ULS (42 Ways to Watch Your Holiday Wasteline



Are you a waste-wise warrior or merely a waste-wise wannabe? Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week. So, to help trim the trash while trimming the tree, The ULS Report offers a challenging checklist of simple things you can do to reduce waste while you eat, drink, and make merry this holiday season.



By the end of the holiday season, if you checked:

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Waste-Wise WussUsing less stuff is only beginning to penetrate your consciousness (but it’s a start).

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Waste-Wise Wannabe – You’re making a stab at using less stuff, know you could do better, and feel guilty when you don’t.

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Waste-Wise WarriorYou’re definitely in the waste prevention trenches on a daily basis.

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Waste-Wise WonderAn inspiration to others – we’re green with envy.


checkbox.gif (229 bytes) Start the season off right by joining The ULS Report, the EPA, Keep America Beautiful, and over two hundred organizations across the country in celebrating the Eighth Annual ULS (Use Less Stuff) Day, Thursday, November 21st. (Since we know you'll be helping us celebrate, we've checked this one off for you!)


‘Tis the season of parties and festivities, food and fun. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s we like nothing more than to eat, drink and be merry, so we need successful strategies to cut down on the waste we create from our amplified entertaining.

[   ] Turn down the heat before the guests arrive. You’ll save energy while the extra body heat of your guests will warm up the room.
[   ] For formal affairs, consider renting seldom worn party clothes or buying them from consignment shops.
[   ] You can also rent dishes and glassware, making your party more elegant and eliminating the need to buy special holiday china.
[   ] Walk to neighborhood parties, or carpool (with a designated driver!) with friends if it’s too far to walk.
[   ] After the party, don’t throw away the leftovers! Put them in plastic containers or bags and send them home with guests, or donate to food banks.
[   ] Plan meals wisely and practice portion control to minimize waste in the first place:

Eggnog 1/2 cup
Turkey 12-14 pounds (up to 10 people)
Stuffing 1/4 pound
Sweet Potato Casserole 1/4 pound
Green Beans 1/4 pound
Cranberry relish 3 tablespoons
Pumpkin Pie 1/8 of a 9" pie

Did you know...at least 28 billion pounds of edible food are wasted each year – or over 100 pounds per person. Putting one less cookie on Santa’s plate will reduce his snacking by about 2 million pounds.


There’s no place like home, especially during the holidays, so why spend so much time, energy, and money traveling when everything you need is right at home? Pretend you’re a tourist visiting your own town. Call the AAA, visit your Chamber of Commerce and visit the local government website. You’ll probably be amazed at the attractions you’ve taken for granted and never visited.

Also, by staying home you can:

[   ] Reduce the amount of gas used during a heavy travel time.
[   ] Help keep your local economy strong, making for a vital and thriving downtown - a key to reducing suburban sprawl and related problems of habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity.

Did you know...if each family reduced holiday gasoline consumption by one gallon (about twenty miles), we’d reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons?


[   ] Get outdoor light strands that are wired in parallel. These have separate circuitry so that if one bulb blows out the rest will keep shining; all you have to do is replace the bulb. Those strands sold with series wiring stand or fall together, making it almost impossible to find and replace a single blown-out bulb.
[   ] Remember, the smaller the bulbs, the lower the wattage. Low wattage has two advantages: it consumes less energy and gives off less heat, making your lights safer.
[   ] Bring your own camera instead of using disposable cameras to capture holiday memories.
[   ] Faster film speeds, such as 400 or 800, reduce the use of flash and extend battery life.

Did you know...by purchasing rolls of 36 instead of 12 exposures, you’ll reduce waste by 67%, saving about $4, or 40% in cost?


[    ] E-commerce is the wave of the future. But remember, e-commerce is not necessarily waste-free. Choose items that won’t be excessively packed for shipping.

For you Web-heads, try giving these a click:





[    ] If you’re shopping by mail order catalogue, remember to cancel the ones you don’t need.

Did you know...in 1981 the average household received 59 mail order catalogues, and by 1991 the number had increased 140%, to 142?

