The Beachcomber Holiday Guide

Resolve to Reduce Waste in 2020

By Victoria Ford | Nov 08, 2019

Earth — It’s the most wonderful (and most wasteful) time of the year. Extra cooking and carting food to and from parties typically involve plastic wrap and aluminum foil, disposable pans and spoiled leftovers; gift giving often entails plastic packaging and wrapping paper discarded and destined for landfills.

This holiday season, why not join the movement of planet-loving people who consciously reduce the amount of waste generated by their household?

Angela Andersen, Long Beach Township’s sustainability coordinator, said with regard to how she integrates waste-reduction into her household, “I am big on reuse.”

She finds ways to give new life to glass jars and containers from sauce and condiments. They can be used to store leftovers, give homemade goodies to family or friends, or display cut flowers in place of a vase. As a hostess gift, Andersen suggested, “premade holiday cocktails go great in a giant pickle jar.”

“Glass markets are down,” she explained, “and until we fully upgrade our infrastructure to get a clean end product to market, I try and reuse all the glass bottles and containers.”

She also saves all outer wrap bags from bread and veggies to pick up dog waste in the yard. Film recycling has not fully caught on yet, she noted, so it is important to put all films in the plastic bag recycling bins, not in the single-stream household recycling.

“Don’t get me started on my abundance of gift bags, ribbon” and other salvaged gift accoutrements, she said. “I have a stash I pick from that I swear still has some ribbons from my bridal shower – 25 years ago.”

The “zero-waste” movement is about moving toward a less wasteful, more environmentally sustainable lifestyle, in baby steps. Most people can’t undo a lifetime of bad habits overnight. Consider these 15 additional (simple, beginner-friendly) measures to incorporate “greener” thinking at home – not only during the holiday glut but well beyond and all through the year. Pick one or three or five that seem plausible, and make them 2020’s New Year’s resolutions.

• Memorize the seven R’s of sustainability: rethink, refuse, reduce, repurpose, reuse, recycle, rot.

• Give up single-use beverage straws in favor of washable ones.

• Give up plastic produce bags. Those heads of broccoli, four pears and six apples can do without bags; presumably they will get washed at home anyway.

• Give up disposable convenience items such as paper towels, plates and cutlery.

• Give the gift of sustainability to loved ones who could use a wakeup call. Attractive beeswax wraps (to replace plastic cling wrap and plastic sandwich bags), cloth totes, and personal items such as bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste bars may open their eyes. Soap bars for washing hands, body and hair can replace some of the many plastic bottles so prevalent in the cosmetics and toiletry industries.

• Watch motivating documentaries such as “A Plastic Ocean,” “Cowspiracy,” “2040: The Regeneration” and “Minimalism” – these are all on Netflix. Read Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home. (Borrow it from the library, of course.)

• Refuse all store-issued retail shopping bags. Don’t buy into the idea that those thicker “reusable” plastic ones are better. They’re not. Neither is paper. Use only washable, reusable totes made, ideally, from natural fibers or recycled materials – or perfectly good arms.

• Buy secondhand.

• Buy local.

• Support small business and regional agriculture.

• Bring a refillable bottle everywhere.

• Evaluate personal habits and see where small but impactful changes can easily be made. Coffee drinker? Swear off disposable coffee cups and lids from Wawa or Dunkin Donuts. Wherever possible, replace single-use items with reusable alternatives.

• Go to the garage/attic/basement and pull out items that haven’t been used in three years. Donate them to the local thrift shops.

• Try a spending freeze. Make it a one-month, 90-day or six-month challenge. Unsubscribe from all online sales promotions and make a vow to use what is already available or do without. You may surprise yourself with the creative solutions that can be conjured up.

• Convert the delusional. When things get thrown away, there is no such thing as “away.”

— Victoria Ford

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