SHERIDAN — Amazon packages are scattered on door steps and holiday wrapping paper is being dislodged from closet corners. The anticipation for gifts, feasts and family gatherings continues to build.
Once the joy and pandemonium cools, thousands of pounds of wrapping paper, packaging, extra food and wilting Christmas trees will start their journey toward trash bins across the U.S. This holiday season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging Americans to go green with sustainable gifts, food and transportation.
The CDC suggests cultivating a sustainable holiday by purchasing an artificial tree that can be reused in future years or a living tree that can be replanted. Recycling trees through a wood chipper extends their use a bit longer.
Energy efficient LED lights and timers can shave off some of the cost and energy usage associated with string lights if they’re a crucial part of a household’s holiday decor. Natural decorations like pine cones, foliage, dried fruit and cinnamon sticks can replace plastic decorations around the house or on a tree.
The way consumers shop can also make a difference, according to the CDC. Keeping reusable bags in the car can help cut down on the number of plastic bags that carry gifts home before they’re rewrapped in gift paper.
Every day, U.S. consumers handle enough plastic bags to wrap around the earth about 1,330 times, according to the Earth Policy Institute.
Purchasing locally-made, recycled or naturally-sourced gifts is another way the CDC is encouraging consumers to support their local economy and reduce environmental impact during the holidays.
Giving experiential gifts, donating time or supporting a goodwill organization is a way to give a gift with no wrapping required.
If the holiday season generally includes a large family gathering with many mouths to feed, taking turns to wash utensils and plates can reduce the need for plastic cutlery and disposable dishes.
Healthy meals are gifts that families can share. Verdello owner Kathy Bede said a cooking class is a way to connect with family, a great date night and a setting to meet new friends. Gaining the skills to make simple, healthy meals — whether from a formal class or visiting grandparent — can be an experience that lasts longer than the holiday season.
Chris Vrba with Sheridan Community Land Trust said a gift of conservation is one that benefits individuals in Sheridan County long-term. Supporting conservation efforts like removing invasive plant species, improving water quality and expanding trail systems provides new ways for everyone to explore the outdoors, Vrba said.
Carol and Sam Mavrakis with The Seidler Foundation are matching all gifts made to the Sheridan Community Land Trust dollar for dollar through Jan. 15, up to $25,000.
Cultivating a green holiday doesn’t have to be a challenge, as hundreds of websites provide suggestions for homemade gifts and environmentally-friendly decorations.
The Environmental Protection Agency reports each American produces about 4.5 pounds of waste per day. Total waste production has increased every year since data collection began and spikes annually around the holidays.
With the spirit of giving in the air, the CDC is asking consumers to consider ways to give to friends and family that are also kinder to the planet.