The holiday season is approaching and an estimated 164 million people took advantage of Black Friday deals to save a lot of money. This is the time of the year when sales increase and might make up as much as 30 percent of annual sales for retail stores, according to the National Retail Federation reports.
Unfortunately, this period also is the time of the year when the volume of household waste in the United States generally increases by 25 percent, which corresponds to about 1 million extra tons of waste. Sadly, almost 70 percent of that waste ends up in landfills according to the EPA.
Landfills take up space — a lot of space. Brevard’s landfill in Cocoa, for example, grew its site from the original 285 acres to a site that totals 957 acres today (brevardfl.gov/SolidWaste/TourFacility). That site is expected to reach capacity in about 25 years.
With that in mind and knowing that household waste generated in the United States has been increasing since 1960 (EPA), now would be a good time to think twice and find ways to beat that trend.
So here are some suggestions to make this year’s holiday season a more sustainable one:
Give experiences, not things!
How about camping, skydiving, or a guitar or yoga lesson? Surprise everyone with something personal and meaningful. You can find very cool ideas at SoKindRegistry.org
Make your gifts.
Cakes, cookies, candles, soaps, personalized ornaments or kitchen towels you sewed are sweet gifts that will warm anyone’s heart. Choose natural, organic ingredients whenever possible.
Make gifts from recycled materials.
How about a candle holder from a wine bottle or a coaster from used corks? Get creative and have fun while making gifts!
Many new products — from furniture to accessories to artwork — can be made from recycled materials.
If it is an option, buy second-hand.
You might find just the perfect gift in a thrift store and, if the thrift store is in support of a cause, like Brevard Humane Society’s Molly Mutt stores, your purchase will be a gift to a cause, too.
When buying new, favor sustainable products from trusted sources.
Invest a moment to do some research before buying. Mobile apps such as GoodGuide, Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping and DoneGood might help you get started.
Make the gift wrap part of the gift.
Trays, bowls, clay pots, reusable bags, ornamental baskets, vases or fabric would make beautiful gift wraps. You may also add some character to the gift if you use newspaper, maps, blueprints or posters instead of wrapping paper.
Donate, don’t waste!
Ordered too much? Received a duplicate? Consider donating to sharing centers and animal shelters, or sharing with family, friends and neighbors. Also, the old that was replaced with a new can be of use for someone else.
Electronics can be taken to Best Buy stores; rechargeable batteries to Batteries Plus; all sorts of plastic wrapping (plasticfilmrecycling.org) and styrofoam to special bins at grocery stores.
Reuse tissue paper, wrapping paper, ribbons, bows and gift bags.
Take toys and reusable items to Recycle Brevard (RecycleBrevard.org) in Rockledge.
Check what can be put in your recycle bin (wm.com/thinkgreen/what-can-i-recycle.jsp).
Do NOT place ceramics, artificial Christmas trees, Christmas lights, ornaments or bubble wrap in the recycle bin. When in doubt, the best option is to put it in the trash; otherwise, you may contaminate a good load of recyclables and end up seeing it all go to the landfills.
This holiday season, any steps you choose to take as a way to help reduce the waste will make a difference. That’s the best gift you can give to all of us and to our planet. So why not go for more sustainable practices and try to finish the year off with a cheer?
Happy holidays and until the next year!
Email Marcia Booth at Marcia@3RsAndBeyond.org.