Go green for the holidays


Allegheny County is encouraging residents to consider the environment while celebrating the holidays this year.  Each year, gift wrap and shopping bags turn into more than four million tons of trash, and the 2.65 billion holiday cards sold across the United States could fill a football field 10 stories high according to Recycle Works.  According to the Cygnus Group, only 20 million of the 50 million Christmas trees purchased in the United States are planted or recycled. The other 30 million end up in landfills. This year, consider buying a tree with a root bulb and planting it after the season. If you do purchase a cut tree, make sure to recycle it at the swimming pool parking lots in Boyce, North, Settler’s Cabin and South parks between Jan. 2 and 22.

Here are some green holiday tips from Allegheny County:

Use less and throw away less stuff. Be mindful of your waste, whether it is paper, food, electricity or something else. Using less will help to lessen the impact of the holidays on both the Earth and your bank account.

If your gift is travelling around the world to get to its recipient, it probably used a lot of fuel on its trip. Support local businesses and buy fresh meat and produce from local farmers. As a result, you will get tastier food and help the planet and your neighbors by supporting their businesses.
For more information on buying local produce and meat, visit www.pasafarming.org.

When shopping for holiday gifts this season, eco-friendly products should be at the top of everyone’s list. Buy organic, recycled, sustainable, reusable and energy efficient products.

Avoid products with excessive packaging, especially disposable ones. Reuse packaging and recycle as much of it as is possible.  Check here for more information.  Please remember that no one in the region is currently recycling polystyrene (Styrofoam®)

Rethink how you wrap gifts and get creative by making your own paper, recycling the Sunday comics or re-using last year’s gift wrap, bows and ribbons. Additionally, consider wrapping gifts with something reusable, like a new tea towel or package your gift in a re-usable shopping bag tied with a pretty ribbon.

If you are like most people these days, you are too busy and rarely spend enough time with friends and family. This year, give gift certificates that invite friends and family for a homemade meal or for something you know they would appreciate, like babysitting.  Try giving the traditional gift of baked goods or arranging a swap of “gently used” items. If your friends and family prefer a grab bag, stipulate that your items have to come from a flea market or second-hand store.

Ask your friends and families to participate in a philanthropic organization or go caroling to
raise money for charity. You will be spending time together and making a difference in your
community. For local ideas of where to volunteer, visit www.pittsburghcares.org.

Get smart about your energy consumption concerning holiday lights. One easy way to decorate with the environment in mind is to purchase LED lights that use 90% less energy and are readily available. If you do use lights, put them on a timer to limit energy consumption and limit the size of your display.  To reduce your waste during the holidays, think about using homemade displays or painted windows that are backlit from your lights inside.

Before purchasing, look up products on the ENERGY STAR website, and do not buy items that are not ENERGY STAR rated. You should be especially watch some of the newer television screens, which can be heavy electricity users.  Remember to plug electronics into a power strip that you can switch off when they are not in use. Many household electronic devices, such as cordless phones, computers, printers, phone chargers, and televisions, continue to draw power even when turned off. Estimates indicate that 8% of the energy consumption in an average home is from items that are
turned “off” but still plugged in.  To look up products and their ENERGY STAR rating, visit here.

Send your friends and families e-cards, or if you do buy cards, choose ones printed on recycled paper with vegetable-based ink.

One of the best ways to reduce your heating consumption is to install a programmable thermostat. If you do not have one, put it on your list for Santa or do it the old-fashioned way by turning down your thermostat when you leave the house or go to bed.

Planting a tree is one of the greenest contributions you can make, so buy a tree with its roots and plant it after the holiday season. If you do buy a traditional cut tree, make sure that you recycle it by mulching and composting it after the holiday is over. Allegheny County sponsors a tree recycling program each year. You can drop off your tree at the swimming pool parking lots in Boyce, North, Settler’s Cabin and South parks from January 2 through 22, 2010.

This coming year, make a resolution to be greener and to protect our Earth. Consider making resolutions that you will actively try to keep and start out simple. Try commuting to work without your car once a week, vowing to take your reusable shopping bags to the grocery story, or always carrying your re-usable water bottle. Sign up for a free electronic newsletter and commit to doing more green things. Visit this website, or this one, or this one, to sign up.

One thought on “Go green for the holidays

  1. Slightly off topic of this but has anyone else found the requirement of blue bags for recycling a little silly? Why does WM or the city not have recycle containers for neighborhoods like most other major cities? I know that CA has one container for newspapers and bottles/plastics/cans and they sort it out at the recycle center. That’s asking a lot from having blue bags but a little plastic container would be decent, don’t you agree?

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