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Solid Waste / Recycling
Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. This is among the tips offered by EPA to reduce waste while celebrating the holiday season.


  • Thousands of paper and plastic shopping bags end up in landfills every year. Reduce the number of bags thrown out by bringing reusable cloth bags for holiday gift shopping. Tell store clerks you don't need a bag for small or oversized purchases.
  • Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or funny papers. Also remember to save or recycle used wrapping paper. Give gifts that don't require much packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates. According to the EPA, wrapping paper from holiday gifts is a big contributor to a 25% increase in curbside trash volume between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Think outside the norm this year when wrapping up your holiday gifts. Materials like old calendars, newspapers and even towels or sheets can make great gift wrap.
  • Send recycled-content greeting cards to reduce the amount of virgin paper used during the holidays. Remember to recycle any paper cards you receive. You also can try sending electronic greeting cards to reduce paper waste. Recycle Christmas cards you receive by making them into gift tags for presents. This is an easy, creative way to dress up your presents without purchasing more materials. Use old Christmas cards you've received to make decorative gift tags for your presents or ornaments for next year. And don't forget, recycle any scraps left over!
  • About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.
  • Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Doing so will not only save energy, but will also help your lights last longer.
  • Approximately 33 million live Christmas trees are sold in North America every year. After the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of sending it to a landfill. Check with your community solid waste department and find out if they collect and mulch trees. Your town might be able to use chippings from mulched trees for hiking trails and beachfront erosion barriers.
    To help prevent waste from cutting down and disposing of live trees, you can buy a potted tree and plant it after the holidays.
  • When all aspects of the life cycle are considered, artificial trees actually have a greater negative environmental impact than real trees. Artificial trees are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable, whereas real Christmas trees can be "treecycled" and returned as a renewable and natural resource back to the environment instead of ending up in a landfill. Additionally, most often artificial trees sold in the U.S. are made in overseas factories, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), which adds to their overall environmental footprint. See www.realchristmastrees.org/dnn/AllAboutTrees/FAQs.aspx and www.cityofknoxville.org/solidwaste/xmastree.asp
  • Have a create-your-own-decorations party! Invite family and friends to create and use holiday decorations such as ornaments made from old greeting cards or cookie dough, garlands made from strung popcorn or cranberries, wreaths made from artificial greens and flowers, and potpourri made from kitchen spices such as cinnamon and cloves.
  • Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money.
  • When buying gifts, check product labels to determine an item's recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials. Buying recycled encourages manufacturers to make more recycled-content products available.
  • Use your own camera instead of a disposable one to reduce waste while capturing holiday memories. Consider buying a digital camera so that you print just the pictures you want to keep.
  • Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, 25% more trash is generated. This time of year isn't just about giving, but also about recycling and reducing waste. Think about all the food and beverage containers that are discarded during those holiday parties. Prevent unnecessary waste from ending up in the landfill by making recycling bins available wherever trash cans are set up. This is an easy extra step that can help cut down on a lot of waste that is actually recyclable.
  • Save on holiday decorations, clothes and gifts. Explore thrift stores and secondhand shops to find "new" holiday decorations. You can also make decorations out of recycled materials, such as holiday cards and wrapping paper.
  • Do you have a less-than-fashionable holiday sweater stuffed in the back of your closet? "Ugly Sweater" parties have become quite popular in the past few years and present the perfect opportunity to bust out that sweater and wear it with pride.
  • Regifting also means reusing, especially if you know the intended recipient could really use the "new" gift. According to the creators of National Regifting Day, more than 60% of the population views regifting as socially and economically acceptable. Regifting is a smart way to be green, not to mention also save some green!


  • 1. Get cash back: Don't just shove those non-LED or worn-out light strings into a box to deal with next year. Pack them up and send them off to a Christmas light recycling program www.holidayleds.com/holidayledscom_christmas_light_recycling_program. They'll shred your old strands and send you a 15-percent off coupon in return.
  • 2. Repurpose: If you don't want to bother mailing your old lights in, consider cutting up the wire into various lengths for use in the kitchen as twisty-ties or in the garden as plant ties.


