San Francisco may recycle more of its waste than any City in the US – resulting in 65% overall diversion of waste from the landfill. But during the holiday season, even San Franciscans are prone to create their (more than) fair share of excess waste.
I don’t remember where I read this, so don’t quote me on this… but I believe that in the U.S., we create up to 4 tons of waste just from the wrapping and packaging of holiday presents every year. That figure doesn’t even take into account the gazillions of toys that break the day after Christmas or the kazillions of somewhat useless gifts that are given and sit on a shelf until they eventually end up in the trash can.
But, there are lots of ways that you can help be a part of the solution and not the problem. Here’s just a few ideas:
- Send e-cards this year – Sending electronic greetings can greatly reduce the amount of paper that gets wasted during the holidays. While they may seem less personal, you can at least send them to all but your closest friends. And if you do send real greeting cards, make sure they are made with recycled content
- Get creative with your wrapping material – I’ve been on this kick for years. I try to always give my gifts in packaging that is not just recycled or recyclable, but is actually reusable. I’ve wrapped presents in scarves, table cloths, clothing or have gone out of my way to find boxes that I know people will reuse. But if you aren’t that creative, or don’t want to spend a ton on wrapping material, try using reused wrapping paper (yes, I unwrap my packages slowly and carefully for a reason), or comic strips, or even brown paper bags wrapped with string (and yes, you should have “These are a few of my Favorite Things” playing in your head right now!).
- Give gifts that don’t require wrappinig – Small gifts such as gift cards or concert tickets don’t require much wrapping paper, and can be shoved into that recycled gift card you’re giving to the recipient. You can also give people the gift of giving – that’s right. You can donate money to a worthy cause in the name of the recipient. There are even websites that allow you to buy a “gift certificate” for your recipient, and let them choose the charity is ends up going to.
- Recycle your tree – There are plenty of things that be done with your tree after the holiday season is over: chipping (chippings are used for various things from mulch to hiking trails); beachfront erosion prevention, lake and river shoreline stabilization, fish habitat, and river delta sedimentation management to name a few things.
There are plenty of other things you can do to keep your holiday green. You can check out the EPA’s site to get some more ideas. But don’t stop there. Rethink your usual holiday patterns and see how you can do your part to reduce some of the waste we create!