Seven Ways to Green Your Family’s Holiday

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By Roger LeBlanc

What if you could gift your loved ones a cleaner environment this holiday season? Every day, the average country resident produces 6.3 pounds of trash – and between gift giving, holiday parties, lights and decorations, this number rises over the holiday season. Here are seven easy ways to reduce waste and trash drops off during the holidays.

1. Reducing Gift Wrapping

Wrapping paper that has glossy lamination is not recyclable and ends up taking up space in our landfill for years to come. Keep it simple, use a reusable gift bag, or recyclable paper. If you are feeling extra creative, you can reduce waste and still have your gift stand out under the tree. Use newspaper, comics, old maps, brown paper bags or even fabric to wrap gifts instead of buying wrapping paper. Reuse packaging you have around the house, like shoe boxes or baskets, instead of new boxes for wrapping presents. Don’t forget to neatly fold and save what’s reusable from presents you receive.

2. Using Real Party Dishes and Decorations
Paper plates and plastic utensils have become a staple at holiday parties, but the trash load quickly adds up. Your guests will not only be impressed and feel special that you brought out nice dishware for their meal, but using real dishes will reduce waste and help extend the life of the county landfill. Also, use natural and organic decorations. Pine cones, wood and potted plants with ribbons make great decorations that can be composted, or given away to guests.

3. Plan Ahead to Avoid Food Waste 
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 133 billion pounds of our overall food supply is wasted every year. Getting an accurate guest count for your parties, having a plan to store food, and sending guests home with leftovers can make sure that your delicious holiday meal is enjoyed rather than being thrown away at the end of the night.

4. Sending Digital Invites and Cards
Sending electronic holiday messages and evites not only saves paper – your message will get out faster and you will save money on postage. Your friends and family will enjoy the music or animations you are able to add as well.

5. Embrace Re-gifting
Everyone has received at least one gift that they have no idea what to do with. If your office is hosting a gift exchange, suggest making the theme re-gifting. Re-gifting ensures unwanted items find a new home rather than being thrown away, and it may avoid the plastic packaging associated with new items. You can offer your colleagues an unwanted item that may be treasure to them, and enjoy receiving something unexpected and unique. Remember, re-gifting doesn’t have to be limited to office colleagues, just make sure you don’t re-gift the potential treasure back to the original giver!

6. Spend Money on Experiences 
Gifts are always fun on Christmas morning, but the excitement of a certain toy often fades over the months. Spending money on experiences is often more fulfilling than buying things. Consider buying fewer gifts this year; instead plan a fun outing to create lasting memories.

7. Recycle Your Greenery 
When the holidays are over, be sure to recycle your trees, wreaths, and other holiday greenery. After removing all ornaments, decorations, tinsel, nails and the tree stand, you may recycle your tree at any of these convenient locations:

  • The Prince William County Landfill at 14811 Dumfries Road in Manassas. Monday Saturday, 6:00 a. m. – 6:00 p. m.; Sunday, 8:00 a. m. – 5:00 p. m. The facility is closed New Year’s Day. 703-792-4670
  • The Balls Ford Road Compost Facility at 13000 Balls Ford Road in Manassas. Monday – Saturday, 7:30 a. m. – 5:00 p. m.; Sunday, 8:00 a. m. – 5:00 p. m. The facility is closed New Year’s Day. 703-792-4670
  • Leesylvania State Park, 2001 Daniel K. Ludwig Drive, Woodbridge (off Neabsco Road). Trees may be dropped off at Shelter 2 and will be used for wildlife habitat at the Park.
  • Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC), 5399 Wellington Branch Road, Gainesville, through Jan. 8,2018. The drop off area is the parking lot in the area outlined with safety cones to the right of the building. For more information, contact NOVEC at 703-335-0500 ext. 1633 or 1661, or email NOVEC will deliver the wood-chip mulch to interested customer-owners at no charge; visit for details.

Household waste generated in the United States increases by an estimated 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That is about one million extra tons per week! Implement one or all seven of these “green holiday” tips to support a better environment and help preserve landfill space. For more information on waste reduction, reuse and recycling in Prince William County, visit


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