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Recycling Christmas: Make It a Green One

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

  • Twelve soda cans
  • Eleven empty boxes
  • Ten yards of gift wrap
  • Nine balls of tinsel
  • Eight strings of lights
  • Seven gift bags
  • Six DVDs
  • Five gallons of foam peanuts
  • Four dozen cards
  • Three tins of cookies
  • Two dress shirts
  • And a brand-new, pre-lit Christmas tree

What's lying around your living room after holidays? Most of us didn't receive five golden rings or even one partridge—in a pear tree or otherwise. For every present received, it seems we find four times as much gift wrap to clear away. What to do with the remains of the holiday season? Reuse, recycle, and ultimately reduce the strain of the holidays on the environment and your wallet.

Twelve Soda Cans….

Or wine bottles or eggnog cartons. The holiday entertainments produce a lot of containers that really need to find their way to the recycling center. If you have convenient curbside pickup, that's just dandy, but most counties and cities also have recycling drop-off points.

Ten Yards of Gift Wrap…

Aside from separating and trimming the nicest pieces for later use, you can put the extra into a craft bin for use throughout the year. The same goes for ribbons and bows.

Foam peanuts are another story. Use for your own packing throughout the year, or a shipping store can reuse them. The Plastic Loosefill Council at 1-800-828-2214 can give you a partial list of drop off places. In any case, keep them away from pets and small children as they are a choking hazard.

Four Dozen Cards….

Craft suppliesMany people save especially beautiful holiday cards from year to year and are more likely to do so if the cards are homemade or have a family photo in them. Simply pretty cards can be recycled as ornaments, bookmarks, gift tags, toys, place mats, and more. If you wish, you can set aside all the supplies you will need for a simple card craft to have ready when kids get bored next holiday.

Two Dress Shirts….

Clothes, cars, VHS tapes, and televisions—new stuff in and older stuff out for a good cause. Many charitable organizations such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army run thrift stores to raise money for good works. Cell phones can be donated to domestic violence programs, and computers can also be recycled in many ways. Just get it done by January 1st and get a receipt for tax purposes.

A Brand-new, Pre-lit Christmas Tree

AA natural tree, ready to be plantedfter Christmas is the time many smart shoppers go tree seeking for next year. Is that artificial tree a good option for a greener planet? It can be, if you plan on keeping the tree for quite a few years, but if it winds up in a landfill all too soon, perhaps you need to rethink that strategy. Plastic trees do not decompose.

Natural trees, grown at a local tree farm and sawed down or dug up by the buyer might be a natural choice. They can be mulched or replanted locally at the buyer's discretion. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers an online guide for finding a local farm, as do many other states.

Check out these library books for more great green ideas that help the environment throughout the year:

175 Easy-to-do Christmas Crafts edited by Sharon Dunn Umnik
Provides step-by-step instructions for making Christmas ornaments, cards, puppets, creches, and decorations from recyclable materials.

The Complete Guide to Recycling at Home: How to Take Responsibility, Save Money, and Protect the Environment by Gary D. Branson.
A practical guide, with checklists of things to do and background research.

The Everything Green Living Book: Easy Ways to Conserve Energy, Protect Your Family's Health, and Help Save the Environment by Diane Gow McDilda
Contents include: Keeping a green home and yard -- Eating green -- Drinking green -- Transportation -- Reduce, reuse, recycle -- Earth-friendly clothes and fashion -- Personal care -- Raising a green family -- Vacations and travel -- Pets -- Green and jolly holidays and celebrations -- Green learning and working -- The green office

Recycled Crafts Box: Sock Puppets, Cardboard Castles, Bottle Bugs & 37 More Earth-friendly Projects & Activities You Can Create by Laura C. Martin.
This kids' guide to recycling through craftwork has dozens of fun ideas.

Simply Green Giving: Create Beautiful Gift Wrapping, Tags, and Handmade Treasures from Everyday Materials by Danny Seo
Danny Seo, the eco-conscious, creative wonder kid, transforms gift giving into a cleverly resourceful and rewarding activity. The book showcases Danny's unique take and approach to stylish green living. and features colorful photography and step-by-step instructions for easy handmade gifts and attractive recycled wrappings, along with Danny's secret tips and how-to information on living the Simply Green way.
(From the publisher's description)