The most wonderful time of the year doesn’t have to be the most wasteful. Our hacks can help bring sustainability to your post holiday cleanup.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the amount of trash produced in the United States increases by an estimated 25% — that’s about one million extra tons of garbage each week.
Don’t let these stats ruin your holiday spirit. Let’s start making some changes to reduce your environmental impact.
Christmas Tree Upcycling
Who knew, but there is a Christmas Tree Association going 65 years strong. According to NCTA, there are a variety of ways that your Christmas tree can be recycled for other purposes from mulching to soil erosion barriers from fish feeders to bird feeders. You can check out recycling options for your tree specific to your area at Earth911.com.
Before you send your tree out of the house be sure to remove any tinsel, lights, ornaments, and any other non-organic decorative material.
Give Care to that Faux Tree
For those using artificial trees, unfortunately, those trees are made of PVC and cannot be recycled. According to Greenpeace, you need to keep an artificial tree for at least 8 years – but preferably 20 or more to keep its lifetime emissions to a minimum.
Most artificial trees today are sold on the convenience of being pre-assembled and pre-lit. Just unbox, stack the three sections, and plug-in. But what happens when a giant section of lights in the middle begins to act up? Check out our guide below in the stringed lights section on how to easily replace fuses and lights.
If your tree is starting to look sparse after a few seasons you can invest in garland, wide ribbons, and large ornament to better fill in some of the bare areas.
Don’t forget to clean the tree before bringing it back in the house each season. You can use a vacuum and microfiber cloth with a bucket of warm water with a couple of drops of dish soap to dust the branches.
Thinking Ahead to Your Next Tree Options
Take sustainability a step further and consider a rental Christmas tree. A number of companies around the country are experimenting with a new way to bring the holiday season to your home with rented trees. The companies deliver potted trees to your home in December and then take the trees back in January to care for them until the following year. Costs range from $40 – $150.
Most companies will only allow you to keep the tree for up to 30 days and you will need to sign a contract agreeing to water the tree daily. There are some benefits to the potted trees, including the fact that the trees will emit oxygen and clean the air while in your home. Many tree rental companies report that their stock is reserved by early November, so be sure to search online for tree rental available in your area.
Homemade Cleaners and Potpourri
Did you know, the water-soluble extract from pine needles have shown significant antibacterial activity against tested food-borne bacteria. Here’s a hack for an all-natural surface cleaner with a great smell. Place pine needles inside an air-tight container and fill it up with white vinegar. Close the container and let it soak for about three weeks. Strain the liquid in a clean spray bottle and use it as a surface cleaner and disinfectant.
Pine needs can also be used as an air freshener. Toss leftover pine needles and spices into a boiling pot of water for an all-natural winter aroma.
Most LED holiday string lights are designed to last around 10,000 hours, meaning you should be able to get 8- 10 holiday seasons of use. When your stringed lights go out you may be tempted to toss the lights. Before you do, see if you can salvage the strand by checking these two areas.
You can inspect the light’s fuse box. On pre-lit faux trees, the fuse is usually located near the central structural support pole. Light sets typically come with replacement fuses and you can swap out fuses. There are a variety of videos available on YouTube to guide you.
Broken bulbs can also be a culprit. Usually changing a bulb or tightening it will fix the entire strand. A Christmas light tester from your local hardware store can assist in determining faulty bulbs are bad and need to be replaced.
When storing the lights, carefully wrap the lights in their original or similar container, ensuring that the bulbs don’t bang together. Wadding them up in a coil and stuffing them in a box will guarantee they won’t work next season.
When all else fails and the strand needs to go, here are sustainable options for disposal:
Reuse Your Gift Bags, Boxes, Bows, and Ribbons
Most gift bags, wrapping paper, and gift boxes are made of non-recyclable foil and glossy plastics. Instead of trashing them, store your bags, boxes, bows, and ribbons away to use for next year. It’s an easy way to save money and bring sustainability to the holidays.
Properly Dispose of E-Waste
New electronics were most likely on someone’s wish list in your household. Electronics often contain toxic materials that can be in the waste stream. Want to figure out the best method to recycle any item in your area, checkout earth911.com. The site will allow you to search for recycling solutions for any item within your zip code.
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The information provided in this piece is for your convenience and informational purposes only and not to be construed as professional advice. FEEA and its coauthors and sponsors are not liable for any losses or damages related to actions or failure to act with regard to the content in this piece.