We can all take steps to keep holidays green

This year we are all for the most part back on schedule with holiday plans. Once again we are seeing family, friends and colleagues in person for the holidays, and while that is great for our emotions, it’s not so great for our planet. A study from Stanford University showed that from the Thanksgiving to New Years period, 25 percent more trash is thrown away. That’s 25 million tons of trash, or 1 million extra tons per week on top of the normal amount of waste. 

And let’s be honest: the majority of that waste is wrapping paper, gift boxes/bags and disposable dinnerware. This is a huge problem as most of this waste ends up in garbage islands, landfills and other forms of pollution, but the ways most often advertised to reduce the waste are costly, hard to come by or just unsafe. 

On top of that, many refuse to recycle not because they are apathetic to helping the earth but because it requires them taking time out of their daily routine to do so. 

So the question is, how can we reduce the amount of holiday waste affordably, quickly and safely for anyone without disrupting life too much? Well let’s look at the problem simply. To reduce dinnerware waste, stop using disposable dishware. Yes, it may make cleaning up a little bit easier to use disposable, and I know it’s not as festive as the themed stuff from Michaels, but china or even plastic dinnerware is so much better for the earth. When you use reusable flatware, people are less likely to just grab a new plate for every round of food, and they are more likely to clean it off and get more instead of throwing away several plates throughout the night. 

Another way to easily reduce waste with little hassle is to save tissue paper, bows, bags and boxes. Save boxes throughout the year instead of buying new ones during the holidays. Try to use bags and tissue paper instead of wrapped boxes altogether to avoid wrapping paper waste, or at least use recyclable wrapping paper. 

Little kids are hard to encourage to be careful so maybe try to coax them into it by saying Santa gives extra candy (or something else inexpensive) to kids who help recycle. This will hopefully get them to be more tender with the promise of fuller stockings next year. On top of saving wrapping paper, also try to save any ribbons or bows; they can be restuck with tape or glue after the first use, so buying new ones is pretty unnecessary. 

Next is waste management. Overall, no matter how hard you try, you can’t always save every bit of wrapping paper or cardboard, so instead of throwing it away, take it to a recycling center. In Cedar Falls our local center is called The Recycling Drop Off Center, and it is located next to the Transfer Station on the 1500 block of State Street. The hours of operation can be found at the website linked prior to this. 

This year life has been a struggle; 2021 has been just a hard a kick in the teeth as 2020 was, so let’s make 2022 positive by giving back to the planet and recycling the following:

“Cardboard, Wrapping Paper, Newsprint, Magazines, Tin Cans, Clear and Colored Glass, Office Paper, Plastics #1–7, Plastic Grocery Bags, Cooking oil without food residue is accepted only at the 15th Street site, Phone Books (accepted May–August), Styrofoam is accepted only at the Main Recycling Site at 15th and State, Panther Parkway and Greenhill Village remote sites. (Packing peanuts must be bagged.)”

Let’s stop using the holidays as an excuse to kill the planet people. There are ways to make them sustainable; it just takes a little effort. 

Happy holidays.

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