During Saturday night’s Harbor Lights Festival, Marty joined the hundreds of Kodiak residents that ambled along the docks, enjoying the pleasant weather, bumping into neighbors, and looking for their favorite Christmasy boat.
“There were lots of families and kids walking the floats,” Marty said. “One little boy, probably 4 years old, looked up at me and declared with firm conviction, ‘Santa is coming to town!’”
Yes, Santa Claus is coming to town and “He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh,” as the song goes.
Most of us love the family traditions and potluck get-togethers that come with the holidays. What can be more fun than sharing the look on friends’ and family’s faces (even on Skype) when gifts are opened? “In the air, there’s a feeling of Christmas,” that surge of caring and neighborliness that blossoms this time of year.
There’s also a surge — dare I spoil the holiday spirit — of waste. In the United States (according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), the volume of household waste generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, creating about 1 million extra tons of waste in the winter wonderland. If all you want for Christmas is to generate less waste and help the planet heal, there are plenty of ways you can go green for the holidays.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
It’s an eye-opening experience, on many levels, to watch kids tear open gift-wrapped packages. Even more enlightening are the mounds of holiday debris. Most of that waste (packaging and boxes, greeting cards, used batteries and old electronics), can be recycled at Threshold Recycling (380 Von Scheele Way, near Safeway, 486-6551). And many things can be reused or re-gifted, recyclable or not.
Here are a few pre-cycling tips:
• Wrap your gifts in earth-friendly wrapping like bandanas, nautical charts, handkerchiefs, magazines, or newspaper you’ve decorated with hand-stamped designs.
• Avoid ribbons, bows, greeting cards and wrapping paper that contains metal fibers and glitter.
• Decorate your tree with ornaments, sure, but instead of tinsel, consider strings of popcorn and paper chains from magazines.
• Rather than wrapping gifts for youngsters, hide the presents and turn Christmas into a treasure hunt.
• Save wrapping paper, cards and ribbons to use next year.
Deck the halls
Turn off (use a timer) or unplug lights during the day to save energy. Does anyone know if broken or kaput Christmas lights are recyclable in Kodiak? (The photographer in me has a mental image of a bald eagle, foraging at the landfill, draped in lights).
O Christmas tree
If you purchased (or harvested) a real Christmas tree or greens, please recycle your tree responsibly. In other words, rather than toss it in a ditch or over the bank, follow local guidelines, which I’m sure will be announced any day now.
My true love sent to me
There are plenty of gifts that don’t require lots of packaging or wrapping. “Experiential” gifts celebrate the gift of giving without the extra waste of packaging and paper. They also provide opportunities for the recipient to experiences new things in the way of music lessons, yoga classes or Kodiak Arts Council events. Gifts of state park passes, memberships to local museums or Kodiak Audubon, and giving a monetary donation to a local charity in someone else’s name all provide ways to invest in the community at the same time.
Promissory notes are gifts that keep on giving: notes for cleaning, admissions to workshops, coupons for homemade dinners, family getaways, or sharing hikes with a friend. How about investing in your family and friends by contributing to a child’s savings account or education IRA.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
Being good means making thoughtful and conscious buying and giving choices. Remember, small is beautiful. Storing large items has become the albatross around the neck of many America. Honestly, we don’t need more stuff. The average American home size has nearly tripled over the last 50 years and one in 10 Americans rent a storage unit. Keep your gift-giving simple. One thoughtful present is better than five wrapped packages of unwanted gifts.
So let’s talk briefly about a touchy topic: hoarding. It’s a problem for many people around the world. Maybe you know a friend or family member who suffers from “Rubble without a cause.” I won’t get into the dynamics of compulsive hoarding as a disorder, except to say that if you can clear out some of the clutter in your home (or be a “clutter buddy” and help someone else do it) and recycle or repurpose what you can, you will giving in ways you never imagined.
Bring us some figgy pudding
If you’re entertaining this season, here are a few tips to consider:
• Use reusable cups, plates and utensils.
• Set out cloth napkins and tablecloths instead of disposable ones.
• Recycle at your holiday party.
• Prevent food waste with menu planning and smart shopping.
• Buy local foods.
Do you see what I see?
I’ve listed many tips for making this holiday season an extra special, green one. After the holiday dust has settled though (dust is compostable, by the way), consider two things: 1) Adopting some of these tips for the whole year, and 2) Using the power of the pen and you buying power to encourage companies to rethink some of their packaging methods. Tell them you want a Christmas that celebrates environmentally friendly lifestyles so that everyone can be singing “Joy to the World!”