Why less holiday haste can mean more holiday waste | Guest Column

Michelle Metzler

Even the Grinch would have to agree: the hustle and bustle of the holidays is getting a bit more manageable.

These days, you make your list, check it twice, go online and pay with one click.

While online shopping is amazingly convenient, it translates into a massive holiday assortment of cardboard boxes arriving on your porch. The US Postal Service expects to deliver about 750 million packages this holiday season – that’s five million packages per day. It’s no wonder we generate about six million extra tons of waste this time of year.

So what’s a green elf to do?

First, consider buying local. Local shopping is fun, key to keeping our community healthy and vibrant and a great way to find one-of-a-kind gifts.

Second, make sure you recycle 100 percent of the cardboard from any online purchases. This is especially important when you consider that 90 percent of all products in the US are shipped in cardboard boxes, and that cardboard can be recycled seven to eight times before it disintegrates. Plus, it’s energy efficient; recycling old cardboard uses 25 percent less energy than making new cardboard.

Third, set up a good recycling system at home so you’ll be prepared when cardboard shows up at the door.

Here are a few more ideas for greening up the holidays:

Since 35 percent of Americans have at least one unused holiday gift collecting dust in their closets, give “stuff” the year off and go for experiential gifts. Try music or sports lessons, gym memberships, tickets to the symphony or museum or even favors like babysitting.

Wrap gifts in old maps, posters or pages from magazines and newspapers. Recycle any non-plastic wrapping paper after opening, or save it to be reused next year. Get the kids involved! They can even design their own wrapping paper. If every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Adopting a couple of these green traditions will have a huge effect on our environment. In fact, doing something as simple as visiting King County’s What do I do with website for those hard to recycle items would make a noticeable difference. Visit their website here: http://your.kingcounty.gov/solidwaste/wdidw/

So the main thing to keep in mind this busy time of year? Everyone – from green elves and Grinches to every Who down in Whoville — can enjoy the season while greening up the holidays.

Michelle Metzler works in public education and outreach for Waste Management.

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