Environmental update: 10 ways to green your holidays
There are a variety of ways to make your holidays more eco-friendly — here’s our list of top 10 ways to green your holidays.
1. Green your tree.
There are a lot of factors to consider when looking for the best tree for your holidays. Aside from what type of tree (blue spruce or Douglas fir or noble fir — the choices!), have you ever wondered what would be the best environmental choice? Do you look for a live Christmas tree, a cut tree or an artificial tree? Here’s a look at the factors to consider when choosing your tree.
Live trees help clean the air, and you can save money by reusing it year after year (if they stay alive). You can also plant it in your yard when it gets too large, or donate it to be planted elsewhere.
Cut trees are easier to care for than live ones, still give off the scent of a live tree and can be composted in your organics cart or yard material pile after Christmas (unless you flock your tree — more on that below). They can be expensive, and depending on where and how they are harvested, there are carbon emissions associated with growing and shipping them. You also need to be sure to keep up with regular watering to prevent drying out your tree and accidental fires.
Artificial trees can be reused for many years, are often economical and can save time in set up and takedown. However, they are not recyclable, so if you choose an artificial tree, be sure that it can last a long time.
Whichever tree you choose, please keep in mind that flocking your tree can contribute to litter when the flocking falls off during transport or disposal. Cut trees that are flocked cannot be composted and are not accepted in yard piles or in organics carts; they have to go in the trash.
If you are able to compost your cut tree, remember to remove the lights, ornaments, tinsel and tree stand, and place the tree in your organics cart (if it fits — the lid must close). Larger trees may need to be cut in half or have the branches trimmed in order to fit into the cart. Trees can also be placed in on-street yard material piles. Be sure to cut trees over five feet tall in half (trees in piles should not be larger than five feet in any direction) and place the trees on the street for collection with other yard materials. Please note that yard material piles (and Christmas trees) may only be placed on the street seven days before a scheduled pick-up.
2. Give the gift of experiences (don’t buy stuff).
If you are looking for gifts for the holidays, instead of buying stuff, give the gift of an experience, such as local restaurant gift certificates, county, state or national park passes, day trips to a special place, etc. You can also consider giving a subscription to a useful service (CSA “farm box” subscription, audiobook memberships, online magazines or newspapers, etc.).
3. Think outside the box (don’t wrap stuff).
If you do give physical gifts, instead of traditional wrapping paper, choose reusable ways to conceal gifts, such as reusable gift bags, baskets and reusable boxes. Beautiful cloth napkins can be a gift and a gift wrap all in one!
4. Buy local food and save the leftovers.
When planning your holiday menu, choose locally grown food for the freshest fruits and vegetables. Farmers markets and u-Pick farms are great places to find fresh food while supporting local agriculture. Got leftovers from your holiday meals? Freeze what you might not use right away or make soup with leftovers.
5. Keep fats, oils and grease out of the drain.
Avoid sewer back-ups by disposing of used cooking oils and fats properly. Although they might seem like liquids when you’re done cooking, fats, oils and grease (FOG) can solidify when poured down the drain, building up on the walls of sewer pipes and blocking the plumbing, which can lead to sewer backups in homes, onto streets and into local waterways. Pouring hot water or soap down the drain will not help — it can only break up the grease temporarily.
Instead, soak up small amounts of cool, hardened fats and grease with paper towels and place in the organics bin. While liquid FOG is not hazardous waste, you can recycle liquid oils and grease for free at the hazardous waste drop-off at the Yolo County Landfill, every Friday and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Visit www.YoloCounty.org/Landfill for more information.
6. Make DIY gifts.
Show off your talents, and give a gift you make yourself, like homemade or decorated soaps, knitted, crocheted or sewn scarves, hats, blankets, etc., hair-clip décor, reusable snack bags or custom T-shirts (iron-on decals).
7. Reuse, recycle, then compost.
Try to minimize waste during the holidays by using reusable dishware, recycle waste whenever possible, compost waste that’s not recyclable, and label waste bins clearly so there’s no guesswork in what goes where. Remember that paper plates, cups and napkins can all go in the organics cart!
8. Turn down the heat.
Turn the thermostat down a few degrees, and keep curtains open when there is sunlight to naturally warm your home. Cooking yummy holiday food can make a room a little toasty. If it gets too warm, open a few windows, and enjoy the fresh air instead of running the air conditioning.
9. Choose less-toxic items.
Try using baking soda, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or castile soap for natural and less-toxic cleaning. Choose rechargeable batteries to power up your electronics instead of toxic single-use batteries.
10. Check for leaks.
With cooler weather and rain (hopefully!) on the horizon, irrigation systems are typically shut off or dialed back for the winter months. Now is a good time to use the city’s online customer-water-use portal, AquaHawk, to check for potential leaks around the home. If you are not already registered, go to SaveDavisWater.org for registration information and tips on using AquaHawk to detect leaks.
For more green holiday tips, visit DavisRecycling.org.
— Jennifer Gilbert is a city of Davis Conservation Coordinator; this column is published monthly. Reach her at JGilbert@CityofDavis.org.
Crossposted from the Davis Enterprise
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