  • 3. Pot drainage: This is especially useful when you're using large pots. Pour the peanuts in the bottom of your pot, filling it a quarter to half full, then pile on the soil.
  • 4. Stuffing: Not stuffing for the turkey, stuffing for decorative pillows, pet beds, etc.
  • 5. Sell them or Donate them: Packing peanuts are expensive, so stockpile bags full until you have enough to sell on eBay or Craigslist.com. To find a location near you that accepts packing peanuts for donation, visit www.loosefillpackaging.com


  • 6. Placemats: This is a good way to keep the kids busy when they tire of Christmas toys. Take two Plexiglas sheets, glue cards onto one sheet and secure the second sheet on top. Seal edges with colorful plastic tape or a glue gun.
  • 7. Garlands: Decorate next year's tree, a staircase rail or curtain rods by cutting Christmas cards into various shapes, such as stars, hearts, circles, half moons, etc. Punch a hole in the middle of each shape and string them together on a fishing line. You could add to this every year. For easier garlands, cut the cards into strips and make old-fashioned paper chains by gluing the strips into circles and interconnecting them.
  • 8. Napkin rings: Make napkin rings by cutting one-inch rings from a paper-towel or toilet-paper tube and gluing card cut-outs onto each ring. Color coordinate or mix-and-match.
  • 9. Gift boxes: This one takes a bit of work. Make little custom gift boxes for small presents. Follow the Paper and More template. Be sure to make the lid a tiny bit larger than the bottom so that the lid will fit over the outside of the main part of the box. Cut the lid piece from the pretty front of the card, centering it on whatever part of the design you want to feature. Cut the bottom piece from the inside of the card. Use glue or tape to assemble the boxes.
  • 10. Send to St. Jude's Ranch: Residents of this home for abused, neglected and abandoned children recycle old greeting cards to make new custom cards, which they sell for pocket money. Cards are accepted this year through Feb. 28. For more info about the program, visit the St. Jude's ranch Web page www.stjudesranch.org/help_card.php.
  • 11. Gift tags: Cut cards down to size with pinking sheers and use next year.
  • 12. Post cards: Not many people write on the reverse side of a greeting card's front, so cut the picture down to postcard size to send out next year. Postcards have the added advantage of requiring less postage. Maximum size is 6” long x 4-1/4” high. Minimum size is 5” long x 3-1/2” high.
  • 13. Children's word book: Glue cut outs onto cardstock or construction paper and make a little word book for young children. Bind the book so the picture is on the left -- a star, for example -- and the word "star" is on the right side. Great for home-schoolers.
  • 14. Tree ornaments: Some cards are so ornamental they practically jump onto the Christmas tree. To turn your card into a tree ornament; cut out a figure on the card, glue or decoupage it on to heavy cardboard or balsa wood; cut to shape; punch a hole in the top; thread ribbon through the hole; and tie it into a bow to hang on next year's tree.
  • 15. Drawer sachets: Wrap 3-5 cinnamon sticks together with a strip cut from a gold or silver Christmas card and bond with a dab of glue. These both look pretty and smell delicious.


  • 16. Window cleaner: You may have used newspapers to clean windows because they leave no streaks, but crumpled-up wrapping paper is even better. No streaks and no black hands.
  • 17. Packing confetti: Remove tape and run wrapping paper through a shredder to repurpose as packing material for next year's gifts.
  • 18. Drawer liner: Iron paper that's still in decent shape and cut to fit your children's drawers.
  • 19. Boot shapers: Crumble up used paper and stuff into tall boots to help keep their shape when not in use.


  • 20. Coffee flavoring: Grind candy canes in a coffee-been grinder to make instant peppermint-powdered sugar. Store in a tightly sealed jar and add to coffee, cappuccino or hot chocolate.
  • 1-20 Recycling tips complements of www.freeshipping.org

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