The holidays generate up to 25% more garbage in the weeks leading up to, and after, a major holiday. Part of what is thrown away in unwanted holiday decorations. Everything from live trees to holiday lighting can find itself on its way to the rubbish bin, creating an estimated 1 million tons of extra garbage each week.
But what if there was a way to help reduce its environmental impact, and create less waste each holiday season? Through recycling, repurposing, donation, burning and composting you can actually reduce the footprint left behind by unwanted trash.
First off, much of what ends up in the trash may actually be excellent composting materials. If you garden, then you know the importance of feeding your plants. There are actually many benefits of using compost over fertilizer concerning nutrients for vegetation, and everything from your Christmas tree to cardboard, as well as certain types of wrapping paper, can be shredded or cut up to add to a compost pile.
Most people are surprised by what can go into a compost. Coffee grounds, bread, fruit rinds, tea bags, and much of the leftover waste from baking (think potato peels, fruit and vegetable waste, and eggshells) can be tossed into the compost. Also, any paper that does not adhered with glues or plastics can also be broken down, which includes tissue paper and napkins.
Lights are the number one recycling item during the holiday season. Not only do many stores offer trade-in programs to receive a discount on LED lights, which burn longer and cooler with less energy draw, most recycling centers also have special programs specifically for strings of lights that no longer work.
Batteries are also something you can take to a recycling center, as are unused, replaced or broken electronics. Best Buy and Staples are two stores that accept electronic waste which you can drop off in-store. The small metal parts within them are often salvaged and melted down to make new materials for new products. Lookup a local e-cycling center.
Cooking oil should never be composed, but did you know that you can actually bring it to many recycling centers? Old cooking oil is often reused for heating purposes in specialized stoves, or even just burned down.
Styrofoam peanuts and other packaging materials will also often be accepted at recycling centers during holidays in order to repurpose the material for future packing protection.
Gifting ribbon, gift boxes, bags, wrapping paper, tissue paper, and even holiday cards can be easily repurposed for future gift giving when care is taken in opening holiday gifts. Ribbon, when untied, can grace the wrapping of future gifts if not damaged, or even reused for hair bows if of good enough quality. Boxes, bags, and paper products can all be easily reused and are easy to store since they fold down flat. Holiday cards can be repurposed as a postcard if only one side of the card has been written upon as well.
If not all of your decor is specific to the season, consider using it in crafts or DIY projects, or create new decorations from old ones. Old wrapping paper, garlands, or anything else soft in nature can be used to help cushion and store ornaments or other delicate holiday decorations.
Storing fake trees is a hassle for many people, so consider donating it instead to a local thrift shop- even if it is old and worn out. Crafty people are always looking for props and other items for projects, and who knows? Perhaps a family that cannot afford a new tree would be happy to take it off your hands.
This goes without saying that old decorations, garlands, and fake wreaths should also go the same way. Donating what you no longer use is a feel-good experience, and even if the products are slightly shabby, repurposing donated items are what some people live for. Your trash may be another person’s treasure!
With very little effort you can easily dispose of your unwanted Christmas decorations in such a manner that you leave very little left to impact the environment negatively. Recycling and repurposing items, or even donating them, can ensure that they are going to be put to good use one way or another in the future - and may even be helping another family out. Composting or burning helps break down the elements of certain products as well to shrink the footprint you leave behind from your waste, and if you aren't sure exactly what you can compost, check out this handy list: here.
*This post was written as a guest post