Graphic courtesy of MCSWMD

What would make people trample a person to death to purchase something? Why would anyone stand in line for hours on a national holiday? Nothing explains that.

However, during the holiday period after Thanksgiving through the first of the year, sane adults turn into crazy people on spending frenzies. Some people act as if they are a plane ready for takeoff or a race car on the Indy 500. That's stress we all don't need and gifts we don't need.

Well, there are ways to reduce your stress and reduce holiday waste, ways which enable you to see the difference in your pocketbook as well as your trash! The S.M.A.R.T. Shopper is someone who is not only wise, but is someone who Saves Money And Reduces Trash, someone who holds the earth together.

According to the Use Less Stuff Report, 38,000 miles of ribbon alone is thrown out each year. That's enough to tie a bow around the earth! So, here are 11 tips for making sure your green cash holds up the earth rather than strangling it.


Tip #1: First, reduce the stress that comes along with holiday waste by rethinking gift giving. It doesn't mean you have to be a Scrooge, but it does mean that you can think of connecting with others in a more sane, loving and memorable way. Remember that the spirit of giving comes in all shapes and sizes, and doesn't have to come with a price tag.

Give the gift of your time. Spend time with that someone -- go for a walk, bake together, play a game together or do a community project. Offer your services to baby-sit while your friend enjoys a cozy date with his or her partner. Give a gift certificate for a relaxing massage, or give a certificate to take those teenagers off someone's hands and treat them or the teenagers to a fun activity or meal.

Tip #2: Make a gift of a green service. Consider a gift of carbon offsets or a gift of creating a carpool with friends and coworkers. Make a gift of services that help people be green and sustainable like Heifers International.

Tip #3: If sending holiday greeting cards, look for ones made from recycled paper and paper that can be recycled in your county. Turn holiday greeting cards into postcards by using just the picture or the typed greeting. According to Cygnus Group, every year 2.65 billion holiday cards are sold in the United States. That's enough to fill a football stadium ten stories high.

Tip #4: Buy a local gift, one made or grown locally. Your local gift will reduce emissions involved in shipping and packaging. This is a great opportunity to get to know your community and its unique offerings.

Tip #5: Purchase durable and reusable items for gifts, not the latest fad. Being able to reuse items not only saves money, but conserves valuable resources. And try some plants like the "Tickleme" plant that shows people how touch affects things and human impact affects the world. For a video see

Tip #6: Look for gifts with an environmental message, nature books or books with an environmental message, a refillable thermos or refillable items, a canvas grocery tote bag, rechargeable batteries, a battery charger, or items made from solar powered instead of battery powered products. Better yet, purchase gifts that require no power at all.

Tip #7: Purchase consumable gifts or better yet make homemade ones. Who doesn't appreciate homemade gifts like homemade cookies, bread, or a craft? Be crafty.

Tip #8: Give gifts that have minimal packaging or gifts that don't create any waste, like concert or movie tickets, an invitation to dinner, a tree or an IOU.

Tip #9: Try putting more "gift" in your gift wrap. Instead of even using paper to wrap gifts, wrap gifts within gifts or put the unwrapped gift in a reusable gift bag. The Monroe County Solid Waste Management District can now recycle wrapping paper but not foil wrap or gift bags. Foil wrap looks similar to foil material.

Better yet, purchase wrapping paper that has been recycled like the National Wildlife Federation provides, or other recyclable wrap like newspaper, white or colored paper, tissue paper or other recyclable paper. Use your lost drawing skills to illustrate the paper.

Tip #10: Save packaging for gift-giving times. Reuse gift bags, boxes, and ribbons, bows and wrapping paper.

Tip #11: When shopping, bring your own cloth bags and don't take a bag if you don't need to! Also, don't forget to compost food waste and recycle your holiday tree! See our Web site for holiday tree drop off dates and locations.

Remember packaging is the single largest component of the nation's solid waste stream. There are many gifts that help people learn the value of saving resources, rather than spending them. For more ideas, see the many web sites across the U.S. that list specific ways to reduce holiday waste and for tips and some staggering facts on holiday waste. Reduce waste not only during the regular year but a holiday times as well. The District wishes you a cheery holiday. Remember, reduce your stress and holiday waste and see the difference.

Elisa Pokral can be reached at .