In this season of giving, let’s try not presenting the planet with more waste

‘Tis the season for a lot of waste. Ok, I don’t want to be a Scrooge, but it is also the season of giving and that giving often generates waste.

Although one of the best feelings in the world is giving a gift which is lovingly received, that feeling often accompanies an unintended byproduct. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, we create 25 percent more waste, or about 1 million extra tons, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. The waste comes from packaging, wrapping and ‘gifts’ we either don’t want or need.


These reindeer are made from cardboard toilet paper rolls and twigs. (Photo from Pinterest)

These reindeer are made from cardboard toilet paper rolls and twigs. (Photo from Pinterest)

This year I am trying to make my gift giving and decorating as purposeful and waste free as possible, so here are some tips I will try to follow:

• Traditional wrapping paper cannot be recycled in Central Kentucky, so don’t use it! My favorite wrapping paper is brown shipping paper (which can be recycled) that has been decorated by my wonderful daughters. I also have a box full of gift bags from previous holidays and tissue paper I rescued.

• Ribbons can be made from old VHS or cassette tapes. I have not tried this personally since it is hard for me to part with any of my tapes despite the fact that I don’t have a way to play them anymore, but I do hear that they curl nicely.

• Give gifts that do not use batteries, or if they do include rechargeable batteries with the present. Regular alkaline batteries are hard to recycle, but, once they no longer work, rechargeables can be recycled many places.

• Give services instead of things. Massages, pedicures or my favorite – an hour of house cleaning – will not end up in a landfill and provide local jobs.

• On the subject of Christmas trees, the age-old question is real or artificial. Both have their environmental attributes and drawbacks, but the real answer is to buy a living tree that can either be planted or reused each year. This may be a bit impractical, but I did find a company in Portland where you can rent a live tree for the season. The company will obviously not deliver to Kentucky, but that might be an idea for a local entrepreneur.

• Give gifts made out of recycled material. My one year old is still playing with the tea set made out of old milk jugs that was given to my older daughter. In fact, I just bought the same one to give to a friend’s daughter.

• On the subject of decorations, my guess is that most people are using LED lights since they use so much less energy and are cooler, but what about making recycled decorations? I am going to make toilet paper tube reindeer with my daughter’s first-grade class next week, but you can also make tree ornaments out of old puzzle pieces or old CD’s. Pinterest is an amazing resource for anything crafty and Bluegrass Greensource has a whole section on our page found here just for recycled Christmas crafts.

• Make pine cone bird feeders to “decorate” trees outside. This is a fun, albeit bit messy, activity for kids and the birds love it! Spread peanut butter on a pine cone and then roll it in bird seed. The peanut butter and seeds will give the birds much needed protein to help in the cold weather.

It is hard to avoid all of the waste during this season, especially with kids who probably don’t value a house cleaning service as much as the newest Monster High doll. I have already purchased my share of toys for my girls, but I am trying to make sure they are things that will grow with them as long as possible.

Finally, since this is the season for giving, don’t forget your favorite charity like Bluegrass Greensource. Gifts of time and money can do wonders for local and national nonprofits, and may give you a bit of a tax deduction, too.


1 Amy-SohnerAmy Sohner is executive director of Greensource and a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. Sohner has worked with Greensource since its inception in 2002 and is a Certified Environmental Educator. She is involved with the Kentucky Environmental Literacy Alliance, the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance, the Licking and Kentucky River Basin Teams, and serves as vice-chair of the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission. Sohner lives near the Kentucky River palisades with her husband, two daughters and a multitude of pets.

This article appeared in KY Forward on December 12, 2013.

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