Archive for Sunday, December 9, 1990


December 9, 1990


Environmentally sensitive merrymakers promise to color this holiday season the brightest `green' ever, as many seek to lessen the impact of their celebrations on the Earth.

According to national recycling statistics, the volume of garbage increases by about 20 pounds per home the week after Christmas, although here in Lawrence, the amount cast-off boxes and wrappings are hard to track.

Max Slankard, assistant director of public works for the city, explained that when holiday trash hits curbside, most college students are out of town for semester break, so normal collection loads are significantly lower.

Holiday trash is real enough, though, and suggestions abound for reducing it this year.

Where cut Christmas trees are concerned, being `green' means finding a way to recycle them after the festivities.

City forester George Osborne said Lawrence has a long-standing drop-off program for Christmas trees, which the city converts to mulch.

COLLEGE students and holiday travelers leaving town before Christmas may take their trees to Centennial Park, Ninth and Rockledge, near the rocket. Closer to Christmas, additional drop-off sites will be announced.

For information on those sites, call the city's recycling information phone line, 841-0811.

The National Christmas Tree Assn. notes more than 90 percent of Christmas trees are cut trees are grown on plantations, so forests are not denuded for the annual harvest.

Further, it reports, for every tree cut, two to three seedlings are planted to keep the harvests coming.

`Green' consumers also might opt for an artificial tree, which can be reused year after year.

Dennis Bejot, Douglas County Extension director, said it's very difficult in this part of the country to keep a live Christmas tree alive after the holidays.

ALL TREES, including evergreens, need time to acclimate to winter weather, he said, but live Christmas trees get mixed up when they're hauled inside and decorated. When they're suddenly put back outside, on their own for the rest of the winter, the shock usually kills them.

He suggested placing an evergreen in the home landscape that can serve annually as an outdoor Christmas tree.

Folks determined to have a live tree inside will have to keep it in only four or five days, he said, and even then, keeping it alive afterward is no sure thing.

Osborne said cut Christmas trees that come to the city's drop-off sites are chipped for mulch, which is used around city plantings.

"We get about 18 to 20 cubic yards of chips out of them," he said and estimated that much mulch could weigh more than three tons.

Evergreen mulch, with its dry needles, is mixed with other types of mulch to eliminate fire hazards, Osborne added.

ANOTHER way to recycle cut Christmas trees is to turn them into bird feeders.

Joyce Wolf, co-president of the Jayhawk Audubon Society, suggested decorating them with pine cones filled with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed a great project for children.

She was skeptical of whether the birds would eat strung popcorn, noting they prefer regular cracked corn much cheaper than popcorn anyway and not in need of popping.

Wolf suggested a good `green' present might be gift certificates for shurbs or trees that could be put in the ground in the spring. Those that produce berries, such as pyracantha and viburnum, Washington hawthorn, junipers and, for the truly dedicated, mulberries and hackberries, are best for drawing birds.

PATRICIA Marvin, recycling coordinator for the city, who has set up a display of `green' gift ideas in city hall, suggested this rule of thumb: Holiday givers should "make every gift count twice once for the person receiving it and once for the Earth."

She adds, "Keep thinking the giver is responsible for where the gift ends up."

Noting that a container law requiring the recycling of bottles and cans is at the top of her own Christmas wish list, Marvin said SORT, a local recycling group, has identified 50 stores in town that sell `green' products, from trees and shrubs to second-hand appliances and notecards printed on recycled paper.

Many stores sell `green' items along with other merchandise, she said, and some new shops sell `green' items exclusively.

In addition, Marvin said, "There always have been certain things in stores that can be used as `green.'" Anything that repairs something else, for example, is a great `green' gift, she explained, because it keeps things out of the landfill.

KITCHEN linens and down comforters are other everyday items that make good `green' gifts, according to Marvin. Using tea-towels saves paper towels, which in turn saves trees, she explained, and comforters serve the same purpose as electric blankets, except they don't use energy.

She advised gift givers to watch out for products that contain hazardous waste, especially art supplies, and to avoid plastic items because they are mostly made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource.

Overall, she suggested shoppers opt for natural rather than man-made materials, no matter what the gift might be, and go for quality.

Second-hand, or recycled gifts, are among her personal favorites, she noted, adding, "If you go to used materials, you can often go to higher-quality" for the price.

Marvin suggests gift givers think creatively when shopping second-hand, as the possibilities range from nifty salvage finds like wooden Victorian mantle pieces to second-hand clothing, jewelry and toys.

SHE SAID a few local artisans also are turning out new jewelry from recycled paper and old metals.

Where gift toys are concerned, Marvin said, quality is especially important.

Noting her five-year-old daughter's child's dinner set also was her husband's, she added, "If it doesn't break, it can be a hand-me-down.

"Especially on toys, recycle them."

Marvin expressed skepticism toward small, electrical appliances, which she said often are designed to do jobs better done by hand.

Recalling a electric potato peeler she once received, Marvin noted the gadget "died" within a couple of weeks of its arrival.

Not only was it made cheaply and of plastic, she said, "It (also) used electricity before it kicked its little heels up."

Other gifts to watch out for are over-packaged items, Marvin said, noting medicine is the only thing she buys packaged in three layers.

WHERE GIFT wrapping is concerned, Marvin called for innovation. Mistletoe and holly make good `green' decorations in place of ribbon, she suggested, and recycled wrapping paper or brown wrapping paper artfully decorated are better than those printed with heavy metals in their inks.

Hand-made decorations, whether for packages or the Christmas tree, also are nice, Marvin said, noting salt-dough ornaments are fun for the children to help make.

Lots of `green' gifts on Marvin's list, like the gift certificates, don't need a bit of wrapping, though.

Gift certificates from businesses that specialize in recycled items are especially nice, she said, and when those certificates are purchased at benefit auctions, they pack a double dose of goodness.

A very `green' and economical gift certificate, she said, is one for so many months of service from the local firm that picks up recyclables at subscribers' homes.

IF RESTAURANT gift certificates are the choice, Marvin advised "pick out one that uses china." In the case of fast-food gift certificates, she said, "Go for a place that doesn't use polystyrene (foam packaging) any more."

Where gifts of service are concerned, Marvin said elderly family members and friends are often especially appreciative.

The giver might offer so many hours' worth of time to do minor repairs around the recipient's home or of work using a special skill, like dry-walling or painting.

Another service option might be helping someone set up a home recycling center by hanging hooks for aluminum, tin, plastic and glass sacks.

"I love chits of service," Marvin said, noting recipients get the benefit of some help and the giver gets to spend time with their friend or family member.

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