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How to Have a Waste-Free Holiday in Brookline

While your thinking of others this holiday season, make sure you're also keeping the planet in mind.

Before you buy another roll of gift wrap and leave those holiday lights on all night, the city's Department of Environmental Affairs is asking you to have a waste-free holiday this year. 

The holiday season can be the most wasteful time of the year. You can prevent this, though, with home made gifts, energy-conscious Christmas lights and alternative ways to wrap presents.

Below is the full Waste-Free Holiday Guide from the Department of Environmental Affiars:

Gift giving

Give gifts that not only last a long time, but help reduce packaging waste.

The gift within a gift – instead of wrapping paper, use tea towels to wrap cups or silverware, a pair of gloves for rings or bracelets, a bath towel for oils and bubble bath, or gardening tools inside a composter!

Reusable wrapping – wrap presents in newsprint comics, old calendars or magazines. How about using reusable containers such as baskets, wood boxes, cookie tins, decorative jars or old shoe boxes - decorate the container with fabric, poster paint or magazine cutouts and reuse them yearly. Here are the rules and regulations for recycling in town.

Make your own wrapping paper - decorate scrap paper, paper grocery bags or left-over tissue paper with ink or poster paint using cookie-cutters or rubber stamps.

Make a gift - fresh baked cookies, cakes, and candies– yum! Crafts to decorate the home are easy and fun to make and reusable too!

Give an experience - tickets for a show or sporting event, gift certificates for a spa treatment or dinner out will always bring a smile. Give a service - babysitting, home-cooked gourmet meals, gardening, doing the laundry day or snow shoveling!

Pass on the green spirit - adopt a piece of rain forest in the name of a loved one, give diaper service for a month, a set of reusable food containers or a potted plant.

If you can't reuse - recycle! Cards and wrapping paper (no foil paper) are accepted in Brookline's recycling system. (But keep bows and ribbons to reuse next year.)

Cards and gift tags

Save trees and the energy used to produce festive cards and gift tags.

Make your own – make envelopes from paper grocery bags or other paper products. Simply trace around the card and add triangles for flaps (cut triangles large enough so that they overlap the card).

The personal touch – skip card sending, call friends and relatives to wish them "Happy Holidays."

Think ahead – save any cards or wrapping paper received during this year for next – they make unique gift tags, use pinking shears to cut out pictures from old cards or wrapping paper.

Decorating

Beauty without waste.

Keep the living alive - use potted plants instead of cut flowers to make center pieces. Think about transplanting a potted Christmas tree into your garden next spring.

Life after the holidays - greenery (evergreen trees, wreaths and boughs) can be used as mulch in your garden or composted.

Recycle your Christmas tree! - The City of Newton will collect undecorated Christmas Trees on your collection day between January 2nd and January 13th, 2012. Click here for more information. Or visit Earth911.org for a listing of locations.

Make your own – tree garlands can be made from strings of popcorn or berries, and hung outdoors afterwards to feed birds and squirrels.

Time it - put your outdoor lights and decorations on a timer, don't let them burn all night.

Save energy - Purchase LED Christmas Lights. Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are a new lighting technology that is up to 90 percent more efficient that its incandescent counterpart. A household burning 10 strands of lights for eight hours a day for a month would spend about $127 to light large, incandescent bulbs, $7.20 for traditional mini-lights, and just 72 cents for LEDs. These newer bulbs are available at most stores that sell Christmas lights, and they are sturdy, last up to 20 years, and barely warm up, thus reducing fire concerns. 

Using energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs (or give one as a gift!). Compact fluorescent bulbs last longer and use about a quarter to a third of the energy of an incandescent bulb. By substituting a compact fluorescent light for a standard bulb, you can prevent the emission of 5,000 pounds of carbon dioxide and reduce your electric bill by more than $100 over the life of those bulbs.

Recycle old lights -

As you’re sorting through your old decorations, remember that both incandescent and LED holiday lights are recyclable. By recycling your broken and outdated lights, you’ll keep the toxins in the electric cables from polluting landfills.

You can mail in broken or obsolete lights to a number of retailers, including Christmas Light Source in Fort Worth, Texas and HolidayLEDs.com in Jackson, Michigan.

Pack it up for the long haul - cushion your glass and plastic decorations with newspaper or old clothes to ensure they last a lifetime.

Entertaining ideas

Waste-free celebrating.

Avoid disposables - rent plates, cups and cutlery from a party company for just pennies a guest! Most services will pick up dirty dishes, saving you the clean up. Use cloth napkins instead of paper, they're elegant and cheaper in the long run.

Get organized - planning your menu ahead of time and buying in bulk saves you time, money, and avoids excess packaging. Buy food and drinks packaged in recyclable or returnable containers. Minimize food waste by planning meals carefully.

The personal touch - phone your guests instead of mailing invitations. If you do use printed invitations, remember to buy paper products made of recycled post-consumer. Cards and wrapping paper (no foil types) are accepted in Brookline's Recycling Program. After the holiday season, remember:

Save and reuse – this applies to all boxes, bags, bows, ribbons and wrapping paper.

Recycle your Christmas Tree - Brookline will collect undecorated Christmas Trees on your collection day between January 2nd and January 13th, 2012. Click here for more information. Or visit Earth911.org for a listing of locations.

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