I strive to live a sustainable lifestyle and don't want to lose sight of this ambition during the busy holiday season. Do you have any advice on cutting back waste and celebrating the holidays with a conscience?
- Sophie from Frisco
It is that time of year! With every snow shower and charmed evening with loved ones, our hearts warm up like a fresh cup of organic, Fair Trade, hot cocoa. Less magical, is the shopping cart gridlock, holiday traffic, credit card debt and an increase in the amount of trash we generate. It may take more than a yoga class to eliminate all of your seasonal stress. Fortunately, you can avoid becoming a holiday trash statistic by practicing the 3 'R's (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle).
Reduce waste by purchasing products with minimal packaging and avoid single-use items. Plastic bags are an unnecessary evil, especially with the escalated grocery, decorating and gift shopping during this time of year. Tis the season to remember your reusable bags. Don't leave them in the kitchen or in your car. Maybe even consider investing into a few more; if not for yourself than as gifts for others.
Thanks to well-planned product placement, reusable bags can be found near most checkout counters. Eartha's Green Shop, located at the High Country Conservation Center (Sixth and Main Street, Frisco), offers an eclectic selection of gifts and bags, including ChicoBag. The compact, reusable Chicobags come in different colors, sizes and designs. They also have a convenient clip, so you can attach your bag(s) right onto a purse or backpack, even your keys.
In addition to providing a good product, the Chicobag company is committed to the environment. Chicobag is a member of Green America as well as the Fair Labor Association. Their rePETe bags are manufactured using recycled materials. Chicobag collects "your tired masses of reusable bags, functional or not" to distribute to fixed- and low-income families. Ultimately, they strive for a closed loop solution to plastic bags clogging our landfills. (ChicoBag.com)
Single-use, disposable flatware and cutlery can also congest our landfills. Using your own dishes and asking guests to bring their own settings, are a few alternatives to serving your holiday meal on wax and plastic-coated items. Please don't use Styrofoam either. Another solution is to host your holiday party using compostable products. Rather than generating a ton of trash, your gathering would contribute to the community composting and local food initiatives. The High Country Conservation Center provides Zero- Waste Party Packs that come with compostable forks, knives, corn-based cups, sugar cane plates and educational signage. (HighCountryConservation.org)
Properly sorting your compost, recycling and garbage is imperative during the holidays. This is the busiest time of year at the drop-off sites and the SCRAP (Summit County Resource Allocation Park). There are recycling bins for aluminum cans and foil, #1 and #2 plastic bottles, and glass containers at the local drop-off sites. Wrapping paper and holiday cards get recycled in the mixed paper bins. Tissue paper is too thin to recycle, so it should be trashed, tossed into the wood burning stove or composted. Flattened cardboard boxes, paperboard (i.e. cereal boxes), gift boxes and all brown paper go into the cardboard bins. The clean, Styrofoam, packing peanuts can be brought to a UPS store and they will reuse them. As for electronics, they contain hazardous materials and need to be recycled at the SCRAP.
You can also reduce your ecological footprint by eating local food this holiday season. Whether the food is homegrown, purchased at a farm stand or marked as local in the grocery store, local foods taste better and support neighboring, small farms. Regional diets have also proven to consume less fossil fuels. Obviously transporting a squash from your backyard burns less oil and gas than produce being transported from across the country or even the world. The original Thanksgiving dinner consisted of indigenous corn, deer, turkey, fish, nuts, berries and squash. Whether it's the entire meal or just one dish, continue the tradition of eating local and seasonal, using meats and produce found within 100 miles from your home. (TheDaily
Green.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/100-mile-Thanksgiving) You can also be confident that eating USDA certified organic foods is better for the planet and your body.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.