Feel-Good Post-Holiday Sustainable Practices

As we round out the year, we get to spend precious time with family and friends, but our consumption is at an all-time high. Some sources say Americans produce 25% more waste over the year-end holidays than they do the rest of the year.

Trimming the Tree, Photo © Liesl Clark

Trimming the Tree, Photo © Liesl Clark

Here are some easy tips for reducing your waste impact at years’ end that should make you feel good:

Recycle your Live Christmas tree: Most communities have tree recycling options available. Boy Scouts in some communities conduct drives to collect trees and chip them up into compost, for example. Other communities will allow you to put your tree in your yard waste bins. Visit our Trash Backwards app for some great reuse and solid recycling ideas for your tree.

Take a moment to turn off your power, enjoy a few hours of power disconnection with family introspection and connection:

Recycle your used holiday/tree lights: Most communities have a local option for recycling string lights. Ace Hardware, for example, is our local drop point. If you can’t find a local venue, you can send your lights to Light Source, in Texas, where they sell used string lights for recycling and give the proceeds back to charity. Or, better yet, collect a few from friends and neighbors and send the tangled mess in a larger box so you know you’ve diverted more than your own from your waste stream. The Refining Company in New Jersey also recycles holiday lights. Recycling string lights is a booming business in China and although the practices aren’t the most environmentally-sound, thousands of tons of string lights are kept out of our landfills. The Atlantic has an interesting article about it if you want to learn more. Our app will be your resource for drop-off locations and information on what string lights are ultimately turned into.

Stockpile your styrofoam and recycle or reuse: Styrofoam is the single most prolific plastic material found on our beaches. In some communities, it has been banned. If you received styrofoam as part of a gift this holiday season, consider yourself the future steward of this highly toxic material. Our app will connect you with the nearest location where it can be recycled. In the Seattle area, for example, a free drop-off location in Renton is the place. In the meantime, ask your local zero waste group if there’s a nearby store, like Bay Hay and Feed on Bainbridge Island that conducts drives to collect the stuff so it doesn’t end up in our waters.

Save your Christmas cards for repurposing: You can always recycle the cards you get from friends in your paper recycling bin. But a fun activity is to cut off the side with the writing and save the card with its attractive artwork for future homemade gift tags. We have other great Christmas card reuses in our app:

Click Through For Christmas Card Reuses at Trash Backwards

Click Through For Christmas Card Reuses at Trash Backwards

Save all ribbon for reuse: Ribbons are made of plastic and survive in our oceans unscathed for years. We’re always surprised to find ribbon from birthday balloons wrapped up in seaweed (they are also known to entangle baby seals, sea otters and sea turtles) and once we break them free from the wrack line debris, the ribbon is as good as new. Save the ribbon you receive on gifts and give the gift of life to our marine creatures by not buying more of it. If you reuse what you have, you’ll never need to buy more ribbon again.

Find a spot to store re-usable tape: This is a true insider’s tip. There’s plenty of tape and stickers that will peel right off a bag or shiny package and it, too, can be reused. The trick is to have a convenient spot in your home where you keep it. One Cora founder puts theirs on the side of the fridge for the kids to access easily (kids go through gobs of tape.) Another founder puts their reclaimed tape on the inside of a closet door where office supplies are kept. Family members know that’s the community tape dispenser. Reportedly, they haven’t bought new tape in months.

Save what wrapping paper you can for reuse: We don’t need an explanation for this. But it’s another way to see how reuse can save you money. Most wrapping paper can’t be recycled because of the materials used to make it. Composting or burning it, too, isn’t recommended because of the toxins involved. Because we are committed to not buying new wrapping paper, what do we use? We make beautiful cloth gift bags and give them to friends and family for reuse. We recycle our children’s art as wrapping paper. We use pretty cloth as wrapping paper in the Japanese style of wrapping. We keep items in their shipping boxes and decorate the boxes with ribbon we’ve found on our beaches or plastic marine debris we’ve recovered as a reminder of our mission in the first place.

100% recycled gift wrap

100% Recycled Gift Wrap


For more gift wrapping ideas, and for reuses for your wrapping paper, definitely check out our gift wrap ideas and reuses at Trashbackwards.com:

Click Through For Gift Wrapping Ideas and Reuses at Trash Backwards

Click Through For Gift Wrapping Ideas and Reuses at Trash Backwards

Freecycle or give to Goodwill your unwanted faux tree: Thousands of plastic trees end up in the landfill after the holidays. These aren’t meant to be single-use items. If you need to get rid of yours, pass it on to Goodwill, sell it on Craigs List, or Freecycle it.

Don’t throw away your unwanted or broken items or toys: One of the single-most satisfying activities you can do with your family is create a workspace where you can repair the items you received over the holiday that were made to break within the first 6 months’ (or sometimes 6 hours) of use.

Send us your stories of what broke, and how you fixed it! We’re looking for inspiration from you, stories about how you defied the odds and came up with a smart solution to repair or repurpose an item so it could be diverted from a landfill and have a new life!

Thank you, tree: And finally, a special thank you movie in tribute to the pesticide-free, sustainably grown US Forest Service tree we were encouraged to weed from the dense thicket on the tree-laden slopes of Olympic National Forest:

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Categories: Trash Pile - All Our Stuff

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