Verde Laguna: Making the holiday merry and green

The holidays are a ritual that brings people together, but also generates a lot of waste. No matter what you celebrate I wish you the very best, and I invite you to take some easy steps to "green" your holidays this year. There are many sites working for a sustainable California starting with "Cal Recycle" from state Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery that has an ongoing effort to cut waste generation during these holidays. Their webpage is http://www.calrecycle.ca/gov.

Every year 1 million extra tons of solid waste are generated in the U.S. per week from Thanksgiving to New Year's. An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sold each year along in the U.S., enough to fill a football field 10 stories high, so one tip suggested on their site is to say "Happy Holidays" over the phone or over the Internet. Cal Recycle estimates that if every family just cut mailing on one card, 50,000 cubic yards of paper can be saved. E-cards are always a good choice, also more when organizations such as UNESCO offers some of the best products available in today's market.

Millions of paper and plastic bags distributed by retailers end up in landfills every year, so when you go shopping bring with you that reusable bag you have in your house.

Buy local — it's estimated that ingredients for the average meals travel 1,200 miles by the time are served. Choose products that are in season. Consider in Laguna Beach shopping at the farmers market on Saturday morning for fresh produce.

Composting organic garbage to reduce waste produce in homes is something suggested by Waste Management. Holiday meals generate a large amount of potato peels, fruit rinds, coffee grinds and vegetables that can be easy to pile and composted.

Enough ribbon — 38,000 miles, enough to tie a bow around the planet — is used every year, so if you didn't save some from last year as we suggested last December, save bows and papers after gifts are opened for next year's presents.

Be creative and make your own wrapping paper. Give gifts that require no packaging, such as concert tickets, music lessons or memberships for museums like the Laguna Art Museum or public radio like KCRW-FM (89.9).

Think outside the box, by giving to charities or groups such as Doctors without Borders that provides emergency medical assistance for those in need.

Have your name removed from mailing lists to avoid receiving unnecessary holiday catalogues. DMAchoice is an online tool developed by the Marketing District Assn. that can help you to manage your mail.

A season of electronic gifts includes too many battery-powered products coming with a set of traditional batteries from the manufacturer. About 40% of all battery sales occur during the holidays. You should know that in California it's illegal to dispose batteries as part of your normal trash. Avoid the hassle and buy rechargeable units with those presents. Today's batteries are much better than early versions and can last up to 1,000 cycles. Laguna Beach has a battery pick-up service at your doorstep on demand; visit http://www.curbsideinc.com.

Finally a note for those trees that end up on the sidewalk when the party is over. Nationwide an estimated 30 million Christmas trees end up in landfills. Consider renting a tree or buying one that can be replanted in your yard. Christmas tree recycling at least helps to return a renewable resource back to nature. To find a tree recycling program near you, visit http://www.ocgov.com.

Happy green holidays for everyone!

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