Go ‘green’ this holiday season

Every year, Americans throw away 25 percent more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than any other time of year. | APG News illustration

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Every year, Americans throw away 25 percent more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than any other time of year. This holiday season can be a brand new start for families looking to “go green.” There are several ways to recycle, reduce, and reuse around the holidays that will conserve natural resources while also preserving a budget.

Donating to & shopping at thrift stores

Donating unwanted, or unused items from the past year is a great way to make room for new gift items, while also offering other families a chance to purchase thoughtful, inexpensive gifts for loved ones. Thrift stores also offer an opportunity to reuse previously loved items, saving them from behing tossed into a landfill. Toys, clothes, furniture, jewelry, and more can all be found at bargain prices. Avoid standing in line at big-box retail stores; walk away from a thrift store with great finds at a fraction of the retail store price.

A season of paper gluttony

According to CalRecycle’s Office of Public Affairs in Southern California, 2.65 billion holiday cards are sold every year in the United States— enough to fill the length of a football field up to ten stories high! Using recycled materials wherever possible reduces thousands of tons of garbage from filling landfills during the month of December.

Reusing decorative boxes, tins and baskets for gifts is a creative alternative to standard wrapping paper. Choosing cards, gift wrap, paper towels and such made from recycled paper and buying recycled ribbons and tableware will spare the unnecessary cutting of trees and decrease the amount of pollution released into our environment from factory processing procedures.

Likewise, when the holiday season is through, these same products can be recycled instead of thrown away. Pay careful mind to the materials, however, as some products such as wrapping paper are lined with foil, and cannot be recycled.

‘Green’ decorations

When decorating this season, be sure to use energy efficient lights and decorations. LED lights not only use less energy, but are also cost effective, easier to install, safer, and longer lasting than traditional holiday lights, according to a U.S. Department of Energy.

Consider buying a Christmas tree with the root ball intact; families can preserve the tree and replant it— a fun and educational activity that children of all ages will enjoy. If the local Christmas tree farm does not offer this option, get a jump-start on spring’s gardening chores by mulching the tree after Christmas, creating mulch bedding or compost. Many local recycling centers and municipalities also offer programs to mulch spent Christmas trees.

Don’t forget a “green” attitude while planning holiday events. Purchase eco-friendly gifts that use less power or fewer batteries for operation. Many energy efficient appliances are eligible for rebates. Make organic meals with items not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Compost any leftover or uneaten foods that would otherwise go into the garbage, or donate them to local food banks or shelters.

Carpool with friends and family to decrease exhaust pollution as well as traffic jams. Members of Team APG can even contact the APG Commuter Center at 410-278-5491 to discuss commuting options to and from APG, year-round.

For more information, contact the Pollution Prevention Program at 410-306-2199.

Story by Brittany Long, DPW Pollution Prevention Program