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Natural Resources and Parks

King County, Washington

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Dec. 4, 2009

Bring green home for the holidays

King County Green Holidays events and tips help consumers reduce waste

Festive doesn’t have to mean wasteful this holiday season. This week, King County launches its Green Holidays campaign to educate consumers on how they can green up their holiday celebrations.

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, household waste increases significantly. That includes wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, shopping bags and food waste.

“Going green for the holidays is easy if you know where to start,” said King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson. “From using energy-efficient holiday lights, to giving experiences instead of stuff, to recycling food scraps, a few simple changes can make a big impact on the environment and even save you money.”

The King County Solid Waste Division has put together a series of 12 tips to help consumers reduce waste this holiday season. Tips include:

  • Use eco-friendly lights. Energy-efficient LED light strands use 90 percent less energy than traditional lights. LEDs come in lots of different colors and shapes. And don’t throw out those old lights; recycle them through new light recycling takeback programs.
  • Recycle your food scraps. Our holiday meals are filled with great food, but the scraps usually end up in the trash. Recycle your food scraps by placing them in your yard waste cart. Instead of going to the landfill, food scraps are turned into nutrient-rich compost.
  • Give experiences instead of stuff. Most of us have more stuff than we know what to do with. Help reduce waste this holiday by giving experiences such as tickets to the ballet or a restaurant gift certificate. Discounts are often available on holiday experience gifts. If they aren’t advertising a discount, it never hurts to ask!

The full list of tips and other eco-tastic ideas are available to consumers at the King County Green Holidays Web site at

To further educate consumers on how to reduce waste this holiday, King County has also created two exhibits that will be on display at community events: the “Green Holidays Flashback” and the “Cube of Wrap.”

Tom_2009 tom_1979Green Holidays Flashback showcases how far we have come in going green for the holidays, and shows consumers how they can reduce waste this holiday season. The 20-foot by 20-foot display features two life-size holiday living rooms – one from 1979, one from 2009 –and includes green holiday tips. Green Holidays Flashback will be set up in front of Redmond City Hall on Saturday, Dec. 5 as part of Redmond Lights – the city’s annual holiday event. Holiday light recycling will also be available at the event; residents are encouraged to bring their old holiday lights for recycling through Brothers Holiday Lighting. Proceeds from the recycling program will benefit charities.
The Cube of Wrap, which measures 3 foot by 3 foot by 4 foot, is filled with the amount of wrapping paper waste generated by four average single-family households in a year – 10 30-gallon trash bags. The Cube will be on display Dec. 15-20 in the lobby of McCaw Hall for performances of the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker. King County representatives will accompany the Cube to provide tips about ways to reduce waste this holiday season.

King County Green Holidays - Eco-tastic holiday tips 
1. Use eco-friendly lights.
Did you know that LED light strands use 90 percent less energy than traditional lights? LEDs come in a variety of colors and shapes, so no matter how you decorate you can be energy efficient this holiday. And don’t throw out those old lights – recycle them!
2. Recycle your food scraps.
Our holiday meals are filled with great food, but the scraps usually end up in the trash. This holiday, recycle your food scraps instead. Your food waste can be recycled in your yard waste cart. Instead of going to the landfill, it gets turned into nutrient-rich compost.
3. Go green with gift cards.
Looking for the perfect gift, but not sure what to get? A gift card to a friend or family member’s favorite store or online shop can actually reduce waste because they’re more likely to get something they really want. You can also buy gift cards that donate to the charity of their choice. Gift cards need less wrapping, which means less waste.

4. Shop local.
Stay close to home this holiday season and shop locally for gifts, food or decorations. This helps cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, saves energy, and supports our local economy. Take it one step further and look for gifts made from recycled or reused materials.

5. Give experiences instead of stuff.
Most of us have more stuff than we know what to do with. Help reduce waste by giving experience gifts. For example, tickets to the ballet or a restaurant gift certificate make great gifts, and discounts are often available.
6. Drive less.
Look for ways to cut down on the miles you drive this holiday season. Driving contributes to global warming, and who needs the traffic anyway? Shop for gifts online - many retailers offer free shipping. If you have to go out, use the bus or light rail, carpool or consolidate your errands in fewer trips.
7. Green up your greetings.
‘Tis the season for holiday cards. But those cards add up to a lot of waste. Send e-cards instead of paper cards, use social networking Web sites to spread holiday cheer, and, if you do send paper cards, buy cards made from recycled paper. Recycle or reuse cards you receive by making decorations for next year.

8. Keep your tree green.
The Christmas tree is a centuries-old tradition. Put a modern spin on that tradition by recycling your tree with your yard waste or through a tree recycling program after the holiday. Extend the holiday cheer by using a live, potted tree that you keep in your garden and bring inside year after year.
9. Think about those treats.
This year when you head to the kitchen to bake up those holiday cookies and candies, ask yourself - Will these really get eaten? Research shows that 20 percent of all holiday treats get tossed out. Knowing which candies or food items your friends and family actually want for the holidays will help reduce waste.
10. Get thrifty.
One way to reduce the impact on your wallet and your garbage can this holiday season is to shop at thrift and consignment stores. You can find lots of great items you can reuse to make holiday decorations. You can even find distinctive gifts and get more for your money.
11. Be creative.
Be creative with your wrapping to reduce waste. Recycle old calendars, maps, posters or the Sunday comics, or wrap gifts in reusable items such as kitchen towels, Christmas stockings, baskets or cake pans. And when you unwrap gifts, save and reuse decorative gift bags, boxes and nice ribbons and bows.
12. Go natural.
Use natural items in your holiday décor. Avoid plastic tinsel and other non-recyclable decorations. Deck the halls with holly and evergreen clippings from your yard or a friendly neighbor’s yard. Collect pine cones on your walks or use fruit and veggies as centerpieces. Bringing the outdoors in helps reduce waste.

Related information

King County Green Holidays

King County EcoConsumer

King County Solid Waste