'Tis the season to REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, REPAIR, REPURPOSE, REGIFT
Many of us have collected so much stuff that a movie was made about it. The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard’s 2007 online documentary explored our problem with stuff: we have too much of it, too much of it is toxic and we don’t share it very well..
We live in a throw-away society and in a way it’s not our fault. It can cost more to repair a printer than to just buy a new one. And every year, there’s a new gadget we can be convinced we need. But how many folks (like me) have a box full of old electronics hidden under the stairs waiting for the next “electronic recycling day” which I will then forget.
In fact, it seems like the word “repair” has almost disappeared from our vocabulary. When was the last time you heard about a TV repair service? The New York Times profiled Jennings TV Service, a small family-owned shop in Manhattan in the 2005 story “Practicing the Dying Art of TV Repair.” Repair vs. replace is an ongoing debate.
Discover Financial Services lists
“5 Questions to Ask before Repairing or Replacing an Appliance” on its website:
- How much will the repair cost?
- How old is the appliance? (how old is too old)
- Do you need a more energy-efficient appliance?
- Could better maintenance extend the life of your appliance?
- Are you a stickler for style?
These questions may help but the decision usually comes down to money. According to HouseLogic, a website of the National Association of Realtors, repair may be better if the cost to repair is less than 50 percent of the cost of a new one (including installation and other related charges).
Old things can have new life through repurposing. There are lots of resources about repurposing, like this Popular Mechanics article “22 Ingenious Ways to Repurpose Old Junk.” Among the ideas – turning an old wheelbarrow into an herb garden and turning old tire rims (a large item in landfills) into a fire pit.
A well-thought-out repurposed item can add to your home or make a nice “green” gift. And it helps cut down on STUFF.
All this STUFF becomes even more evident as the holidays approach. Over the next few weeks the U.S. Postal Service anticipates delivering more than 15 billion pieces of mail, including 850 million packages and according to Hallmark, 1.3 billion holiday cards are sent every year.
Our industry is keenly aware of the far-reaching effects of the season. The aftermath of holiday consumerism begins to hit the waste and recycling industry in November. Waste and recycling volumes trend upwards, peaking during the two weeks following Christmas, according to Waste 360
M-PASS wanted to see what we could find to suggest as alternatives to the usual holiday habits.
Cut trees or artificial? On the one hand, fake trees can have a big carbon footprint. A few years back, The New York Times reported that a fake tree would have to be used over 20 times to be greener than decorating a cut tree each year. But on the other hand, we’re removing a lot of trees from our land.
While most places have successful programs for recycling Christmas trees (Keep Georgia Beautiful’s “Bring One for the Chipper”), there are new alternatives. In California The Living Christmas Co. rents live trees, taking them back at the end of the season. The trees travel in their own soil and are easy to move, and if cared for properly will be ready to go into action again the following year. If you become attached to your tree, you can tag it and have the same tree in future years, though it may be bigger. If trees become too large or unsuitable to rent, they are donated to tree-planting projects.
Regifting is not a new concept but it is only now getting respect. There are pages of information online, including thoughts from both Emily Post and Martha Stewart. Emily advises to only do it in specific and appropriate cases while Martha has a more open view.
There are even official rules for throwing a Regifting Party. Guests bring and leave with one gift each; no first-time gifts are allowed. We’ll skip the specifics but just say that there is some swapping, a little stealing, and a lot of laughing. If you don’t love what you end up with, you can donate it to charity.
And finally, if you just can’t ignore that shopping urge, shop locally and try to find “green” gifts for those on your list. Even amazon.com has a section for eco-friendly gifts (other gift ideas and links to other resources can be found below).
Just Little Changes, whose goal is to inspire people to start with small daily changes, shows us the possibilities in their “Ethical Hierarchy of Gift Purchasing.” Things we do make a difference every day and little changes add up to big changes.
We hope some of these ideas will enable you to have a less stressful holiday season.
“So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.”
–Henry David Thoreau
For more information
- Find out what and where to recycle at Earth 911
- The U.S. EPA has lots of resources at Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
- Country Living magazine: 71 DIY Christmas Gifts Your Friends and Family Will Actually Love
- House Beautiful magazine: 60+ DIY Christmas Presents Your Friends Won’t Re-Gift
- BuzzFeed has 21 Eco-Friendly Gifts To Give This Year
- TreeHugger has Green Gift Guides
Other gift ideas
- A charitable donation in someone’s name
- An “experience,” such as a composting class, wine tasting, or walking tour. You can even choose a specific city using Xperience Days which offers activities in a number of U.S. cities (including Atlanta).
- A membership for an art museum or children’s museum
- Give the kids a chance to play in the dirt with a gardening kit. It’s fun and also educational – and there could be vegetables or flowers at the end.
- Homemade gifts like hand-knitted scarves, candles, mason jar lid coasters (links to some of these resources are at the end).