Yes, friends, the holidays are just around the corner, and during this time of celebration and reflection, let's not forget about the environment. We are all very busy at this time of year, but there are many things we can do that are fun and virtually effortless.
If you're like most people you haven't started your gift-wrapping, or maybe you're on a really tight budget, here are a few ideas for reusing and recycling without spending:
- Use leftover fabrics from sewing projects
- Make use of those old bridesmaid dresses-cut them up and wrap a really elegant gift for a female friend
- Use leftover pieces of wallpaper
- Wrap a gift for a lady in a nice neck scarf
- Reuse some of the decorative shopping bags you were given by merchants
- Freezer paper or rolls of brown shipping paper are great in a pinch
- Make bows on packages with a few strands of raffia, made from palm trees - Glue on or tie on a few pine cones
- Wrap only lids of gift boxes and reuse the boxes from year to year (it's really great to be able to pull a leftover ready-made gift box off the basement shelf)
- And, of course, reuse ribbons, bows, and wraps from year to year
Using nature's decorations can be lots of fun, too. Ask your spouse and children to help gather pine or fir branches, pinecones, and holly sprigs from the yard. Be creative by using shrubbery cuttings from boxwoods, rhododendron leaves and magnolia leaves. Use these items to make swags for the exterior of your home, to make floral arrangements inside, to decorate the mantel and the tree, and to fill large transparent candle holders and vases. You can also glue a ribbon to the stem of a pine cone, make the ribbon into a loop, tie a bow on the end, and use it as an ornament to hang from the tree or light fixtures. These are great family activities, and they are free.
Speaking of trees, it's a great idea to purchase an unearthed Christmas tree with its roots so it can be replanted in the spring, although this can be very cumbersome. At a minimum, please make sure to have your live cut tree made into mulch, rather than taking it to the landfill, and consider purchasing it from an environmentally friendly organization, such as a conservation group or the local Boy Scouts troop. Or, you can put your used tree in the back yard to serve as a shelter for birds and other critters.
When it comes to opening gifts, keep those cardboard boxes that can be reused, and recycle those that cannot. Also, think about reusing the plastic packaging twist-ties and trays that often accompany electronic items and toys. Use the twist-ties to bind extension, telephone and computer cords, and use shallow plastic trays and small boxes for organizing drawers. Finally, don't forget to reuse styrofoam packaging peanuts or donate them to a mail and freight operation, such as that at the Fort Detrick Directorate of Installation Services.
But if you find that you just can't make an extra minute this holiday season for any of these initiatives, there's always New Year's resolutions. Try making a family resolution that may really make a difference-resolve to become more environmentally conscious in the New Year; it benefits all of us.
Happy Holidays to everyone from the Fort Detrick Environmental Management Office staff!
May you awake on December 25 to find the keys to a brand new alternate-fuel vehicle under your tree, and may the New Year find you reducing, reusing and recycling.