Conserving waste over holiday season
BY BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Saturday, December 15, 2012
12/15/12 at 4:25 AM
The holiday season not only amounts to a lot of social events and the memories that come with them, but also a lot of stuff.
Sparkly stuff. Tinny stuff. Extra and unneeded stuff.
Stuff that will go into the trash as soon as the holiday is over.
"I bet we produce twice as much trash on Christmas day than the day before," said Michael Patton, executive director of the The Metropolitan Environmental Trust (The M.E.T.).
It's the prettiest trash of the year, he said, but it's still, nevertheless, trash.
According to the EPA, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day than they do any other time of year. It adds up to an extra million ton of waste a week.
Before it's all over, ripped up wrapping paper, shopping bags, old Christmas lights, spent napkins, wasted food and food scraps and old items that have been replaced by new shiny ones all end up on the curb.
Patton said he could list a wide variety of ways Tulsans can have a more environmentally friendly holiday season, many of which he's already started putting to use.
When it comes to real and artificial trees, Patton said he can argue for both sides. On the one hand, before Christmas trees are cut, they're helping the environment by doing such things as expelling oxygen. On the other hand, while not fragrant but likely made of nonrenewable materials, artificial trees can be used year after year and save the gas you'd be spending to drive and pick up a live-cut tree.
"I think that it's ironic that the only tree people ever water is the dead one in their living room in December," Patton quipped.
If you choose a cut tree for the holidays, dispose of it properly. Trees rid of all their decorations can be taken to the City of Tulsa Green Waste site at 10401 E. 56th St. North, where it will be chipped into wood mulch for use in your garden.
Another idea is to dump your tree - free of all decorations - into a stream or lake where it will make a great habitat for wildlife, Patton said.
Before heading to the store to purchase new ornaments for the year, take a look at decorations you already have and items that can be turned into decorations. When choosing ornaments, select ones that can be used again.
Be selective about your lights. LED lights are becoming more and more the norm. These "low-emitting diode" lights reduce the amount of energy put into illuminating your tree.
Also, if in getting out last year's decorations you discover old strand lights that no longer work - don't trash them, recycle them. And be sure to wash your hands because Patton said the wires between the lights contain lead, which is toxic.
During the holidays, because there is a lot of food, it seems there is more to waste. Don't discount composting applicable food scraps. And while the holidays may be abundant with food for your family, because of the season, that isn't the case necessarily for wildlife. Patton suggests taking good bread scraps, breaking them up and tossing them outdoors for birds.
In selecting utensils and other dining accessories, lean toward the reusable - cloth napkins instead of paper ones, actual dishes and flatware instead of what is disposable. These reusable items also make great gifts.
Whatever the occasion you are giving or receiving gifts around, there are opportunities to be Earth-conscious in how you proceed. Patton said the shirt he gets his father for Christmas fits perfectly into a cereal box, and the gloves he's given his wife fit well in a macaroni and cheese box.
"People go out and buy gift boxes when they have good boxes at home," he said.
So check there first, and consider not wrapping the gift at all.
If you still want to wrap, some green wrapping ideas include using recyclable materials such as fabric or newsprint.
"Who hasn't seen wonderful gifts for kids wrapped in comic pages?"
Consolidate shopping trips and make it a group affair.
Top 10 green gifts of 2012
According to the M.E.T., "a true green gift is one that will be used many times over the course of many years." It's one that is packaged "responsibly and does not produce excess waste. "This type of gift can be affordable and priceless - a present that can potentially save the planet is a gift for everyone," reads a statement from The M.E.T.
1. Bicycles: They are trendy, great for exercise, transportation and are non-polluting.
2. Water filter: Filtered water pitchers are sold at grocery stores and can replace up to 300 bottles of water with each filter.
3. Rechargeable batteries: They may cost a little more in the beginning, but charging them hundreds of times makes them a bargain.
4. Plant a tree: December is a great time to plant a tree and give your home and neighbors a gift.
5. Kid-powered toys: Battery-powered toys can do more harm to our environment with improper disposal of those batteries that wear out fast.
6. Recycled bird feeder: Bird feeders are sold in kits to make with the kids or already assembled ready to fill with seed.
7. Recycled door mat: Door mats help clean the bottom of shoes and protect your carpets or wooden floors.
8. Glass storage containers: Glass storage containers will keep food fresher and make leftovers part of the next meal.
9. LED bulb: LED bulbs are better than the spiral CFL bulbs and use even less energy.
10. Small recycling bin: Any container can be labeled or hand painted to become a recycling bin or you can buy them in fashionable colors and styles.
For more information, visit tulsaworld.com/met
Have an energy-efficient holiday
According to Energy.gov, in addition to covering drafty windows, sealing air leaks and implementing other measures that prevent energy loss, adjust your temperature.
While at home, set your thermostat as low as is possible, and when you are asleep or away from home, turn your thermostat back 10 degrees to 15 degrees for eight hours and save about 10 percent on your heating and cooling bills.
Original Print Headline: A Green Christmas
Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316
STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World