Did you know...if each household canceled 10 mail-order catalogues it would reduce trash by 3.5 pounds per year? (If everybody did this, the stack of canceled catalogues would be 2,000 miles high!)


[   ] During the nation’s busiest shopping season, bring your own shopping bags. Paper, plastic and cloth are all good; the latter two can be folded easily into purses and pockets until used.
[   ] Consolidate your purchases into one bag rather than getting a new bag at each store on your shopping rounds.


[    ] Plan your shopping in advance. Consolidating your shopping trips saves fuel (and aggravation), and you’ll avoid those last minute frenzies when you won’t have time to make careful gift choices.
[    ] Rather than piling up "stuff" under the tree, think about what friends and family really want or need. Try giving gift certificates if you don’t know what someone wants, or simply make a donation in his or her name to a favorite charity.
[    ] Give gifts that encourage others to use less stuff, like a book about making crafts from reusable items, cookbook for leftovers, reusable tote bags.
[    ] Or simply set a good example by giving homemade food or something you’ve made yourself from reused items.
[    ] For kids, start a savings account or give stocks or bonds. It’s fun to watch money grow and it teaches children the value of financial conservation.
[    ] Shop for gifts at antique stores, estate sales or flea markets, since one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
[    ] Donate unwanted gifts, along with last year’s gifts that the kids have outgrown, to charity.


[   ] When buying electronic toys and other portable items that are used regularly, remember to buy rechargeable batteries to go with them.
[   ] Instead of wrapping gifts for the kids, hide the presents, plant clues to where they’re hidden and make the kids’ search into a treasure hunt.
[   ] Get the kids to make their own tree ornaments out of things you already have around the house, or from materials they might find in the backyard: twigs, bark, flowers and herbs, pine cones, etc.
[   ] Old clothes and jewelry make a great dress-up box for kids.
[   ] Tools and gadgets make a great idea box for a young inventor.


Our mailboxes burst this season with membership offerings and fundraising appeals, presents, gift catalogues and cards. What to do ...

[   ] Send e-greetings to family, friends and business associates who are on-line. (Try The Electric Postcard.)
[   ] Save yourself time, money, and hard feelings between friends – and reduce mail volume – by updating and paring down your holiday mailing list.
[   ] Be creative. Instead of buying placemats or table decorations, make your own. Cut old cards into shapes and press between two pieces of clear contact paper.

Did you know...the 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year n the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high? If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.


[   ] When buying gifts you will send by mail, pick items that are easy to ship and won’t require excess packaging.
[   ] Reuse packing cartons and shipping materials such as peanuts, wood shavings, shredded newspaper and bubble wrap.
[   ] Drop off extra packing peanuts at local private mailing centers. Call the Plastic Loosefill Council’s Peanut Hotline at 1-800-828-2214 for the names of local businesses that reuse them. (Stores often offer discounts for returning packing materials like cartons and boxes.)


[    ] Or better yet, think of gifts that don’t have to be wrapped at all: tickets to concerts, museums, or sporting events, gift certificates, house plants, or even gifts of your own time.
[    ] When giving oversized gifts like bicycles or CD racks, instead of wrapping them in paper, just tie a bow around them.
[    ] Wrap gifts in old maps, newspapers, Sunday comics or fancy holiday gift bags. Kids’ art work is a perfect wrapping for presents to proud grandparents.
[    ] Use brown paper grocery bags to wrap small-to-medium size boxes that have to be mailed.
[    ] Make the wrap a part of the gift: Putting cookies in a flower pot or hiding jewelry in a new pair of gloves will keep your gift under wraps and the "wrapping" out of the trash.

Did you know...if every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet?


[   ] Get a tree that can be planted or mulched afterward, or buy an artificial one.
[   ] Compost your food waste. Fruits and vegetables and their peels, pits and seeds are all perfect for composting – a great natural fertilizer.


For further tips on how to reduce waste in the first place, check out
Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are,
by Robert Lilienfeld and Dr. William Rathje, published by Ballantine Books.


The ULS Report, Use Less Stuff, ULS Day, and the ULS logo
are trademarks of Robert Lilienfeld.

Copyright 1994 -2000 Robert Lilienfeld.