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Reducing the Yuletide Waste Stream

Simple solutions for cutting consumption during the holidays

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'Tis the season to shop and eat.

But are the holidays a carte blanche for throwing eco-consciousness to the wind? Consuming in the name of celebrating comes at a cost to the environment: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, American household waste increases by more than 25% from Thanksgiving to Christmas, adding an additional 1 million tons a week to landfills.

Bend Garbage & Recycling picks up wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and holiday cards 
and brings them to the local recycling center. - LAUREL BRAUNS
  • Laurel Brauns
  • Bend Garbage & Recycling picks up wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and holiday cards and brings them to the local recycling center.

While some excess this time of year may feel inevitable, here are a few things you can do that could help you dream of sugar plums as opposed to climate apocalypse.

Gift Giving

Even the most ecologically-minded holiday shopper may occasionally indulge in the guilty pleasure of buying kitchen gadgets or kitschy toys for close friends and partners. But one alternative to physical presents is giving the "gift of experience." How about a snowshoeing or hiking adventure with Wanderlust Tours? Or a summer paddling trip with Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe? Oregon Trail of Dreams offers sled dog tours at Mt. Bachelor led by the family of Rachael Scdoris, a world-renowned Iditarod athlete. The casual mountain biker might appreciate The Paulina Plunge, a downhill ride alongside waterfalls and natural waterslides.

Tickets to a show at the Tower Theatre may be a welcome surprise for a friend who loves to see professional national acts. The Tower Theatre is currently selling tickets for "Irish Rambling House," an evening of Irish music and culture, the "Yamato Drummers," Japanese taiko performers, and "Black Violin," a duo blending hip hop with classical music.

For the animal lover, the High Desert Museum has an "Adopt an Animal" program that supports a barn owl, a bald eagle, a river otter and many other creatures at the museum.

Foodie friends may fawn over a subscription to one of Bend's many Community Supported Agriculture farms, which provide a season of fresh vegetables during the summer months. Donations to local charities and nonprofits go over well with the friend who is constantly concerned with social issues. (And the Source makes it easy with the Central Oregon Give Guide and website, centraloregongives.com, where you can choose to donate any amount you wish.)

Buying local is another great option to cut down on waste: not only does it keep money circulating in the community, but it reduces the cost of moving gifts across oceans, or from one side of the U.S. to another. If you missed "Craft-O: A Holiday Market" last weekend, stop in to The Workhouse, which showcases the work of 60 Oregon artists and craftspeople. Central Oregon Locavore has plenty of specialty food items and bath and body products that are locally and sustainably produced.

Cutting Down on Waste

Who needs wrapping paper when you have back issues of the Source Weekly at your fingertips to present gifts in a way that that makes a statement about your incredible taste and the environment? Also, think twice about buying gifts that come with lots of extra packaging. If you still end up with a pile of paper, ribbons and sparkly decorations after the present-opening festivities, sort through it for recycling. Paperboard packaging, cardboard, wrapping paper, holiday cards and most gift bags are picked up by Bend Garbage & Recycling or accepted by Deschutes Recycling.

Instead of throwing the Christmas tree into the dumpster, old trees can be cut up and put in to yard debris bin or taken to Deschutes Recycling. Or better yet, have the local Boy Scouts recycle that tree. Those living within Bend city limits can leave trees near the road on Dec. 28 and 29 or Jan. 4 and 5 with a suggested $8 donation in a plastic bag attached to the tree. Four local troops have been hauling away trees since 1990 to raise money for Boy Scout trips including backpacking, sailing and campouts.

Fa La La La Food!

Americans waste up to 40% of their food, equaling an average of 400 pounds of food per person every year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. With holiday parties, big dinners and impromptu get-togethers, it's easy to buy too much and then throw most of it away. One way around this is to encourage party guests to bring their own containers to bring home the leftovers. If you still end up with a number of half-eaten dishes, pack them into smaller containers and freeze them for a ready-to-go meal.

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