Creative Ways to Cut Your Holiday Waste

By Grace Doran and Jessica Kidwell

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, American household waste increases by more than 25 percent. Trash cans full of holiday food waste, shopping bags, bows and ribbons, packaging, and wrapping paper contribute an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills.

As we celebrate the holidays, it pays to be mindful of sustainable consumption and materials management practices. They may help you focus even more on caring and celebration during this holiday season, and could even reduce the strain on our fiscal budgets and  the natural environment.

Giving

  • Less is more. Choose items of value, purpose, and meaning – not destined for a yard sale.
  • Give treasure. Pass on a favorite book, plant start, or antique. Check estate sales, flea markets, and resale shops for unique finds.
  • recycling, energy, power, environment and ecology concept - clos

    Consider rechargeable batteries

    Give “anti-matter.” Focus on the experience, rather than wrapping and shipping. Share event tickets, museum memberships, gift certificates, or even your time and talents.

  • Impart values, not wastefulness. Start a child’s savings account, or make a donation to a favorite charity in the recipient’s name.
  • DIY. Handmade food and gifts display your creativity and demonstrate your dedication.
  • Consider the source. Choose recycled or sustainably sourced materials. Shop local to support area shops, makers, and artisans while reducing shipping costs and impacts.
  • Recharge. Consider rechargeable batteries (and chargers) with electronic gifts.
  • Blank linen shopping bag

    Use a reusable cloth bag

    Use a reusable cloth bag for your purchases. Avoid bags altogether for small or oversized purchases.

  • Plan ahead. Consolidate your shopping trips to save time, fuel, and aggravation. You’ll have more time for careful gift choices.
  • Rethink the wrap. Reuse maps, comics, newsprint, kid art, or posters as gift wrap. Wrap gifts in recycled paper or a reusable bag. Or skip the gift wrap, hide the gifts, and leaves clues or trails for kids to follow.

Celebrating

  • Trim the tree. Consider a potted tree that can be replanted, or a red cedar slated for removal during habitat/farm maintenance.
  • Light right. Choose Energy Star energy-efficient lighting. LED outdoor holiday lights use 1/50th the electricity of conventional lights and last 20 to 30 years.
  • Choose LED lights

    Choose LED lights

    Make it last. Choose and reuse durable service items.

  • Keep it simple. For larger gatherings, choose recyclable or compostable service items. All food-soiled paper products are commercially compostable, unless plastic- or foil-coated.

Looking Ahead

  • Reduce. Donate outgrown clothes, old toys, and unwanted gifts.
  • Reuse packing and shipping materials. Save ribbons, bows, boxes, bags, and décor for the next holiday.
  • Recycle old electronics and batteries with an e-steward.
  • Replant, mulch, or compost your live tree. Compost food scraps.

About the Co-Author: Grace Doran is a student intern in EPA Region 7’s Water, Wetlands and Pesticides Division. She is a senior at the University of Missouri-Columbia, studying civil engineering with an emphasis in environmental engineering. Grace has a passion for environmental education, listening to podcasts, running and pizza (and those don’t contradict each other).

About the Co-Author: Jessica Kidwell is a hydrogeologist with EPA Region 7’s Environmental Data and Assessment staff. She’s provided technical expertise and worked with stakeholders to advance scientific, environmental, and sustainability objectives for nearly 20 years.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Decisions, Decisions

by Magdalene Cunningham

Toilet Decision editedThis summer, my husband and I are remodeling our bathrooms and kitchen and it’s involved a lot of choices. Toilets, for instance.

I just wanted new toilets to go with my two new bathrooms; little did I know I needed to make several decisions.  Do I want chair height or lower which is better for small children?  Do I want a rounded or elongated seat?  Do I want a regular flushing system or one of the newer engineered varieties such as the push 1 or push 2?

One decision was simple.  Since I work for EPA, I‘m familiar with the benefits of buying a high-efficiency WaterSense product, and it helped me work my way through toilet row at our big home improvement store.

One of the things I’ve learned is that toilets account for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption and that older, inefficient, toilets use as much as 6 gallons per flush which can be a major source of wasted water in many homes. WaterSense-labeled models can reduce water used for toilets by 20 to 60 percent – saving nearly 13,000 gallons of water and $110 every year.

After I selected my WaterSense toilets, my husband had the fun job of getting two of these new-fangled toilets onto the cart and wheeled to the checkout cashier.  We were very lucky that the ones I picked happened to be stored on the floor and not an upper shelf.  The last time we bought toilets (15 years ago when we bought the house), each toilet came in two boxes: one for the tank and one for the seat part.  Unfortunately for my husband’s back, toilets now come already assembled in one very heavy, very large box.

If someone had thought to videotape our attempts at getting those boxes into what I used to think of as our “mid-sized” car, we’d win a prize on Funniest Home Videos.  He actually did a “Rocky” pose when the second one fit into the back seat.  After installing and using the WaterSense toilets, they work just the same as our old ones, just a lot faster and with a lot less water.

Our next trip: a new energy efficient refrigerator with water and crushed ice available on the outside – at least that can be delivered.

 

About the Author: Maggy started with EPA in 1987 and has worked in the Water Protection Division as the Region 3 Clean Water State Revolving Fund Coordinator for the past 17 years.  After 23 years of marriage, Maggy is happy to have survived this current and all previous home improvement projects.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Are Green Business More Likely to Attract Your Green?

By Lina Younes

During the holidays, I was waiting in line at a major retailer. While waiting, I noticed that they had several displays near the cashiers highlighting the retailer’s commitment to protecting the environment. In fact, they prominently displayed their actions in favor of sustainability practices such as recycling/minimizing waste, energy efficiency, emission reduction, and encouraging environmental values. I was so impressed on seeing how committed the company was to reducing its carbon footprint nationwide that I visited its website to learn more about their green practices. I was pleased to see that the retailer had been recognized by EPA for achieving several milestones in the past years such as increasing the number of Energy Star certified stores, LEED-certified locations, using solar energy, increasing their water efficiency, and recycling efforts to name a few. The retailer was an active participant in several of EPA’s partnership programs such as Energy Star, EPA Green Power Partnership, EPA WasteWise, and EPA SmartWay Shipper.  They even noted how they encouraged their employees to volunteer in numerous environmental protection activities throughout the year. All this information made me look at the retailer with a new light. It was evident that the company was trying to do its best to be a good green corporate citizen. Have you encountered similar situations with companies you buy from or do business with? Do their green practices influence you in any way? We would love to know.

And on a similar note, while we’re discussing green business practices, there are many green activities we can engage in at a personal level. At the beginning of 2012, it’s not too late to make a new year resolution. So if you are interested in pledging to do something good for the environment, just visit our Pick5 website.  Join others in going green.

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.