Have A Greener Holiday
Reprinted from The Triangle, December 2010
Got your shopping done? Prefer to wait until the last minute? However you celebrate the season, chances are good the biggest haul of all will go to the local landfill. If that sounds like a poor conclusion to your holidays, read on for tips on how to avoid, reduce or re-use what we typically kick to the curb.
First off, starting January 1, 2011 electronics are officially banned from N.C. landfills. Your cast-off PCs, I-pods, cell phones, Xboxes and the like can no longer be tossed in the trash, but they can be collected locally. In Raleigh, you can do it curb-side for free if you call 919-996-6890; in Durham, take them to the house-hold hazardous waste center; Chapel Hillians can take their discards to the landfill or a local convenience center. Be advised, cleaning any hard drives your job and no one is liable but you if sensitive data remains on the donated unit. Not in a city? Visit wastenotnc.org and go to the “solid waste” program and choose “electronics” from the left-hand side to find a collection event near you. You’ll keep toxic heavy metals out of our landfills and feed the growing electronics recycling industry.
In Raleigh, you can put it by the curb for free pick-up through January 15. In Durham, call 560.4386 for a grease container; in Chapel Hill, drop it off at the land-fill’s household hazardous waste collection center. You’ll keep your plumber at bay, avoid a sewer over-flow and help support the oil recycling industry.
What’s trashed after the holiday is connected to what’s shipped ahead of it, so let’s take a look at cardboard, packing peanuts and bubble wrap. If you can’t re-use it, cardboard can be recycled, but usually needs to be broken down to small enough sizes (3’ x 3’ usually works) to fit into conveyors; check your local program for details.
Bubble wrap can be fun to pop, but if you leave it alone, it can be re-used by you or taken to a local shipping store for re-use. Kinko’s and USPS won’t accept it, but call around and you’ll probably find some takers at small mailing operations.
In Raleigh, packing peanuts can be taken to the UPS store on Daniels Street in Cameron Village. In Durham or Chapel Hill, the local Pak Mail stores will accept clean packing peanuts for use.
Even those squeaky blocks of polystyrene can find a second home if you ship them to the Tegrant Corporation in Butner. Call 919.571.5100 for details.
Care for creation after ole Tannenbaum is taken down by placing it curbside with your regular trash. Before you toss it, be sure to take off any ornaments, lights and tinsel. Recycled trees have many uses ranging from mulch to ar-tificial fish reefs. Don’t wait too long though! Free curbside pickup only lasts a few weeks after the holidays, so check your public works depart-ment for the local cut-off date.
Metallic paper and bows cannot be recycled so avoid buying it and if you receive it, consider donating it to The Scrap Ex-change in Durham. For a list of what they’ll take (and what they can’t) visit scrapexchange.org or call them at 919.688.6960. Other wrapping paper can be accepted wherever mixed paper is recycled or just fold it neatly and save it for next year.If you are the crafty type, make your own! Recycle some paper and adorn it with stickers, drawing or try making your own stamp from a raw potato and a bit of food dye.
What You Send
This is great news for what we receive in the Triangle area, but how can we avoid creating waste in other places when we send gifts?
If you must ship, use re-cycled cardboard boxes and shipping materials. Instead of buying packag-ing materials, consider using shred-ded paper or newspaper. If you just have to have peanuts, buy the dis-solvable ones made from starch. Bet-ter yet, buy a gift certificate and save on all the gas and emissions used to take your item from point A to B.
If you are sending a gift that uses batteries, go the extra mile and include rechargeable batteries and a battery charger. Actually battery chargers would make a great stock-ing stuffer for just about anyone.
These are not usually thrown away, but if you like to make the local drive-through tours (or know a friend that does) pay a bit extra and pick up some LED holiday lights. They last longer and your bills will be lower, too. Then, take the old ones to the local electronic recycling center.
Given the average NC citizen creates 1.07 tons per person per year (circa 2008-2009, the most recent data available), I think we can all agree there’s a bit of room for improve-ment here. If you do even half of these things, you’ll make this holiday season a greener one for all around you. Do them all and you can con-sider yourself an eco-elf.
Happy holidays to you and Mother Earth!