Helpful hints can green your holidays

Written by Donna Stuckert. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on December 07, 2011 with No Comments

Have you started to think about Christmas?

Who are you buying for?

Are you sending cards?

Do you need decorations?

Are you hosting a party?

There’s always a lot to consider. Sometimes to get through the holidays on top of our busy daily lives, we don’t take the time to really analyze what we are doing and end up on what I like to call “autopilot” in order to meet all of these extra demands.

In the process, Americans throw away an estimated 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than any other time of year. Before getting caught up in the frenzy, take the time to rethink and plan a holiday strategy to reduce waste. You may even save money in the process.

Here are a few tips that will make an environmental impact:

Buy less. With the poor economy, it’s a good idea for everyone to spend less. Consider organizing a grab bag with your family members and buy a special gift for one person versus five less-than-special gifts for five people.

1. Instead of buying a gift, create your own personal gift certificates, such as “Redeemable for One Free Housecleaning,” or “Lunch on Me.” Get creative and find nice ways to make people’s lives easier and enjoyable.

2. Take your reusable grocery bags Christmas shopping, so you won’t need to consume plastic bags.

3. Buy recycled or eco-friendly products whenever possible: Holiday cards, wrapping paper, bags, even gifts. You’ll save energy, create less pollution, preserve natural resources and send a message to manufacturers to make more environmentally-friendly products.

4. If you need decorations, check your backyard first for pine cones, tree boughs, and other organics you can make into centerpieces and garland.

5. Send electronic greeting cards to your friends and family who have e-mail.

6. Save and reuse wrapping paper. Or, use reusable gift bags, newspaper, paper grocery bags, children’s artwork, magazine pages, maps, or other interesting and colorful paper. Even better, wrap gifts in scarves, cloth napkins or something else the receiver can actually use.

7. Make gift tags instead of buying them. Cut up some of your latest junk mail letters and use the backs of them to label your gifts. If you have young children, ask them to color and label the tags for fun, unique and very personal gift identifiers.

8. Buy gifts that don’t need batteries. If batteries are necessary for your electronic gifts, include with them a set of rechargeable batteries and a charger. Confirm that old or unwanted electronics and batteries are recycled properly. Contact your local solid waste district for places to recycle electronics (see contact information below).

9. Buy a real tree instead of an artificial tree. Real trees are harvested from farms, just like vegetables and plants, so you aren’t diminishing a forest. Purchasing a real tree also supports the local economy.

After the new year, take off all the decorations and recycle the tree, as its greenery and wood can become mulch and compost to reuse in gardens come spring. Check with your county solid waste district (see contact information below) to find out if your waste haulers will collect and recycle your trees. The Valparaiso compost site, 2150 W. Lincolnway (Indiana 130 – one mile west of intersection with Joliet), accepts Christmas trees, wreaths, plants, and other live holiday decorations, including pumpkins, gourds, mums, etc., from Porter County residents. The site is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays from Jan. 7 through April, when it opens for the season. Besides being a landfill issue, artificial trees consume a lot of energy and petroleum-based materials during manufacturing. If you are looking to dispose of an artificial tree, consider donating it to a non-profit organization instead of throwing it in your trash.

1. Use LED lights and save 90 percent on your energy bill.

2. Use soy-based or beeswax candles, either unscented or scented with essential oils rather than chemicals. Paraffin wax candles, made from petroleum, can release harmful chemicals into the air.  

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About Donna Stuckert

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Donna Stuckert is the Community Education Coordinator for the Recycling & Waste Reduction District of Porter County. She is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience who enjoys working for the greater good and inspiring others on making a difference. For more information or to reach Stuckert, e-mail

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