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Make It a “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” Holiday

By Deborah Ng

The holidays are a season for giving. So why not give something that helps the environment at the same time? Here at the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control, we teach about the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Careful consideration during the purchase of gifts will reduce the amount of useless packaging material or senseless doo-dads that end up in the wastebasket before the holidays are over. Be creative! Skip the partridge in a pear tree and instead consider our 12 suggestions for an eco-friendly season.

Day 1: Choose or Use Recycled Materials for Gifts

You can find lots of gifts that are made of recycled materials. Look for welcome mats made from recycled tires, items made out of recycled plastic bottles, crafts made from scrap wood or reclaimed lumber, or clothing re-purposed to make fashionable decorations. Check out Pinterest for ideas on unique gifts you can make yourself from recycled materials.

Day 2: Use Rechargeable Batteries

If possible, buy rechargeable batteries for new electronic toys. Wondering how you should handle single-use batteries? You can drop them off at a household hazardous waste facility or participate in a number of mail-in or take-back programs. Check out this recycling locator to find the recycler nearest to you. Small battery disposal programs are offered at participating WalMart, ACE Hardware, RadioShack, Target, Home Depot, and Lowe’s.

Day 3: Make Your Own Recycling Station

With a little ingenuity, you can create your own recycling station in your home. All you need are plastic bins or wooden crates and some large labels. Recycling has never been so chic!

Day 4: Make Your Own Wrapping Paper

Unique wrapping materials make your gifts stand out from the crowd. Reuse maps, the Sunday comics, paper bags, or butcher paper. Have your kids color, use stamps, or glitter-glue the butcher paper or paper bags to get the whole family involved. And remember to save ribbons, bows and bags to reuse next year!

Day 5: Reuse Holiday Cards

Don’t throw away your old holiday cards! You can find lots of ideas for repurposing cards to make fun decorations. Holiday cards can also be recycled with mixed paper products—just pull off any non-paper gee-gaws that might be attached. Alternatively, you can cut cards up into small gift tags to use next year. Choose smaller-sized cards when buying new.

Day 6: Take Transit

When traveling during the holidays, consider taking public transportation, carpooling with friends or relatives, or combining several errands into one trip. Take TRAX downtown to shop at Gateway or City Creek, see the Temple Square lights, have a nice dinner, or attend a holiday or sporting event. UTA is offering 15 cent fares from December 15-December 31 using the electronic FAREPAY cards.

Day 7: Support Sustainable Foods and Local Growers

Planning a holiday feast? Think organic veggies, fruits, meat, or sustainable seafood. Consider giving friends and family a membership to your local community-supported agriculture (CSA) program for locally-grown produce year-round. At the end of the meal, remember to compost and recycle.

Day 8: Recycle Your Christmas Lights

No need for your lights next year? Donate them to a local charity or offer them to someone who wants them on freecycle. If some of the bulbs are broken or there are other problems with the lights, recycle them at holidayleds.com. The lights will be recycled responsibly, and you’ll get a coupon worth 25 percent off a new purchase.

At the end of the holiday, put Christmas lights away carefully so they’ll be in good shape for the following year. If the original packaging is no help, rip the side off a large cardboard box and wrap the string around it, cutting notches in the cardboard if necessary to hold the light string in place.

Day 9: Use Reusable Dishware

Don’t forget the dishes! Avoid using disposable dishes and utensils when entertaining friends and family. This is the perfect time to pull out grandma’s fancy plates, hit the thrift stores, or even purchase reusable plastic plates. If you must use disposable dishware, buy ones that are made from recycled or compostable material. Remember to place your new recycling and compost containers in an easy-to-find location at your celebration so your guests can recycle soda cans, bottles, and paper products and compost food scraps.

Day 10: Replant, Compost, or Mulch Your Tree

If you want to celebrate the holidays with a tree, consider purchasing a tree that can be replanted in your yard.

If you purchased a cut tree, look for ways to compost it after the holidays rather than sending it to a landfill. Most areas in Utah have a curbside pickup for recycling trees or central drop-off recycling centers. Check your city’s web page for pickup days or drop-off locations–most programs run for several weeks. Recycled trees are chipped and shredded to make mulch that can be used as compost or landscaping material.

Day 11: Recycle or Donate Used Electronics

Don’t junk last year’s electronic11: Recycle or Donates. Don’t underestimate the value of your old computer or TV when you get a shiny new replacement for the holidays. That “clunker” was worth something the day before—and still is. Maybe someone you know would benefit from it. A local school or charity might want it. Heck, you might even be able to sell it. Remember reduce, reuse, recycle.

If there are no takers, recycle it. Many retail stores such as Best Buy and electronics manufacturers will take back all electronics at no cost to you. If you have a Mac or iPad, bring it back to Apple for recycling. PCs are accepted too! Apple promises that if the machine has monetary value, you will receive an Apple Gift Card for the amount. The same applies to iPhones and iPods. Check out recycling options for Takeback Programs in Utah.

Just remember, when donating or recycling any equipment with personal information on it, you need to wipe out the memory first. This is very important, as it protects you from financial and identity theft—and simply to keep private stuff private. Use these instructions for erasing data from PCs.

Day 12: Host a Gift Exchange

Have a swap party. You may not be in love with the fringed, mesh muscle shirt that one of your overzealous co-workers gave you, but someone else might go gaga over it! Planning a swap party is simple – just invite a few favorite friends to bring over their unwanted gifts, serve some yummy snacks and beverages, and let the trading begin! For an added dose of excitement, play the classic gift-switching game White Elephant.

Take our 12-day Holiday Recycle Challenge! Use your cell phone to post your recycling photos to our Instagram account @HolidayRecycleChallenge.You can use one of our ideas, or one of your own. The daily winner’s photo will be featured on our social media channels. #HolidayRecycleChallenge

Want to learn more about sustainability practices? Visit our website to find out more. We also have a wide selection of pollution prevention fact sheets that can help you properly manage and dispose of a variety of household wastes.Reduce Reuse Recycle

I am the manager of the Recycling and Community Outreach Program for the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste. We provide public and business assistance for recycling, used oil, small generators of hazardous waste, and waste tires. I love to golf and travel with my family.