When all the visitors leave and it’s time to move on to a fresh New Year there are abundant opportunities to take the more ecologically friendly road. From the wrappings and packaging of the presents under the tree, the tree itself, the old Christmas lights, unwanted gifts and overstocked food to the temptation of post holiday sales, there are decisions to be made.
The wonderful reusable bags that many presents arrive in these days, cloth or paper, can be saved for another time. Gifts that don’t work for us may be perfect for someone else in our circle and can be ‘regifted’ later. Alternatively they may be better going to the thrift shop so someone can pick up a bargain. If you have unwanted gifts of value you may consider donating them to a nonprofit that does a fundraising auction.
We can also take some types of packaging–no packing peanuts or Styrofoam please! Bubble wrap can be reused by artisans and other small businesses shipping products from Floyd. Nobody we know of wants the larger air pillows, but they can easily be burst and recycled as plastic film. Bursting bubbles is a fun occupation for kids of all ages.
Food waste is a huge item year round. As a nation we waste 30-40% of our food (according to the USDA). At holiday times that percentage soars. In our generosity we purchase and prepare extra food which we may simply be unable to consume. Uncooked food may be suitable for donation to a local food bank. At home, making sure to package extra food and store it well for later use is helpful–especially in glass containers.
It is surprising how many things can be frozen. These include bread, cookies, cakes (without frosting), eggs (removed from shells and whisked), cooked rice and grains (that can be quickly refreshed by heating in a microwave, steamed or added directly to other dishes), high fat cream, butter and well wrapped cheese, deli meats and most cooked dishes like soups and stews. Do not refreeze items that have been previously frozen.
Sometimes it is hard to resist the temptations of sale time. However, we know that cheap clothing and other textiles are a major source of pollution, especially the synthetic fabrics which are so ubiquitous. When shopping we need to check labels carefully and check in with ourselves to ask if this is an item we truly need or love. It is estimated that 30% of returned products are never restocked and end up in the landfill–so impulse buys can have a steep environmental cost.
Having negotiated all the holiday left-overs, we can enjoy the rising new year. We can get creative in the kitchen with new recipes to use up our stored food and bathe in the excitement of planning our 2023 garden. It’s not too early to be ordering our new seeds and fruit trees and we can already feel the excitement of new growth.