-You can see this submission from Compost Girl, AKA Kendra Bruno, on the Napa Valley Register here.-
I won’t lie – I’ve been called a Grinch many times during the Holiday Season - either by friends affectionately or acquaintances/strangers in a non-teasing way telling me not to be such a Negative Nancy.
Because I make people think about the impacts of their consumption.
It is an ugly reality – we have a cognitive dissonance to our consumption and the impacts it has on not just the environment, but our health, and our well-being (emotional, financial, and physical).
Did you know that from Thanksgiving to the New Year’s, the average U.S. citizen throws 25% more away? That’s on top of the average 5.7 pounds per person per DAY that is already generated – with the U.S. having the highest in the world for solid waste generation per capita.
On top of that, the average American goes into debt by $1,054 for the Christmas season – which takes most people 3+ months to pay off.
With this knowledge, I try to dissuade others in the consumption euphoria of this time of year: ENTER the “Grinch” (or maybe Ghost from Future Trash Lands?!) or what a good friend from Stockton used to call me: the Sustainabilabuddy (here to help you be more environmentally conscious!).
When we go into this Holiday Season, we should consider the hierarchy of consumption:
Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, and Rot + Sustainable Purchasing.
We’ve got two new R’s added to the gang – each one as important as the next, but placed in the specific hierarchy to highlight their level of impact.
Reduce: Do you really need to buy your boyfriend’s cousin that scarf? How about that pumpkin pie to take to your work’s Holiday Party (that already has sooo much food)? Or what about all that shiny wrapping paper and super cute glittery gift bags?
- If you really need to buy a gift, consider something that can be used and supports a local business – from a gift card to a local coffee shop to Farmer Market Bucks (if they shop there). Sure, there will probably be some consumption of materials happening – but hopefully they are using their reusable coffee cup or bag (maybe put the gift card inside one!) when they go.
- On average, Americans gain 1-2 pounds during the holiday season and lots of food goes uneaten, ending up in a landfill. Consider a healthier alternative and maybe make it a smaller portion than usual.
- Wrapping paper is one of the most confusing holiday items to dispose of because its made out of so many things! If it is shiny or metallic, it has to be landfilled – consider using a reusable cloth wrapper or just using an old box without wrapping paper or wrap it in newspaper.
Reuse: I love the idea of re-gifting. Some mock it, but really – hand-me-ups, used or unused, are great things. From that candle you never used to the crystal glasses you bought but have sat in the cabinet gaining dust, and you know your Aunt Sue would love them – and what better way to reuse something?
Repair: We tend to throw things out when they stop working instead of investing in them – but a whole new (re) movement is growing – repair fairs and shops! Instead of properly recycling that old vacuum, people are repairing them and using them. Give it a second chance!
Recycle: Let’s close the loop with whatever remains (reduce, reuse… then the remaining)– by PROPERLY recycling. That means, putting our used cardboard boxes, clean paper, metals, glass and rigid plastics all in the blue recycling cart – that way we ensure a second life for these materials while reducing our (unnecessary) consumption of virgin natural resources.
Rot: Last, but not least - composting. All food scraps (bones, meat, dairy, vegetables, fruits) in ANY state can go into your brown compost cart alongside all those soiled paper-based items (paper plates, napkins, parchment paper, tissues, and so much more) and yard trimmings. You can make a HUGE environmental difference by diverting your food and soiled paper into the brown compost cart instead of landfilling – and I mean HUGE.
Remember – you always have a choice in your impact.
Hey, sometimes I don’t want to do the dishes too! So how about a compromise? Instead of buying single use disposal silverware (aka PLASTIC silverware) that heads to the landfill cart after being used, how about using reusable ones? And then as the compromise – use paper plates! Those paper plates can go into your brown compost cart.
So I guess instead of the Compost Girl, you can call me the Grinch or the Ghost from Future Trash Lands… or maybe, your Sustainabilabuddy!
Questions on how to be “greener”? Send me an email at [email protected]