November 19, 2012  10:35 AM

Have a waste-conscious holiday season


With the holiday season on the horizon, retailers are revving up for the yearly influx of shoppers. Whether it be heaps of food for a family meal or shopping bags full of gifts, consumers traditionally buy more over the course of the next month than any other time in the year.  But, after the last present has been torn open and bellies have been stuffed, what's left over?

According to Metro staff, a whole lot of waste. Betty Shelly, Metro's recycling expert, knows how to curb excess waste while still enjoying the season.

"Watch for excessive packaging," Shelly said. "Think about its life after it's thrown away. Can it be recycled? Or will it just sit in a landfill?"

And if you can, said Shelly, consider making a handmade present or buying an item made from recycling material instead of grabbing a "gratuitous gift" off the shelf.  According to Shelley, 70 percent of the region's post-holiday waste comes from gift packaging.

When it comes to grocery shopping, Shelly stressed the importance of planning ahead.

"Prepare a shopping list ahead of time to avoid excess, unused items," she said."Buy what you need."

But if you do end up cooking more than your share, Shelly added, local homeless shelters and food banks will gladly take it off your hands.

"The more food that goes into the landfill, the more methane gas [a greenhouse gas] goes into the atmosphere," she said.

So before camping out for sales or making a last-minute trip to the grocery store, take a second to re-evaluate your buys.

Solutions for a waste-free holiday

Offer a homemade or handmade surprise

  • Consider reusability or recyclability before buying something new. Nearly half of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from making and distributing goods and food, so first consider what the recipient will do with the purchase once their done with it.
  • Prepare a batch of special goodies to share.
  • From knitting or sewing to candle-making and woodworking, craft unique pieces from the heart.
  • Pick up local, handmade creations at seasonal markets, or discover fun finds among local artists and vendor networks.

Give the gift of time, talent, tickets or memberships

  • Create personal gift certificates, offering help with chores – weeding, baby-sitting, housecleaning or handling home repairs, for example.
  • Offer the gift of lessons – painting, piano-playing, swimming and more – whether sharing your own talent or arranging time with a local instructor.
  • Give tickets to the ballet, a play, the opera or a concert.
  • Provide memberships to a museum, a classical garden or the Oregon Zoo.

Share a special experience or helpful resource

  • Arrange dinner at a favorite restaurant.
  • Build a gift "basket" of gardening supplies – seeds, tools, gloves, a compost bin – and Metro's Grow Smart, Grow Safe, a free consumer guide to gardening without toxics.
  • Schedule a nature outing; winter makes for great bird-watching in the Willamette Valley.
  • Share copies of Metro's Walk There! guide and Bike There! map for fun, local adventures.
  • Plan a vacation or day trip at the coast, mountains or other special place.

Decorate and wrap up with less waste

  • Consider using natural materials – branches, twigs and dried flowers, for example – for wreaths and other decorations. You might find many of the materials in your own yard, and they're compostable.
  • For gift-wrapping, consider alternatives on hand such as newspaper; paper bags; reusable containers; fabric; old maps; or boxes, paper and bows saved from last season.
  • Get creative with reused wrapping by painting, drawing, stamping or printing designs on it.
  • If buying greeting cards or wrapping, pick recyclable products made from recyclable materials.
  • Avoid nonrecyclable wrapping such as foil- or plastic-coated paper.

Learn more about Metro's waste reduction programs
Find out where to take your holiday garbage and recycling
Learn more about waste-wise holidays and sustainable gift-giving

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