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Living the Green Life

Be a Friend of the Environment: December 2021

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green cactus decorated with ornaments and lights for the holidays
A holiday plant is great for small spaces.
Just add ornaments and LED lights for
creative and eye-catching holiday décor.

Just east of Rochester, Seneca Falls is believed by many to be the inspiration for the fictional town of Bedford Falls. Wherever you live or visit in New York, being a friend of the environment this holiday season can indeed be a wonderful "green" life. What a perfect time of the year to add the environment to your gift giving list and implement simple holiday habit changes. Enjoy this handy guide to "green" gift giving and decorating:

  • Send digital or e-cards instead of paper holiday greeting cards. This will save on stamps too. But if you prefer physical cards, opt for cards made with post-consumer recycled content.
  • Use LED holiday lights and candles -- they use less energy and last longer. And choose rechargeable batteries instead of single-use alkaline batteries.
  • Decorate a plant or tree that you can plant outside or use indoors year-round, instead of an artificial or fresh cut tree.
  • Use a reusable white tablecloth or runner as the snow for your holiday village set-up.
  • Wrap gifts in kraft paper and make or buy reusable cloth gift bags -- avoid foil, glossy, or metallic materials. Take a look in your yard to find natural items to top off your gift - fallen evergreen leaves, twigs.
  • Give classic toys such as blocks, crayons (art supplies), and stuffed animals over novelty toys.
  • Choose reusable dinnerware and utensils for holiday (and everyday) meals. Avoid disposable plates, napkins, cups, and silverware when you can.
  • Gather items you already have or which are reusable for your holiday centerpieces. Example -- surround a battery -operated candle with holiday bulbs or other décor. Don't use disposable holiday centerpieces.
  • Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.
  • Opt for in-person delivery where possible and feasible instead of mailing gifts. Gift shopping online? Ship it directly to the recipient.
  • Stuff stockings with items that have little or no packaging to reduce waste.
  • Recycle your holiday tree. Your municipality may offer a free tree collection or recycling program that will turn your tree into mulch or compost. Contact your local department of public works to find out. Remember to remove all lights and decorations first.

DEC provides additional information on sustainable holidays. Remember, to reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost this season -- and year around.

Did you know that...

a chart on how to dispose of various gift wrappinga and and picture of a wreath made from scrap wrapping paper
Reuse scraps and holiday bulbs
to form a beautiful wreath.
  • You can easily recycle your old electronics. Find out about collection sites and takeback programs near you.
    Under the New York State Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act, qualifying manufacturers must provide no-cost and convenient methods of recycling for covered electronic equipment.
  • It takes 12-20 years for an artificial tree to match the smaller carbon footprint of a real tree.
  • Each December, the U.S. generates 5.8 million tons more waste than the rest of the year.

Be a friend of the environment: December 2021 tips

And the clock struck midnight -- tired of changing watch batteries? There are newer model watches which run on a light. These watches do not need battery changes and can last for several years. If you are looking to give a watch as a gift this season, one of these watches would be a "timely" choice.

A gift that gives back -- Looking for a gift that gives back -- consider a compost or vermicomposting bin (leaves DEC's website). It not only provides a convenient method to get rid of organic wastes and food scraps, but will eventually yield nutrient rich compost. That compost provides a welcome gift to house plants and gardens. Some parts of New York even offer composting services. A subscription to a composting service would be another green gift idea.

By the roaring fireplace -- Make sure you use local firewood and learn before you burn. DEC provides information on residential wood burning.

First day hikes -- The clock has struck midnight and a New Year is approaching. This is the perfect time to start the new year with a First Day Hike. Invite your family and friends -- of course social distancing guidelines will apply. Gear up and get ready and stay updated on when and where you can take part in a First Day Hike near you.

Foam ban -- As of January 1, 2022, New York State is going "foam free" from certain expanded polystyrene containers and packaging peanuts. Make it a New Year's resolution to go "Foam Free NY."

Green Gifting -- Gifting can be more than giving materialistic items. Instead, think about gifting experiences, hand-made items (woodwork, cook, bake, sew, or knit to create the perfect gift), or donate goods, time, or money to non-profits and other charities. A travel-size first aid kit, rechargeable hand warmers or a headlamp, or a portable cellphone charger are great gifts for anyone but use our handy chart below to find the perfect gift for that special someone in your life this holiday season.

Green Gifting
Recipient Gift Ideas
Outdoor Enthusiast
Bird watcher Binoculars, a bird feeder, a bird bath, camera, or a gift card for an identification app. Read more about I Bird NY and the Bird Trail.
Reader Ebooks, audiobooks, used books. A subscription to the Conservationist magazine.
Wildlife photographer A habitat/access stamp and lapel pin. Camera and/or gift card for a wildlife identification app.
Music lover Digital gift cards, tickets to a concert.
Gamer Digital game downloads, second-hand games.
Foodie Take them out to a local restaurant, create a culinary experience and spend time together, reusable utensils and straws.
Traveler Transportation gift card, virtual or in-person tour.

Like our green gifting tips? Then don't forget to visit this page again next month as we explore how to turn your home sweet home into a home green home in the coming New Year. Remember to share your tips for a wonderful "green" life with us using #LiveGreenNY.