By Olivia Ledet – Outreach Coordinator, Pontchartrain Conservancy; Isabella Donnell – Outreach Assistant, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana; and Timira Lockheart – Outreach Coordinator, National Wildlife Federation
This year’s holiday celebrations will look different than years past. While we can’t gather and celebrate in the same ways as before, you can make new traditions with your families while also benefiting the environment.
Between cooking, gifts, online orders, and decorations, the holidays generate a lot of household waste. Much of this waste travels through our water systems and has a direct impact on our wildlife and coast. This holiday season, you can be mindful to reduce waste and also help the environment and your wallet. Below are a few easy suggestions for swaps and DIY crafts to help get you started.
When grocery shopping, opt to bring your own reusable cloth bags if possible; and if not, ask for paper over plastic at check out. A reusable tote bag also makes a great gift!
If you’re receiving a lot of cardboard from packages, don’t pitch the box. You can re-use it to send a package of your own or use it for crafting. Build a cardboard fort with your kids, or have them cut and color it to design their own unique sculptures.
If you enjoy gardening, save your cardboard for lots of uses! To start a plot in your yard, flatten out your box and lay it flat on the ground. Add your raised bed, then fill with soil. The layer of cardboard will not only act as a weed suppression, but it will also be an excellent source of carbon as it breaks down. Alternatively, you can shred your cardboard and add it into a compost pile forto break it down, or add it to the bottom of a large flower pot.
Save money on wrapping this year by reusing old newspapers, maps, or colorful pages from magazines to wrap your gifts. You can even cut up old fabrics to make bows and ribbons!
If you enjoy holiday libations, don’t trash your empty bottles.
Empty bottles make for excellent crafting supplies, you can even make your own bottle tree!
If that’s not your speed, check out your local recycling options before throwing them into the trash. If you’re in New Orleans, you can take your glass to Glass Half Full for recycling. If you’re in Baton Rouge, stop by Material Recovery Facility located at 7923 Tom Dr., 70806 which is open all days of the week for drop-off.
We all love the twinkling of Christmas lights; but when they burn out, don’t just toss them out. Mail them to Christmas Light Source where they will be recycled and support a toys-for-tots program.
Plan on serving up oysters at your holiday gatherings? Save the shells to make holiday decorations. Oyster shells can be painted, and a ribbon can be glued to them to make ornaments. Try painting your initials or favorite coastal animal on a shell. Oyster shells can also be glued to a styrofoam cone to make mini Christmas trees or crafted into wreaths. Just make sure you clean the shells first and use hot glue.
If you buy tin foil casserole dishes, don’t pitch them after one use! The trays can be reused to grow your own microgreens or cat grass indoors. All you need is a tray (thoroughly cleaned after use), a sunny windowsill, and some soil and seeds of your choice. Add a thin layer of soil to your tray, sprinkle seeds of your choice, coat with ¼ inch of soil, water, and place in a sunny spot. Voila, you have your own microgreens growing station! If you opt to grow cat grass, you can use wheatgrass, rye, buckwheat, barley, or oat seeds. After about two weeks, you’ll have cat grass for your kitty!
Lastly, one of the simplest ways to help our coast this holiday season is to recycle your Christmas tree. Your tree is a valuable resource that will do a lot more good in a marsh than in a landfill. Check with your local parish for information about drop-off locations and pick-up dates for your Christmas tree.
However you choose to celebrate this year, we wish you a safe, happy, and peaceful holiday season!