waste reduction

“Staying Green” for the Holidays

Christmas tree near dumpster

Don’t let Christmas trees get sent to landfills where they can contribute to dangerous methane gas emissions! Treecycle and turn them into compost or wood chips for mulch. (Source: Flickr user katielehart)

 

By Barbara Pualani

The winter holiday season is one of the best times of the year, but it is arguably one of the most wasteful. As we online shop, cook big holiday meals, wrap presents and decorate our homes, Americans create about one million extra tons of waste – this equals about a 25 percent volume increase of household waste, all generated between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. But don’t let this ruin your holiday spirit! There are simple ways to “stay green” during the holidays while still maintaining the holiday cheer.

  • Recycle creatively by using eclectic gift wrapping. Old newspapers, comic books, posters, and magazines can all be used to wrap presents. Also, save bows, ribbons, and bags for reuse next year.
  • If Santa brings you new electronics, be sure to recycle the old ones. Because they can be a source of contamination, it is illegal to dispose of electronic waste in landfills in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Most electronic retailers offer a free buy-back option. In New York City, the Department of Sanitation has established special waste drop-off locations in each of the five boroughs. In addition, e-cycleNYC is a free recycling collections service that can be solicited for buildings with ten or more units. Check local and state websites for other programs as well.
  • Use LED lighting for all your holiday decorations. They use approximately 75 percent less energy and last longer than regular incandescent bulbs.
  • At the end of the season, don’t send your Christmas tree to the landfill where it contributes to dangerous methane gas emissions. Rather, replant, compost or mulch it! There are various programs available. NYC offers free curbside pickup for a couple weeks in January, and many cities in the metropolitan area have similar programs. On January 9-10 you can also bring your tree to designated NYC parks for MulchFest 2016.
  • Finally, be the best host ever and hold a zero-waste event! When hosting holiday parties, use real glasses, dishes, utensils, and cloth napkins to minimize waste. And plan ahead for meals and parties. It’s not only economical, but it will reduce the amount of food thrown away.

It’s possible to have a fun and happy holiday season while maintaining that “green” lifestyle you cultivate all year long. For these and more winter tips, check out EPA’s website.

 

About the author: Barbara Pualani serves as a speechwriter for EPA Region 2. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. She resides in Brooklyn and is a graduate of University of Northern Colorado and Columbia University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Until We Meet Again

By Lina Younes

I’m glad to have been contributing to Greenversations since it was launched back in April, 2008. For the past three years, I’ve been part of the effort to produce bilingual blog posts every Thursday. I’ve covered a wide variety of environmental health issues during that time. My goal has been to increase environmental awareness to English and Spanish-speaking audiences in the U.S. and worldwide. Essentially, I have wanted to convey one central message: the steps we take in our daily lives, whether at home, at school, in the office, or our community, have a direct impact on our health and the environment as a whole.

I’ve truly enjoyed writing about the debate over the Puerto Rican tree frog in Hawaii. In fact, I have learned a lot during the process from over 120 comments received from residents from both sets of Islands.

Environmental issues such as the proper use of pesticides, waste reduction,  recycling, saving energy, environmental education activities have been very popular. I’ve also used my blog posts to give further insight to EPA’s regulatory process.

However, what I have enjoyed the most during this time has been the opportunity to share my experiences with my youngest daughter. She has truly been an inspiration for many of my blog entries. While I’ve tried to educate her about the importance of the environment, I have learned a lot from her as well. Many times she seems to have wisdom beyond her years.  Either I’m doing something right or she gets it. I couldn’t be happier.

So, while I am glad to have been given the opportunity to participate in this environmental exchange, I will have to go on hiatus for a while. My current responsibilities in the Office of Environmental Education help me to continue working in favor of environmental literacy, but limit the time I have available to write weekly blogposts. At this point, I will not be able to fulfill a weekly commitment to Greenversations. Nonetheless, I hope to resume the conversation or at least contribute from time to time. As always, I would like to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.