Tips for a Green Winter and Holiday Season
Anastasia Yankopoulos, Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor
There are a number of ways to lower your environmental impact during the cold months, and especially around the holidays. Here are some suggestions for going green this season.
Recycle Holiday Trees and Decorations
Christmas trees, wreathes, and garland can be repurposed once the holidays are over, so long as all artificial decorations and wires are removed. Trees can be anchored in some fashion in the yard and used to hang birdseed or suet “ornaments,” offering food and shelter for winter birds. Garland and wreaths can be dismantled and used in the compost pile or as mulch until spring. Trees can also be turned into chips for mulch. Local communities have different tree pickup and recycling programs:
Sea Cliff: Trees can be placed out on the curb for pickup on normal trash pickup days.
Town of Oyster Bay: Trees can be placed with yard waste on yard waste collection days.
Port Washington: Trees can be placed with yard waste and will be picked up the first two weeks of January.
Glen Cove: Trees can be placed with yard waste and there will also be the annual Chip-A-Tree event on January 8, 2022.
Reduce Holiday Waste
When reorganizing closets for winter, collect unwanted clothes, toys, books, or holiday gifts and donate them to local thrift shops, charities, or bins set up for receipt of such items. For holiday gift giving, consider home-made items or purchasing fewer but more durable items that won’t quickly end up in the waste stream. Another option is to gift experiences instead, which can’t be thrown away and will last a lifetime.
Minimize purchases of packaging and wrapping products. Reuse packing and shipping materials and find creative ways to present gifts. For example, old newspapers, comics, maps, and posters can make interesting wrapping paper.
Consider reducing your holiday energy impact by buying EnergyStar, energy-efficient LED lights for your holiday needs. If you are planning a large holiday gathering that makes it impractical to use your usual dinnerware and flatware, compostable plates and utensils are a good alternative.
Select Lower-Impact Products for Ice Melt
Unfortunately, there are no perfect solutions to melting ice, but making sure walks and driveways are shoveled can help the sun do most of the work. There are also a number of products available that can offer more environmentally friendly options to melting ice and snow. Potassium acetate has been found to be very effective in this regard, but it does come at a higher cost. Other options can at least provide better traction, such as using sand or kitty litter or reusing coffee grounds. Alfalfa meal, which is a natural fertilizer and has fewer environmental impacts, melts snow and provides traction in icy conditions.
Although salt and other chloride-based deicers are widely available and easily applied to ensure snow and ice removal on roads and driveways, these deicers have negative environmental impacts for soil, vegetation, and our water resources and marine life. These deicers can easily enter into our groundwater through soil filtration and aquifer recharge areas. Through runoff, they can also eventually find their way into our coastal waters and throw off the balance of marine ecosystems and cause harm to marine life. They also are irritants that can affect pets’ paws.
Keep Winter Activities Trash Free
Beaches and parks can be beautiful destinations for winter activities. When leaving these areas, be sure to take all your belongings and trash with you. Litter left behind on shorelines and other areas can pose just as great a risk to wildlife during the winter as it does during warmer seasons. As temperatures drop and ponds freeze over and are used for skating and hockey, be safe on the ice and make sure trash, chairs, and equipment are not left on the ice to be retrieved at a later time. As has happened with Scudder’s Pond, quick increases in temperatures and subsequent thaws have sent hockey sticks and pucks, benches, brooms, and garbage to the bottom of the pond.
Support CSHH Shop
Finally, for holiday gift giving that can provide a lasting benefit for the environment, support the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor’s Shop at shop.coalitiontosavehempsteadharbor.org.
You’ll find CSHH-themed merchandise along with a varied collection of items—including paintings, photography, jewelry, woodworking, and more—from amazing local artists who are donating a portion of the proceeds from your purchases to CSHH.