Tis the season to recycle
The holiday season is loaded with packages, boxes and bags, but there are ways to reduce your trips to the trash can this year.
According to Watauga County recycling coordinator Lisa Doty, people produce about a fourth of their annual garbage output between Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. This leads to additional cost to the county to have the solid waste collected and hauled to a regional landfill, so taking a few steps can help make the holidays greener and trim the tax bill, too.
Doty recommends re-using wrapping materials and gift bags, and using your own tote bag while holiday shopping. Some wrapping paper is made from recycled paper, which reduces the waste stream. Look for recycled content in gifts and merchandise.
Wrapping can also be creative, fun and inexpensive by coloring on brown paper grocery bags. Sunday comics make colorful gift wrap for children's packages, as do old posters, maps, sheet music and wallpaper scraps.
To reduce the use of Styrofoam "peanuts" as packing material, try popcorn, biodegradable starch peanuts, used packing peanuts or bubble wrap from a previous gift or crumpled newspapers. Some gifts can be "doubled up" by wrapping towels around kitchen presents or collecting presents in a basket.
For home decorating, consider a potted or burlap-balled tree that can be planted and re-used every season. Decorate your home, tree and centerpiece with holly, cedar, berries, cranberries, popcorn, fruits and nuts, all of which can be composted or used for bird food after use. Tree clippings can be used to make wreaths or other decorations.
Decorations and gifts can be adorned with reusable items such as hair bows, ornaments, shoe laces, neckties, toys, bows and holiday cards cut up from previous years, scrap fabrics, lace, yarn, rickrack and seam tape, scarves, combinations of beads and buttons, and dried or silk flowers.
Old Christmas cards can be used as name-tags, bookmarks, dinner place cards or postcards.
For those wanting to promote sustainable living, gift ideas include a refillable thermos bottle or coffee mug, a canvas tote bag, or items made from recycled materials. Choose solar-powered instead of battery-powered products or ones that require no power at all. If batteries are required, consider using or giving rechargeable batteries. Compost bins, compact fluorescent lights, a perpetual calendar and erasable message boards are long-lasting gifts.
Home-baked cookies, bread or jams, or other handmade goods reduce waste, while tickets, lessons, memberships, charitable donations and other gifts can be given using little or no paper.
The new year is a great time to make a commitment to sustainable living. Save wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and gift bags to re-use next Christmas. Many packing materials, such as cardboard and pasteboard, can be recycled, as can old electronics, computers and appliances. However, many wrapping papers can't be recycled because of foil or high ink levels.
Christmas trees can be dropped off at the solid waste transfer station in Boone at no cost, where they will be chipped into mulch. Watauga County can also provide a free recycling bin. The transfer station is located on Landfill Road just east of Boone on U.S. 421.
For more information on recycling or waste reduction in Watauga County, contact Lisa Doty at (828) 265-4852.