Each day, a typical Minnesotan creates roughly seven pounds of waste, but from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases more than 25 percent. Additional food waste, packaging, wrapping paper and decorations add up to one million tons a week to the nation’s garbage piles.
How does this affect our water? It takes tons of water to make new products because it’s needed for extraction of raw materials, production and transportation. Less water is needed for recycling and recycled products. Thus, buying recycled or used products and recycling everything you can helps reduce water needs for new products.
In addition, production of products can cause water pollution. Factories that make and assemble products create waste water that may be difficult to treat. Lastly, landfills can cause groundwater pollution. Landfills implement a variety of methods to protect groundwater but there is always the risk and often the reality that contaminants leaching from trash buried in landfills find their way to our groundwater. Reducing waste helps reduce water pollution and conserve water! Here are some things you can do to reduce your waste during Holiday Season (and always):
1. Recycle old/broken Christmas lights at the Carver County Environmental Center and Douglas Kugler Eco-Site.
2. Get off junk mail lists! Go to www.rethinkrecycling.com/residents/materials-name/junk-mail.
3. Buy greeting cards made from recycled paper, or make your own. Use photo cards instead of sending a separate card and photo.
4. Compost your kitchen scraps. You can compost fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells in a backyard compost bin and create healthy, free compost!
5. Ask gift recipients for a wish list. Know proper clothing sizes and give simple, durable gifts.
6. Look for less packaging and avoid disposables. At the grocery store, buy in bulk and bring bags or containers to fill. Choose items with the least packaging over individually wrapped ones and save money too!
7. Borrow, rent and shop used first. Before you run to the store to buy a new item, think about how much you will use it. Could you borrow one, rent it, or purchase it used?
8. Buy well, buy once. Well-designed and constructed products that are repairable will last longer and usually save you money, even if they cost more initially.
9. Sell, give away or donate usable clothing and household goods. Donate reusable items (like unused decorations) to a local thrift store.
10. Give green gifts. Avoid over-packaged, resource consuming gifts that will need batteries or electricity. Consider making a gift, sharing an experience, providing a service or giving and environmentally friendly product.
11. Tired of expensive wrapping paper? Try these great alternatives: Scarves, handkerchiefs, bandannas, old posters and maps, comics, brown craft paper or grocery bags (can decorate), or pages from a child’s coloring book. Reuse bows, gift tags, gift bags and ribbons from year to year.
12. Recycle Recycle Recycle!! Carver County’s Environmental Center and Douglas Kugler Eco-Site take many items for recycling and reuse including plastics No. 1-7 (often from food and gift packaging), cardboard from gifts, old electronics, clothing, shoes appliances, old Christmas lights and more.
13. Educate yourself, friends and family about waste reduction, reuse, and recycling and visit www.RethinkRecycling.com.
For more ideas on gifts, experiences to share and a general GREENING of your holidays, visit www.hennepin.us/reducewaste and scroll to # 9 to view the “Greening Your Celebrations Brochure.”
Madeline Seveland is the education coordinator for the Carver County Water Management Department.