Have a Happy and Sustainable Holiday!
During the holiday rush, sustainability may not be the first thing on your mind. Fortunately, there are a number of measures you can take to ensure your festivities are more eco-friendly and sustainable.
No matter how you celebrate, we at SLCgreen hope you find this information helpful and wish you the best of times and a very happy New Year!
One great option for your home Christmas tree is a live native potted tree. When you’re done with it, plant it after the holidays or let it live on as a house plant. As an added bonus, a live tree will absorb carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen for cleaner air.
Check with your local nursery or garden center for advice on the best type of tree, depending if you are planning to replant or keep it inside. If you can, hold off and plant it in late March or early April. This will increase the tree’s chance of surviving long term.
If you go for a cut tree, use your SLC curbside compost bin to dispose of it after the holidays. Make sure to cut it up so it fits in the bin and remove any tinsel or non-organic decorations (Just be sure to dispose of it before the wintertime suspension of compost bin collection, beginning the week of January 24, 2022).
If you can’t cut up your tree for the compost bin, no problem. Leave it curbside and we’ll be by during the month of January to collect it.
No matter what you do, do not burn your tree. Burning during the winter is a significant source of pollution. (Burning during No Burn Days is also against State regulation and violates Salt Lake County Health Department rules).
When stringing up lights this season, think “less is more.” For the lights you do put up, go for LED lights, which are 80-95% more efficient than traditional bulbs and will last longer. (This is a good reminder to switch out any other traditional light bulbs you may have in your home for LEDs too!)
Make sure you have your lights on a timer so they only are on when you want them to be. Some LED Christmas lights are even solar powered!
Ditch the Disposables
While it can save some time to use disposable dishes and utensils during the holidays, it just transfers the extra burden to our environment. The vast majority of consumed plastics gets sent to landfills or contaminates ecosystems where it will last for hundreds of years.
Furthermore, plastic utensils are difficult to recycle and paper products contaminated with food residue are not recyclable.
So what’s the alternative? Purchase some extra plates and utensils from a second-hand store, or ask a friend or family member to loan you some.
Plus– washing dishes together is good for memory-making!
Instead of throwing away unwanted items (including that gift you don’t really want), donate them to local organizations.
For the items that you can recycle, make sure they get to the right place! Here are some seasonal reminders:
- Remember to recycle all the cardboard and paper products you’re receiving in the mail. This is highly valuable material. Don’t forget to break down your boxes before putting them in the blue bin.
- Choose recyclable gift wrap and bags. As long as it doesn’t have any glitter or a metallic or waxy finish, you can recycle it. (Better yet– use cloth or re-purpose other materials you have in your house– old maps, magazines, artsy brochures or paper bags.) Other tips here.
- Tissue paper is not readily recyclable. If it’s white– put it in the brown compost bin instead.
- Plastic packaging and plastic water bottles can usually go in the blue bin. Brush up on all your curbside recyclables here.
- Not sure how to recycle an item (electronics, batteries, mattresses, etc.)? Check out our Specialty Recycling page showing locations and services that will make sure these items are properly disposed of.
When buying gifts, buy from local businesses when possible. For example, check out the Bookshop site that lets you give gift cards to support local bookstores. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many supply chain issues, adding pressure to small businesses and causing delays in shipping. Shopping for locally made items cuts out the carbon emissions-packed step of packaging and transporting items from further away.
Additionally, opting for thrifted and vintage gifts can be a fun way to avoid buying new. By giving new life to old objects, we can avoid the carbon emissions, pollution, and waste associated with creating, packaging, and transporting new items.
Eat Less Meat and Dairy
Eating plant-based foods immediately lowers your carbon footprint. Here is a list of great meatless holiday comfort food recipes to get you inspired.
Avoiding food waste can also help reduce your impact on the planet. Wasatch Resource Recovery’s residential drop off location can turn any uneaten food into natural gas and fertilizer. Materials like fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, or tea, can also go in your curbside compost bin.
As you start your meal planning, consider stopping by the Winter Farmers Market at the Gateway to check out what’s fresh including locally grown and produced produce, eggs, cheese, chocolate, baked goods, and more.
Be Air Quality Conscious
As the temperature along the Wasatch Front drops, we often suffer poor air quality. During these inversion episodes, pollution doubles every day.
Do your part during this busy season to manage your pollution by following these tips:
- Drive Less: If you are able, do your best to bike, walk, or take public transportation whenever possible. You can also skip a trip until the air quality improves. Using your car less will help reduce overall emissions from vehicles (which contribute 50% of Utah’s overall air pollution during winter!).
- If you do drive, remember to be Idle Free!
- Encourage family members not to idle in the mornings by gifting a durable brush and snow scraper for the winter commutes.
- If a local school, church, or business is seeing a lot of idling vehicles, find out how to get idle free signs put up in that area.
- Combine trips, carpool to destinations, and use public transit. If you’re heading up to the canyons to ski, check out UTA’s snow routing changes and the UTA 2021-22 Ski Bus schedule.
- Follow the No Burn Days: The Utah Division of Air Quality issues mandatory no burn days throughout the year when particulate matter increases. This means that residents should avoid burning wood in fireplaces and stoves and avoid burning pellets or coal.
- Use a natural gas fire insert or even an app or video to create the ambiance!
- Improve At–Home Energy Efficiency: Improving energy efficiency by turning your thermostat down 2 degrees in the winter, using LED lightbulbs, installing low-flow showerheads, and choosing high efficiency appliances are just a few ways you can save energy and reduce emissions that contribute to air pollution.
For more tips on air quality go to www.slcgreen.com/air-actions
Emergency Food Resources
Healthy, locally produced food is not accessible to everyone in our community. Emergency food resources can be found using the FeedUT tool or contacting United Way 2-1-1. More resources and ways to obtain or support food access in Salt Lake City are available on our website.
How to Help
Recognizing that members of our community most impacted by decades of systemic racism and oppression also bear the brunt of environmental issues, SLCgreen will continue to prioritize environmental justice and equity for our community. Read on for some ways you can help, and information about community resources.
- Get Vaccinated: Help protect yourself and your community! There are several ways to get a FREE COVID-19 vaccine throughout the County. For appointments or other locations, call (385) 468-SHOT (7468) or visit SaltLakeHealth.org.
- Nourish to Flourish: The local non-profit works to address local food insecurity by connecting restaurants with funding to provide meals to those in need. Since May 2020, the program has served over 80,000 meals.
- More Food Access Initiatives: With increases in demand, the Food Bank and our community food pantries have an increased need for donations. Additionally, Waste Less Solutions is eager to pick up and deliver donations of edible food to those in need.
From all of us at SLCgreen, have a happy and healthy holiday season!