While most of us look forward to the winter holidays, our garbagemen don’t. Between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, they will lift about 25% more trash into the trucks than they usually do. That uneaten food, gift wrap and packaging add a million tons a week to the nation’s garbage during that time. Americans waste 28 billion pounds of edible food each year: over 100 pounds per person. Seasonal celebrations bear some of the blame. You haul the swag home, and the garbageman takes away the discards. Across the country, garbage tonnage is up, and recycling tonnage isn’t keeping pace. We’re putting more waste into landfills and incinerators, and we’re not pulling enough material out, to return it to the economy. This is even true in New Jersey, which has long been a national leader in recycling. New Jersey residents and businesses now generate nearly 20 million tons of waste each year. Although we continue to recycle nearly half of that waste, the amount of materials (paper, bottles, cans) that we recycle has not been increasing over the last ten years, but the amount of waste that is sent to incinerators and landfills has been increasing steadily. In fact, the state’s recycling rate for homes and businesses has dropped nearly 27% because of this. To combat this, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is preparing a more challenging Solid Waste Management Plan, and each county will be instituting innovations to reinvigorate recycling in New Jersey. There will be new rules to enforce compliance with state law, and more outreach, to get businesses and institutions involved. But good habits start at home.
Cut your share of the garbage with these ideas:
Give experiences – Many of us have more belongings than we have time or space to enjoy. Try these gift ideas:
Language, sports, or music lessons
Admission to a museum or exhibition, or tickets to a play
Membership to a club or association
Health spa gift certificate
On-line magazine subscription
Park passes and fishing licenses
Transit passes and tickets
For kids, the gift of your time is special:
A day at a national park
A trip to the circus
Give investments – Most gifts don’t last long, but investments do, especially for babies too young to appreciate gifts.
Open an Education IRA with a broker or financial planner.
Give a gift certificate. The recipient will get only what he wants.
Convinced you must give a real, solid, wrapped gift?
Give a gift certificate.The recipient will get only what he wants.
Buy durable durables. “Durable goods” are expected to last 3 years. But do they? Electronics become obsolete, and novelty toys collect dust. How about bikes, tools, a live tree, or good kitchenware?
Let a child’s mind “grow into” the toy. Remember how your Mom got you extra-long pants so they would fit 6 months later?
Choose toys that challenge: musical instruments, art supplies, tools, chess sets.
Buy pre-owned. A thrift shop or flea market may have the perfect gift.
Buy goods with recycled content.
Cut out the snail-mail with e-greetings.
Wrap a gift in a scarf, tote, backpack, toolbox or bucket that becomes part of the gift. Or use the increasingly popular paper gift bags.
As people open gifts, collect the wrapping paper and recycle it. (Be sure no small toy parts are tossed into the bag).
Buy a live tree, and plant it.
After the holidays –
You’ll have things you don’t need, since you’ll receive gifts that “upgrade” them. You may also have gifts you just don’t want. Call and find out what your local charities and non-profits need. Remember, giving drops off after the holidays, as people forget the needy.
All those catalogs you ordered, to help with shopping, just keep coming and coming. The average American receives more than 500 pieces of junk mail each year. That’s about a tree for every household. Call the ordering number on the back of the catalog and have them stop delivery. Trust us: you won’t miss a thing. Recycle your tree. Programs will be listed in the paper or announced on local radio.
Bring used packaging peanuts and other materials to a local mailing center. Find one through the Loosefill Products Council (1-800-828-2214).
And, of course, don’t forget to recycle all those pre-holiday catalogs, corrugated boxes, and cans and bottles from holiday get togethers!
Join a swapping club, such as Freecycle (www.freecycle.org), to keep usable items out of landfills.
For more holiday ideas, and for techniques for year-round, visit: