Did you know that Americans throw away 25% more trash during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than any other time of year? Despite increasing efforts to recycle, both single- and multi-use plastics are a huge portion of waste that ends up in landfills in the United States; in 2017 alone, approximately 26.82 million tons of plastic entered landfills nationwide.
We launched HRPK’s Park Over Plastic initiative both to minimize the Park’s plastic footprint and to educate and empower our community to change our habits to lessen our negative impact on our urban environment and beyond.
And as we embark on these wonderful weeks of gift-giving, decoration and celebration, we’ve put together a list of 10 easy ways you can reduce plastic consumption during the holidays, for a season that’s as green as it is merry and bright:
- Avoid Glitter. Often overlooked, glitter is a microplastic! Those tiny bits of plastic are notorious for finding their way into our waters and harming aquatic wildlife. If you’re looking for festive cards, confetti or wrapping paper, choose polka dots or paper confetti over glitter. You’ll enjoy the same celebratory effect with less mess and less environmental impact.
- Be selective with wrapping paper and bows. Choose your supplies carefully. Lots of wrapping paper and gift bows are made of or coated in plastic, which provides a shiny finish, but disqualifies them for recycling. For a more sustainable option, find wrapping paper that is not treated with plastic, or even repurpose paper bags and your children’s art. Reusable gift bags and fabric ribbons are also a great way to limit this kind of excess. If the store you’re shopping at offers to wrap your gifts, but their materials are coated in plastic, suggest that they choose alternative materials next year.
- Bring reusable shopping bags, travel mugs and water bottles. As always, pack your reusable shopping bags before heading out for your holiday shopping. Shopping can be time consuming, so if you think you’ll be out and about for a while, prepare with a travel mug for your on-the-go coffee/hot chocolate needs. We tend to get less thirsty during the colder months, but our bodies still need water, so your mid-shopping headache may be a result of dehydration. Bring a reusable water bottle with you or ask about water fountain locations rather than picking up a Poland Spring.
- Minimize packaging and streamline online shopping. If you’re planning on doing some of your shopping online, be sure to select the option to minimize packaging whenever possible. While this is sometimes out of our control, it is worth looking for that little box to check before completing your checkout. If it’s not an option, double check your shopping list to make sure you’ve added all the items to your cart that you will need from that vendor, since one shipment is more resource efficient than two.
- Host a sustainable party. Serve your holiday party guests with real plates, flatware, stemware and glasses. Maybe even break out the cloth napkins! This not only reduces waste, it can also add elegance to your gathering. Keep any leftovers in reusable food storage containers, rather than wrapping them up in foil or plastic. And be sure to bring your food scraps to your nearest compost drop-off, like the seven run by our Community Compost Program. All this might be a little extra work on the tail end of your event, but the green impact is well worth it.
- Decorate responsibly. If you plan to decorate a wreath or a tree around this season, consider opting for homemade garlands made of popcorn and cranberries instead of tinsel. If you’re nervous about attracting pests, wooden or clay beads are another great alternative. Rather than buying new plastic ornaments, take a walk through the park and gather fallen pine cones for a more natural aesthetic.
- Compost your wreath or tree. When the season is past, remove ALL lights, decorations and hooks and compost your wreath or tree. Making sure these decorations are removed guarantees they are safe to be broken down and returned to the earth as nutrient rich compost.
- Donate old goods. If you’re making room for new things, donate old goods to a nearby charity (Salvation Army, Goodwill and Housing Works are always accepting donations). In doing so, you’re helping make someone else’s holiday season a little brighter, and diverting these goods from ending up in landfill.
- Properly recycle old products. This doesn’t only apply to plastic items; also think e-waste, accessories, clothes, etc. When possible, return these items to the original vendor for refurbishing. If that’s not an option, bring these items to appropriate recycling drop-offs.
- Share this list with friends and family. Whether you drop one tip into passing conversation or post a link on your social media, sharing information is an important step in our journey to a plastic-free future. It can be overwhelming to think about plastic pollution, carbon emissions and climate change, but knowing a few easy ways to do your part can be reassuring and make a real impact.
From all of us here at Hudson River Park, we wish you wonderful holidays. In a season of gratitude and giving, we’re thankful to the community that helps us build a greener future.