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Be conscious during holiday clean-up

Christmas has come and gone and now it’s time to clean up. 

Americans generate about 25 percent more waste than usual during the stretch from Thanksgiving to Christmas, indicated by the overflowing trash cans lining the city’s streets Thursday morning. 

The holiday often comes with a bit of overconsumption. We buy more gifts than necessary — often with no room to put them in our homes. We prepare too much food, and eat and drink more than usual. 

But today and over the weekend, we will clean up and recover. As we do so, there are ways we can reduce our impact on the environment and limit our waste.  

  • After all the gifts have been opened, remember to recycle wrapping paper and boxes. There are also many items that can be saved and used again next. Reuse gift bags, bows, ribbons and other non-recyclable decor items when possible. Remember bubble wrap, ribbons, bows, batteries, clothing and shoes, holiday lights and foam packaging cannot be recycled. 
  • Many people received updated technology for Christmas — the most up-to-date phones, the highest-tech tablet or newest gadget on the market. As we update our tech, our old technology often sits idly in a drawer, takes up storage space or gets tossed in the garage. Instead, consider either reselling, recycling or donating your old tech or gadget. If your tech is still in good working order, sell it to recoup some of your money. If it no longer works, many technology or office retailers offer recycling programs. 

Some websites allow you to trade-in old technology in exchange for gift cards. If you would rather not go through the hassle of selling your old tech, consider donating working items to charities that will either sell them at low cost or donate them to families in need that might not be able to afford it otherwise. 

  • Recycle your Christmas tree. Rather than tossing your live cut Christmas tree to the curb, consider one of several ways to recycle it. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will collect natural Christmas trees at 39 drop-off locations across the state for its Christmas for the Fishes program. Collection will continue until mid-January. 

Donated trees must be free of all lights, tinsel, ornaments and any other decorations. Limbs, wreaths or other brush are not encouraged. To find the closest drop-off location, visit fw.ky.gov and search using “Christmas.” Drop-off sites are generally open during daylight hours. Additionally, local farmers may accept the old trees for their livestock to nibble on. Goat and sheep in particular like to snack on the trees. 

  • Donate unwanted toys. The holiday break from school is a great time to encourage your children to go through their old toys to make room for all the new items they received over the holiday. As they gather their unwanted and unused toys, box or bag them up neatly and donate them or drop them off at your local thrift store.
  • As you’re cleaning up after your holiday dinners, be sure to recycle disposable napkins, paper towels, paper plates, etc. instead of tossing them in the trash. Another item to consider is the large number of aluminum cans used during holiday parties and other get togethers. Those can be recycled too.  
  • What do you do with all the leftovers that don’t get eaten after the holidays? First, think of creative ways to reuse the food before it goes bad. Have too much turkey? Make a pot pie. Leftover cheese board? Make mac and cheese. If the food is past its prime, consider composting wasted food and using it in your garden in the spring. There are a variety of websites or books at the library for beginning composters. 
  • What about those gifts we received we know won’t get used? If possible, return to the store where it was purchased and pick out something you know will go to use. It is better to return and replace the items than to let it sit all year and end up being donated or trashed a year from now. If you’re unable to return the items, consider going ahead and donate unwanted gifts to charity. At least this way, they will be loved and used by someone else. 

While Christmas has officially passed, there is still time to be smart and conscious about the waste you produce as you clean up from the holiday. 

Many families are still celebrating through the weekend as well. 

Of course, if you weren’t as responsible as you could have been this year, keep these tips in mind for other upcoming holidays and for next year’s celebrations. 

Of course, New Year’s celebrations are less than a week and some of these tips will apply. 

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year full of happiness, good spirits and giving hearts. Let’s all think of ways we can help relieve the waste in the aftermath. Surely then, the spirit of the holiday will be extended even further.