Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Friendly Holiday Reminder

As we are all gearing up for the big holiday season I'd like to offer a few reminders, mainly that a lot of holiday decorations and paraphernalia can be composted! I know it's like beating a dead horse, but this site is all about composting, so I don't feel too bad.

Carved pumpkins, homemade treats, and decorations made out of paper, cotton cloth, leaves, and wood can all be composted. Let's all make this a compostable haunting holiday. For those of you who know your neighbors (and so have shown them that you're not a crazy child-poisoner), consider giving out homemade treats like cookies, suckers, and popcorn balls. If you have a large neighborhood or aren't that outgoing, consider giving tea lights, coins, feathers, or other trinkets which will delight kids, give grown-up no worries, and are biodegradable or can be considered a technical nutrient.

It may be time-intensive, but try making all your treats this year from scratch. Get the whole family involved for a holiday activity that allows everyone to spend time together. Properly store any leftovers, but feel free to compost anything that doesn't get eaten, can't be eaten, or won't be eaten (cooking mistakes, anyone?). Try decorating with leaves, popcorn strings, or flower arrangements that can all be composted. The kids can paint or draw on newspaper, make construction paper cutouts, or form sculptures out of salt dough. All of these make creative, fun, and decorative crafts that can all be composted afterwards. You can even compost the turkey carcass, but try making a delicious broth from it first.

I love picking out gifts for people. I love the challenge of finding a person something they'll both love and use, and now I've given myself the challenge of getting them something earth-friendly as well. If you have the money, I recommend getting people a rotating compost bin, as a lot of my family would happily compost if they didn't perceive it as so work intensive. I've been saving up all year to get my parents and in-laws each one of these, but you can also make one yourself for much less money.
Other great Christmas gifts that are less preachy but still good for the environment include lunch containers, furoshiki wraps, second-hand books, and homemade food. While I spend a lot of time picking out the ideal gift for those high on my list, I like to make a big batch of cookies, candy, or nut mix and then individually portion them in compostable waxed bags for all of those who are on my list in big groups, like coworkers, classmates, and the neighborhood.
Remember that a lot of Christmas decorations can be compostable, like your wreaths, garlands, popcorn strings, and even your tree, though you'll want to chop it up first. Wrap your presents in painted newspaper or dyed tissue paper and all the wrappings can be composted as well (don't use tape).
The Christmas card exchange is a wonderful tradition, but there are a multitude of ways to make it earth friendly. You can make your own paper for the cards, send plantable seed cards, stamp your cards with a friendly reminder to recycle, or send the cards to receive to St. Jude's Ranch to be reused and support a good cause.

New Years Eve
Again, make all your decorations out of compostable material, or reuse decorations from last year. Serve drinks and goodies on your standard dinnerware or special occasion china rather than buying plastic utensils and cups. If you want the convenience of throwaway stuff, there's plenty of reusable and compostable options on the market. Just remember that most plastic goods claiming to be biodegradable actually aren't, so opt for things that will obviously break down in your compost bin.
When buying libations for your friends and family, opt for those in glass bottles that can be reused or recycled (If you can't find anyplace else, remember that Target recycles glass). Freeze any leftover wine for cooking if you like, but beer and wine can also be poured on your compost pile and will contribute a flood of good bacteria (the same bacteria that made that grape juice alcoholic in the first place).

I know the holiday rush can be overwhelming, but taking the few extra minutes to pick a compostable option will have a huge payout for your garden come spring, will greatly reduce the trash you have to cart to the curb, and will give you that warm feeling of doing good that we all love to have.

Happy holiday composting!

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