The holidays generate 25 million tons of trash in the United States, an extra million tons per week during the five-week season. In an effort to decrease waste at WSU, a free workshop recently offered ideas for no- and low-waste holiday parties and gift giving.
Sponsored by Campus Sustainability, University Recycling and Dining Services, the workshop presented tips that might be implemented by WSU employees at work and at home. Here are some of them:
• Consolidate shopping trips to spend less time and gas.
• Tune up the car for holiday trips. Check the tire pressure. If properly inflated, gas mileage is maximized and tires last longer, saving on both.
• Make a realistic food shopping guide — avoid having leftovers that will be thrown out.
• Send leftovers home with guests in plastic containers collected from other food purchases.
• Try to bake several dishes at one time and turn the oven off a few minutes before the food is cooked to let the heat already in the oven finish it.
• Compost your leftover fruits, vegetables and peels after holiday meal preparations.
• If each person wastes only one tablespoon of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, it adds up to 16.1 million pounds. Serve smaller portions and let people take seconds, rather than overfilling their plates.
• If Pilgrims had six-packs, those plastic rings that hold them together still would be around today. Choose beverages packaged in recyclable materials to avoid having to throw away the rings.
• Make sure Santa and his reindeer eat the cookies and carrots your children leave out for them.
• Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Americans send out more than 2.3 billion cards. Laid end to end, that’s almost 26,000 miles worth of cards, enough to circle the earth and then some. Send holiday cards only to those people that you do not see throughout the year.
• Cut off the front of old holiday cards and use them to make your own or make them into postcards.
• Send cards with recycled paper content.
• The average consumer wraps 20 gifts during the holidays. If we use old maps, Sunday comics, or kids’ artwork instead, the paper saved could cover 45,000 football fields.
• If every family reused just 2 feet of holiday ribbon, 38,000 miles worth would be saved each year. That’s enough to tie a bow around the entire planet.
• When mailing a present, use a brown paper sack to wrap the box.
• Reuse packaging as much as possible, especially paper and plastic bags and plastic and glass containers. For example, break down gift boxes and store them for next year’s gifts.
• Buy a tree that can be planted afterwards or buy an artificial tree.
• Decorate the house with natural or edible items — branches, pine cones, berries, gourds, fresh fruit, holiday candy and decorated cookies.
• Use old holiday cards for tree ornaments.
• Buy lights that are wired in parallel — if one goes bad, the others still work.
• Put your lights on a timer — it will save energy and money.
• It is estimated that last Christmas, gifts worth as much as $1 billion were unwanted and doomed to the attic, basement, garage or oblivion. Think carefully about what gifts friends and family really need and want. One thoughtful gift may be better than six unwanted packages.
• Give a gift that was purchased or received but is not being used by you. (It’s the thought that counts!)
• Buy rechargeable batteries for toys and other items that are used frequently.
• Think before you accept that bag at the store! Take cloth bags with you for your purchases. Put small items with the receipt into your purse or pocket. Put things into a bag you are already carrying instead of accepting a second or third bag. And when you wind up taking a new bag home with you, reuse or recycle it.
• Make gifts out of items that you already have around the house, such as:
* Old clothes and jewelry for a dress-up box.
* Tools and gadgets for a young inventor.
* Pot holders and oven mitts made from old ironing board covers.
* Doll clothes made from old clothes, drapes, robes and tablecloths.
• Instead of buying a gift for all of your family and friends, make a date with them. Go to lunch or invite them to your house, make eggnog and spend time with them.
Holiday tips …
• When writing party invitations, use recycled paper. And instead of using an envelope, design invitation postcards — this even saves you on postage.
• For your holiday parties, set up convenient recycling containers for bottles, cans, wrapping paper or anything else recyclable. This also will help in the next day’s cleanup process.
• Rent furniture, utensils, glassware and table settings for parties instead of buying or using disposables.
• At the end of the season, have a white elephant party. Invite your friends and ask them to bring a holiday gift they don’t want. Put the gifts on a table and let everyone choose an item that they like.
• Give stuff away. Make sure it is clean and in good repair and take it to a charitable organization.
• In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage. Make a New Year’s resolution to reduce and recycle more in 2006.