time ago stopped using wrapping paper.  If I HAVE to wrap, I use reusable wrapping (i.e. gift bags or pre-wrapped boxes).  If you don't want to spend the money on these, you could make them yourself or use funny papers or scarves to wrap - the Internet is FULL of ideas.  And, if the kids ask, Santa reads the funnies too - why do you think he is so jolly??!

Don't underestimate the stocking as wrapping!!  My FAVORITE part of Christmas growing up was my stocking.  My mother would spend months picking up stuff I asked for in the store that she said "no" to and saved them for my stocking.  (She also put all the batteries I would need for wrapped toys in there.)  During the past few years I have knitted mini stockings (out of a sweater I thrifted and unraveled) and put presents in there.  Even if you can't knit, you CAN find mini stockings everywhere these days.  Use those as wrapping and they can be reused next year or used as a decoration.

If you are ordering online, have it shipped directly.  Most companies not only offer this but will enclose a gift receipt (no price) instead of a packing slip.  DON'T have them wrap it. It costs more and they are already opening a box.  I usually just call and say, "you will be getting a box from_________ don't open it until Christmas".

Trees.  The bane of my existence!  IF YOU MUST have a live tree, get one with the roots and plant it after the holiday.  There are also horticulture volunteers everywhere that will find a place to plant it if you don't have a place or don't want to do it yourself.  A lot of times the place you bought it will suggest a group or the packaging will list one.  Some groups will offer them as a fund raiser and will take them back when you are done.

NO TINSEL!!!!!  It is dangerous, messy and a complete waste as you cannot use it again.  And, don't get me started on what it is made out of!!

No more decorations that can't be used next year!

And, just a few words on food.  Make half of what you normally do.  I don't need to know how much you made last year.  Trust me, it was TOO MUCH.  Make half and have everyone bring containers to take some home.

~Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rejoice

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