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Nature talks: I’m dreaming of a green Christmas

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    Gift bags and repurposed paper are ways to reduce waste this Christmas. JEANNIE CARL/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published December 08. 2018 07:32AM


I certainly don’t want to be a Debbie Downer this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, I love this time of year to be with family and friends. But all the waste does add up in our small family, so much so that it was enough to make me think that there must be a better way. Here are some ways I try to cut down on how much we throw away.

Because if every family …

• Reused just 2 feet of holiday ribbon or used 2 feet less, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

• Wrapped just three presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

• Sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.

I love all the things that make the holiday season merry and bright. I just don’t want to add to the waste that ends up in a landfill, so that means looking for creative ways to reduce the waste.

Christmas cards, wrapping paper and envelopes can be recycled if they don’t have foil, glitter or a shiny coating. If in doubt, test wrapping paper with the “scrunch test.” If you literally scrunch the paper in your hand and it stays in a ball, it can be put in the recycling bin.

My sister-in-law always uses magazine pages, comics and phone book pages, which all makes for interesting and unique wrapping paper. She always says, “Why buy paper when I can just reuse something I already have?”

I like some of those clever e-cards, but I admit I like opening the mailbox and seeing cards sent by family and friends. I am always searching for cards made of eco-friendly stock or ones that support a cause. My family and friends send photo cards which become keepsakes instead of being thrown away. If you get a lot of Christmas cards, maybe use them the next year for kids’ Christmas activities or crafts such as homemade gift tags.

In the United States, about 35 million “real” Christmas trees are bought every year. Growing up, my family always had an artificial tree. Whichever is right for you, both real and artificial trees can be recycled. CCEEC will take your “real” tree after the holidays as long as it has no decorations such as tinsel, hooks or lights. We cannot accept wreaths or branches. It’s easy to drop the tree off at our center where it will be “chipped” and given back to the community in the form of free mulch. That’s a win-win for everyone and the environment.

When I was a kid, the worst present in the world to receive was clothing, but that has all changed as I have gotten older. I am grateful for new clothes. I look forward to the new, but what to do with the old? Old clothes can be donated to churches. Some even have door-to-door bag collections.

Gift cards are a great way to minimize waste and reduce your transportation footprint if you use a local business. Once my aunt remarked that she thought gift cards were impersonal and showed a lack of imagination for gift giving. I disagree. I appreciate them more and more; it is a gift I don’t have to store, move, wash or dust!

Gift bags: That same aunt holds the opinion that gift bags are for those people who can’t wrap a present. I use them all the time. Hey! Wait a second. Maybe she is right after all. I start with good intentions, but my gift wrapping looks like an angry kindergartner was responsible. So I use them all the time. And getting gifts in them means I can save them for gift-giving next year. They are easy to use, they look nice and I do my part to keep all that wrapping out of the landfill.

What ideas do you have for making your Christmas a little greener and earth-friendly? I would love to read about them!

Jeannie Carl is a naturalist at the Carbon County Environmental Center, located at 151 E. White Bear Drive, Summit Hill. Call 570-645-8597 for information or visit


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