A Few Tips For a Green Post-Christmas…

One of the least fun things about Christmas is “undoing” it all afterward: at least that is the way I’ve always felt.

And one of the things that has always bothered me about it is pesky questions like what to do with strings of broken Christmas tree lights. Throwing them into the garbage (i.e. sending them into a landfill) can’t be the right thing to do, can it?

And what about all those beautifully scented pine needles? Shouldn’t we be filling sachets with them? Or something?

Fortunately, today there are more and more satisfying answers to some of those pesky questions, more and more ways to make the post-Christmas season, if not exactly fun, at least more green.

Here are a few tips to help guide you in your post-holiday activities:

Recycling Christmas Lights

Home Depot accepts lights for trade-in in the pre-Christmas season. (I found this out too late for this year, but it’s good to know for next year.) HolidayLeds offers discount savings coupons in exchange for recycled lights: you can mail them the lights to them for recycling (there are also some places where you can drop off the lights). Christmas Light Source, a Texas company, has developed a unique program for recycling Christmas lights. You send them your lights, they have them recycled and then they use the money they receive for recycling to buy books for their local Toys for Tots. And a quick survey of the Internet suggests that many Whole Foods supermarkets also accept Christmas tree lights for recycling during the month of January: you might want to ask if there’s a program at your local store.

Recycling Christmas Trees

Most communities now have programs for curbside pick-up of trees and wreaths that are put out before a certain date. You can check the pick-up dates and policies for your area at Earth 911’s handy Christmas tree recycling directory.

However, Earth 911 is also urging all of us to read the fine print and ask the hard questions that will lead to our trees being disposed of ecologically rather than just ending up in landfills. (Curbside pick-up, they stress, does not necessarily mean that the trees that are picked up will be recycled.) They have some suggestions for ecological options you can do yourself if your community does not recycle trees.

And you could save some of the needles to make sweet-smelling sachets, to let the fragrant scents of Christmas last a little longer…why not? (Balsam needles are the best for this.)

Recycling Wrapping Paper

Unfortunately some of the prettiest wrapping paper is also the least earth-friendly (and the most expensive too). In fact Earth911 warns that putting this kind of paper, which is actually not recyclable, into a recycling bin can compromise the recyclability of the paper it’s mixed up with. So for the future you might want to consider going easy on the glitz, and using easily recyclable materials such as newspaper, magazines, and old calendars.

One of my favorite post-Christmas activities is boiling away what’s left of the Christmas ham, to make the stock for a delicious split-pea soup. More green!

As the windows steam up and the Christmas cards and decorations come down, there’s something kind of nice after all, about the post-holiday season, a lull after the storm, peace and quiet after all that flurry of activity.

In some places there is even a blanket of snow outside, Nature’s tabula rasa,  to aid in quiet contemplation.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor,  writing coach , travel bloggerand coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home

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