Commentary: The holiday’s impact on the environment | Chanhassen

As we say goodbye to the beautiful fall and start anticipating colder temperatures, we also look forward to the special time that is the holiday season. With all its charm and pleasure, now more than ever we must be mindful of the effects the season can have on our environment.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, consumers produce 25% more waste than during the rest of the year. That’s about 1 million tons per week. For example, enough ribbon is used during each holiday season to wrap around the entire planet!

There are many ways we can manage our habits in order to avoid them becoming a problem for our earth. The simplest way is to be conscientious of choices made when shopping for gifts, decorations and entertainment. Think about how your actions will play out after all the fun of the holidays is over (the long-term effects).

For decorations, consider making your own. Check Pinterest or other websites for ideas for homemade ornaments or other holiday decorations, and use materials for them that you have around the house. When wrapping gifts, consider alternative materials, such as cloth, decorating paper bags or reusing paper from last year. Or shop flea markets for unusual and fun containers.

When lighting up at night, be sure to choose LED lights, as they use less energy, last longer, and are safer. Batteries are a big item during the holidays—try to choose batteries that can be recharged, such as lithium or nickel cadmium. All batteries can be recycled, so make sure they don’t end up in the trash. Electronics is another product that is common during this time of year. By law, old electronics may not be thrown in the trash. Check to dispose of these materials.

We don’t have to give up gift giving, but consider the long-term effects your gift will have. Try buying gifts that the recipient will not lose interest in too soon (ie trendy fad gifts). Look for gifts made from recycled materials, or give plants and gardening items. Or go the gift card way, which includes so many options: concerts, restaurants, or state parks, to name a few.

You can also give your services as a gift, by performing a job around the house, cooking a meal or running errands for someone. A third option is the homemade gift. If you’re handy with tools or a needle, consider giving a personalized craft or piece of art. Or share some of those baked goods or jams that you make. Boxing up a ready-to-go treat that someone can enjoy is also a great idea. And by all means, when shopping, use reusable bags.

When planning a holiday get together, be conscientious of how much you buy. Use recyclable serving products as much as possible. Dig your good dishes out of the cupboard rather than letting them collect dust from lack of use. Give away left over food to guests rather than throwing it out. Find new recipes for the leftovers. If you have left over unopened food such as canned or boxed items, consider donating them to a local food shelf. And if you must throw it out, be sure to compost. You can drop off food waste for free at the Carver County Environmental Center (116 Peavey Cir.).

When the holidays come to an end, what to do with all the decorations, packaging and other detritus? Do your best to NOT throw things in the trash. Again, try to reuse wrapping paper and ribbons. Recycle boxes and other packaging. Remember, wrapping paper is not recyclable, and neither are ribbons or bows. Contact the Boy Scouts to pick up your tree for composting ( or drop it off for free at the Carver County Environmental Center (116 Peavey Cir). And if you don’t like that gift, pass it on to someone who might, or donate it.

We don’t have to give up our holiday traditions and festivities to be environmentally responsible.

But just like changing up that sweet potato recipe from our tried and true marshmallow favorite, we can change our consumption habits to be more earth friendly and not leave such a heavy footprint around the holidays. After all, we want to be able to celebrate many more holiday seasons to come.


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