Quick tips for holiday conservation

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It’s hunting season. Depending on your perspective, you imagine hunting as wearing camouflage, being in the woods in the early morning hours and waiting for the perfect moment as a large buck or doe comes into view in your scope … or … you scour the local ads, online deals and also do the early morning hours, waiting for the perfect moment to get the best shopping bargain.

Either way, December marks the beginning of hunting, and the holiday season. So, this holiday season, why not make some decisions that will be “green” ones?

Here are just a few tips to make your holidays a more conservation friendly time of the year.

In the bag

One of the easiest things you can do is use a reusable cloth bag or tote when you shop. The reusable bags hold more, are stronger and are inexpensive.

Worldwide, plastic bag usage is out of control, with consumption rates between 500 billion and 1 trillion each year. Less than 1 percent of plastic bags get recycled, which means they either take up landfill space or end up as litter and pollution.

Sadly, it is estimated that an average family of four will use 1,460 plastic bags a year. Plastic bags are also the second most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts.

So remember the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle. Reduce the number of plastic bags you acquire, and reuse or recycle the ones you currently have. It may take some time for using reusable bags to become a habit. I know I had to run back out to my vehicle more than once when I was shopping and forgot my bags. But now, it’s a habit.

To help you out, start with always keeping the bags in your vehicle(s). Then remember to take them with you. After a while, you will remember them, it will be a habit. These reusable bags also make wonderful gifts, and can be a nice gift wrap.

Tree time

I’m not going to debate the pros and cons of using real or artificial trees. What I care about is what is done with the real trees after Christmas. The best environmentally-friendly route would be to purchase and use a balled evergreen, and then plant it after the holidays.

I have fond childhood memories of going to pick out our tree, and then deciding where it would be planted in the yard later. It was special to watch it grow over the years.

Realizing not everyone does that, you should have a “green” plan for your evergreen. Cut trees can be recycled — that is, shredded and mulched. Many places provide this free service, as long as the tree is free of decorations and doesn’t have tinsel on it. To find out where you can locally take your cut Christmas tree, visit http://earth911.com.

You can also use your cut tree to enhance wildlife habitat in your yard, or donate it to a landowner. Birds, rabbits and other wildlife will seek shelter in the winter with brush and downed trees.

Another idea is to put an “anchor” or weight on the tree, and put it into a pond. My parents would take our friends tree’s and do that to our pond. The branches will become great habitat and a safe haven for young fish and other aquatic life that need protection. This can be done even if a pond is frozen over, just place the weighted tree on it and wait for the thaw, and soon the tree will sink.

That’s a wrap

If you’re like me, (I’m not fond of wrapping presents), you can say you are being “environmentally friendly” by NOT using wrapping paper. Say you are saving trees. Use the simple bow and gift tag for large items. Or, use newspaper — the comics if you like — as wrapping paper.

Back to the three R’s: reduce, reuse or recycle. Wrapping paper and shopping bags account for about 4 million tons of trash each year in the U.S. It is estimated that if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

If you must purchase wrapping paper, look for the kind made from recycled materials. I’m actually a fan of gift bags, which I re-use, over and over again. Also, if you’re careful you can re-use wrapping paper. Save a tree, and some money.

It is easy being green

Unlike Kermit the Frog, it can be easy to go green during the holidays. With a little forethought and effort, there are many small things we can all do that together can make a big difference.

Other green tips include sending an electronic card, instead of mailing one, or reusing old ones for crafts or gift tags. Also consider using LED lights and timers for lighting decorations, composting food scraps, using washable dinnerware or compostable type cups, utensils and plates and giving “green” gifts.

One last thing, don’t forget the wildlife and our feathered friends. These harsh winters can be deadly to anything outside. Bird feeders and food plots may help keep many creatures alive this season.

May everyone have a very happy and “green” holiday!

About the Author

Kelly Riley has been the Education Specialist for the Wayne Soil and Water Conservation District since 2003. She earned her B.A. Degree in Education from University of Akron and was previously a teacher with the Tri-County ESC. Kelly can be reached at (330)-262-2836 or by e-mail at kriley@wayneoh.org. More Stories by Kelly Riley

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