Green Celebrations - Part 1
Late November - January brings a myriad of church and school events, fundraisers, theater and choir productions, meetings, gatherings, parties, live music events, meals, gifts... This all adds up to creating more than 25% waste than any other time of the year. 25%.
To put this 25% number in your mind visually - imagine your own residential garbage output for pick-up day. When garbage pick up day comes around for us, we put out an average of 1/3 of a black garbage bag. Sometimes more, sometimes less - depending on the projects we are doing around the home or property, but that is our average... 1/3 of a bag. 25% more would equate to about 3/4 of a bag. Some of our neighbors put out 2 bags on average... so their increase would look like 2.5 bags. Add that up, household by household; apartment by apartment, down one side of your block and you can start to mentally picture just how much more residential garbage is produced during the holidays. Do that for hotels, conference rooms, halls, theaters, restaurants... you get the idea. It's a mountain of waste.
We have a couple of great sections in our Trash Talk book series (2 books - see links in this series of articles or visit the links on the left-hand sidebar) that can help you with saving money and reducing waste.
I'm going to offer some excerpts from the book in a series of possibly 4 articles (not sure how many just yet) between now and a week or so before the holidays end. Today I just want to talk about why it is important to look at this simple change.
So let's go back to the 25% number for a second.
Back in 2010, the amount of waste America generated increased by around 25 million extra tons of garbage heading to the landfill. This is not including what they recycled, only what went to the landfill. I'm sure numbers are similar in the UK and Canada and other such places as well.
Any one thing we decide to improve can be applied to ANY event from birthdays to business meetings, which is kind of exciting because it is a residual thing. Once you've got one thing going as a habit or policy, it becomes exciting to include something else. Even more inspiring is that the people who attend and are made aware of the greener events, they aspire to do the same. I mention this because so many people think - "what possible impact can my one little action at this one event have?". Studies show that it has a huge impact that has a ripple effect and grows.
OK so now we understand that there is a lot more garbage, a lot more recycling during the holidays and that our seemingly little effort can be a catalyst for great change.
There are so many options that people can sometimes become a little overwhelmed, so let's start with some basics.
- Change all the lighting options to LED
- If you are using disposable dishware, use ones made from recycled materials or those that are compostable.
- Keep a series of recepticals with lids that are well marked in several places throughout the area people will be using. How many recepticals you need will depend on many factors from the types of waste you expect to generate to how many people are expected. For example you might have one for garbage, one for compostable items, 2 or more for recyclables (paper/glass/plastic/etc) and one for returnables (bottles/cans/juiceboxes). Have a compost bin in the kitchen area as well near the dishwasher area is also a good place to put one.
- Purchase food and drink items from as locally sourced places as possible, choosing organic where you can.
- Hire local musicians, servers, reception halls... basically - stay local as possible.
- Encourage car pooling or other eco-friendly options.
- Add a social responsibility aspect to the event. i.e. have a collection site for the food bank, have a jar out for donations to any local charitable organization, run a fundraiser silent auction. Donate the money raised from the returnable bottles and cans to your cause.
Ok, so those are the basics. Here's one more tip you may want to consider for those that want to supply gifts or prizes to their guests. Instead of giving wrapped gifts or door prizes - consider offering gift certificates to local entrepreneurs.
Some ideas might be:
- lawn care
- tickets to a play/theater/performance
- restaurants / delis / butcher shops
- bookings or lessons; i.e. drum lessons or yoga class
- bike rental
- classes or courses
- guided tours
- businesses (clothing, grocery, book stores, etc.)
And one other option to consider today is gift baskets. You might find someone who supplies these as a business, but if not it is easy to do yourself. All you need is a simple medium sized basket that you fill with locally produced foods - such as specialty jams, wine, cider, chocolates, cheese, bakery items etc.
Having a "green" event is all the rage these days, people respect them, and they will aspire to replicate it. By doing so you are improving the local economy, reducing waste and pressure on the recycling system, while offering an alternative where the gift recipient or guest enjoys a unique experience.
Alright that is it for now, but expect a few more articles - including one offering green gift ideas (for those who want to give a physical gift).