Sunday color comics and some native greenery can make a gift festive while also being good for the environment.
ALBANY — When you think of Christmas green, likely you're imagining the trees and wreaths that mark the season. Of course, green for some is the cash they'll be spending on gifts and entertainment.
But there's another "green" in the holiday season — one that's friendlier to the environment we all have to share.
Julia Bowles with Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful notes that household waste tends to increase by 25 percent during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, which means more material headed to landfills.
"That figure comes from the increase in trash that people throw away during the holidays," she said.
There are numerous ways that individuals can lessen the amount of household waste they generate during the holidays. Take the big Thanksgiving meal. Does it have to be that big? And what is being done with the leftovers and scraps? Are they headed to the landfill?
"A lot of us do buy more food than we really need," Bowles said. "A great thing to do with whatever is left out of your food waste is to compost it."
For a while, home compost stations were gaining popularity, but there appears to be some waning these days.
"We saw an increase six or seven years ago," Bowles said. "It's certainly an option that all of us should think about."
It can be a money-saver as well, since the material, once it is composted, can be used in gardens and flower beds when planting time comes around.
Another practice that helps — recycling, even something as simple as this newspaper once you've read it and clipped out coupons and stories you want to keep.
"Newspapers are easy," she said. "If you go to the grocery store and don't get plastic but ask for paper bags, The Albany Herald fits perfectly in that brown bag."
You might want to hold onto the color comics section, though. One of the tips Bowles has for cutting down on holiday waste is using the colorful comics page to wrap gifts instead of new wrapping paper. Gift wrap can be saved and reused with smaller gifts as well.
When recycling, it's important to separate your items into various groups, such as glass by color (clear, green and brown), cardboard, newspapers, plastic, aluminum and batteries.
"We don't mix the (types of) items because they each go to a different end-user," Bowles said.
While recycling can bring in some money, that's not the driving force behind doing it. "Recycling is a service," she said.
Residents of Albany have three spots where they can drop off recyclable items:
— 2521 Meredyth Drive, 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays;
— The rear area behind the Albany Civic Center, 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays;
— 210 Thornton Drive, 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays.
At one time, KADB accepted live Christmas trees after the holiday season to be chipped into mulch, but that is now handled by the city.
"The city runs a truck that just picks up yard clippings," Bowles said. The clippings, including defrocked Christmas trees, are taken to the Dougherty landfill, where they are chipped for mulch. "That mulch is free to any citizen of Albany," she said. "You just have to go get it."
Much like the old three R's of school, KADB has its own Three R's and tips for cutting down holiday waste — Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
The less you purchase or bring home, the less waste you will generate. Reduce waste by:
— Giving gifts that require little packaging, such as gift certificates, tickets, music lessons, etc.;
— Planning meals wisely and buying only the amount of food you will need;
— Turning off or unplugging holiday lights during the day to reduce electricity needs;
— Capturing holiday memories with your own digital camera instead of a disposable one.
Before purchasing something, save money and storage room by checking to make sure something you have won't work just as well. Reuse what you have by:
— Wrapping gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or the funny papers;
— Giving rechargeable batteries and a battery charger with electronic gifts;
— Buying a containerized tree and planting it after the holidays;
— Composting leftover food scraps, leaves, and grass clippings;
— Donating unwanted presents to charity or having a yard sale.
Many things you might throw away can be used again. Maximize your recycling by:
— Recycling your cardboard boxes, magazines and junk mail;
— Showing holiday party guests where to put recyclables such as aluminum, glass and plastic;
— Checking labels to determine a gift's recyclability and whether it's made from recycled materials;
— Making a commitment to recycling year round at home and at work.
"I think it's incumbent on all of us to care for the environment," Bowles said. "It's not just something for the holidays. It's something our young people are going to have to live with forever and we need to start now."