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News / Life / Clark County Life

Reuse, reduce, recycle for greener holiday season in Clark County

Simple suggestions to keep celebrations joyful without creating extra trash, waste

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: December 22, 2022, 6:02am

Gifts and wrapping paper, lights and decorations, yummy things to nibble and nosh. Sounds delightful, but there’s a downside to all that seasonal celebration: vast amounts of extra trash.

Normally, as many as 250 shipping containers of garbage from Clark County are barged each week up the Columbia River to a landfill in Boardman, Ore., according to Clark County Solid Waste and Environmental Outreach. But between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, local households generate as much as 25 percent more waste than usual. Does it seem right that our seasonal happiness requires barging so much additional junk away?

Check out these simple, thoughtful steps from Clark County for reducing, reusing and recycling. They’ll help you keep your holiday festivities greener, and avoid contributing to that overstuffed seasonal waste stream.

  • Don’t overbuy at the supermarket. Take stock of what’s already in your pantry when preparing holiday meals. Use the handy online “Guest-imator” tool (savethefood.com/guestimator) to help determine how much food you need based on the size of your group. Make to-go plates for guests and freeze leftovers in portions for easy meals.
  • Paper and plastic serving items like plates, cups, napkins and cutlery get used a grand total of one time before heading for the landfill. Avoid buying them. Use ribbons or some other way of marking guests’ items so they don’t lose track during your party.
  • “Want, need, wear, read” is the smart slogan to remember for keeping children’s gifts simple. Focus on four: something they’ve been eyeing; something needed for learning, clubs or sports; clothing that expresses their personal style; and books, comics or magazines that speak to their interests.
  • Stick with recycled, upcycled or hand-crafted gifts from maker markets.
  • Experiences that make memories are often more meaningful and cherished than stuff. What does your giftee love to do? Purchase local experiences like lessons, performances, museum visits, group tours, gourmet meals, alternative films. (Remember what it’s like to enjoy a movie in the theater?)
  • Offer helpful gifts of time and service — like babysitting, dog walking, work around the home or yard.
  • Make a charitable donation in the recipient’s name to a local nonprofit, community organization or cause.
  • Think durable when selecting gifts. It may cost more upfront, but a gift that lasts won’t get thrown away and replaced.
  • Clark County has so many thrift, vintage and consignment stores. Find a unique treasure — clothing, furniture, home decor — that’s already been used.
  • Give gifts in reusable bags that can be repurposed for shopping or next year’s gifts.
  • Avoid gifts that need batteries. Consider giving gifts that don’t require batteries. If they do, provide reusable batteries.
  • Recycle old electronic gadgets and string lights that no longer work. Visit RecyclingDoneRight.com to find drop-off locations.
  • Visit the Clark County Green Neighbors website for more waste reduction tips.