Green Christmas Reduces Waste

Are visions of a greener holiday season dancing in your head?

Consider using a live evergreen as your Christmas tree, and offering nontraditional gifts, such as sporting event tickets and music lessons.

Many people buy live Christmas trees because they can plant them after the holidays, said Marisa Keris, whose parents run Keris Tree Farm & Christmas Shop in Upper Freehold.

“Some people have, like, 10 years of Christmas trees along their yard,” said Keris, 23.

Cut Christmas trees also can be recycled as mulch, which help new trees grow.

From Thanksgiving to the New Year, Americans generate an extra million tons of waste each week, according to the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation.

They also toss out enough ribbon every year to tie a bow around the Earth and throw nearly 1 billion Christmas cards into the garbage instead of recycling them, according to the New York agency.

But people can take scores of steps to be greener this holiday season, according to experts and advocates.

“I think it’s becoming more common that people think of these things in their everyday life,” said Kirstin McPolin of Middletown, president of Real Mama Inc., a nonprofit focusing on environmental issues and children’s health and wellness. “As hard as it is during this season, we want people to remember that there are ways to do it.”

Real Mama tips include preparing meals with organic ingredients, shopping within about 10 miles of home to save fuel and turning down the heat to 55 degrees when on vacation, McPolin said.

Other tips include decorating the tree with homemade or natural ornaments and giving cloth napkins to family and friends, she said.

People should “avoid impulsive shopping,” said Fran Metzger, Monmouth County recycling coordinator. “Give a lasting gift of a movie ticket or a theater certificate or gift certificate.”

Metzger also recommends choosing toys and tools that run on rechargeable batteries, using reusable cloth shopping bags, buying gift wrap and cards made from recycled paper and using old holiday cards as gift tags.

Using comic books or old road maps for wrapping could “become a conversation piece,” she said.

“Shredded newspaper makes good packaging material rather than using the (Styrofoam) peanuts,” she said.

As for Christmas trees, check with your municipal public works department on when cut trees can be placed at the curb or dropped off for chipping, Metzger said. Towns usually use chipped trees in flower beds or make them available to residents for use, she said.

In Ocean County, most towns collect Christmas trees, and county parks also collect them, said John A. Haas, Ocean County recycling coordinator.

And because people receive new clothing during the holiday season, they should recycle their older clothing through their church or synagogue, Haas said. Hundreds of clothes recycling bins are throughout the county, and people are especially in need this winter, he said.

by Todd B. Bates