Consider the environment this holiday season
By Eric C. Deines
Amid all the joy and giving, the holidays make for one of the most wasteful seasons — both financially and environmentally.
Think of the mountains of wrapping papers that pile up on Christmas morning, the discarded evergreens and all the leftover food.
A release from the state says holiday preparations — including gift-giving, holiday decorations and food preparation — increase the nation’s trash by an extra 1 million tons per week between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
To battle some of the excess, the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources has offered some environmentally-sound practices for the holiday season.
“Not only are people concerned about the economy, but the environment is also a hot topic,’ said Kelley Dennings, environmental specialist with the N.C. Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, in a statement. “Why not make a ‘green’ New Year’s resolution this year as well?”
Simple ideas such as the use of reusable containers (baskets, tins and jars) for baked goods, and gifts such as gift certificates that don’t require wrapping paper.
But the list also goes so far as to impose environmentalism in the actual gift-giving — giving presents like a compost bin, can crusher, water timer, programmable thermostat, rain barrel, house plant, bird feeder, light timers and bat houses.
“Give things that people can use in a positive way,” said Mandy Smith-Thompson, Concord’s environmental educator.
Smith-Thompson said environmental efforts during the season could be very practical.
“Really, it’s just being creative to find things that won’t go to the landfill,” Smith-Thompson said.
While the city offers a free program to turn Christmas trees into mulch after residents simply place the trees on the curb, Smith-Thompson offered another solution.
“I think one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen done with Christmas trees…sink them at a lake and create a habitat for fish,” she said. “It would improve your chances of catching a fish — and of course, you chances of getting your line tangles up.”
At her own home, Smith-Thompson said she is known for reusing wrapping and gift bags.
“I reuse every gift bag I have until they almost fall apart,” she said. “I flatten out all my tissue paper to use it again.’
This year, Smith-Thompson will convert cigar boxes into customized jewelry boxes for her friends.
She also suggested giving waste-free gifts such as tickets to concerts or movies; or offer one’s own talents, such as knitting or photography.
And once the gift-giving is done, Smith-Thompson said there is a timeless reuse idea for those large cardboard boxes.
“I always tell my younger students ‘make it into a playhouse,’ because that was always the coolest thing,” she said.
• Contact reporter Eric C. Deines: 704-789-9141.